Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Writer in the Pines: Author Interview - Liz Adair

Marsha Ward posted an excellent interview with Liz Adair about her writing and her new book, Counting the Cost from Inglestone Publishing. Check out Marsha's blog post at: Writer in the Pines: Author Interview - Liz Adair
Thanks, Marsha. You do a tremendous job of sharing information, giving readers a peek into writers' lives and providing a fun slice of what is behind their work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Family History on Every Page

When I announced to my children that my book about Uncle Curtis was finally done, I made the claim that there was family history on every page. As I got to thinking about it, I realized that, since this is a work of fiction, that might not necessarily be so.

I decided to test it out. Picking up a copy of Counting the Cost, I opened it at random to pages 100 and 101. Page 100 is the end of Chapter Fifteen, and the Benham brothers have just concluded a dance by getting into a sprawling, brawling fist fight, the kind you see in western movies.

Well, that's family history for two reasons:

1. My mother used to tell me stories of the dances they'd go to and how they'd dance 'til the wee hours of the morning--four o'clock or so, and how it would usually end in a fist fight and her brothers would always be involved.

2. One time, when my brother Ron and I were thirteen and twelve, we went to a Fourth of July picnic hosted by the contractor for the job our dad was working on. He worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau people were invited guests. This was in Alaska, several years before statehood. Alaska has always been a rough-edged, frontier-ish place, but it was even moreso then. The contractor laid on the food lavishly, and there was all the pop and ice cream a child could eat. There was also plenty of beer for the contractor's crew. An altercation broke out during the after-dinner softball game, and, just like in the movies, it quickly became a general brawl. My brother and I stood on top of a pickup cab and watched in terrified fascination as punches were thrown indiscriminately. I realized then that my mother wasn't exaggerating when she spoke of the end-of-the-dance fights.

Page 101 was the beginning of Chapter Sixteen, and it starts with a mini-history lesson about undulant fever. Now, I've never had undulant fever, but the reason I know about it is because for a lot of years we had a family cow. I read up on the disease and what it does to cows and what it does to humans and worried a lot until I was able to make sure that our cow had been vaccinated against the disease. So, does this page qualify for family history? I think it does.
I'll try again on another day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spinning the First Fleece, Writing the First Book

By Liz Adair

When my daughter Terry returned from Bolivia, she brought me back a gift from Sonia, the lady she had gone down to see. They were doing work for SWAN, a 501 C 3 Organization that administers microloans to poor women.

When Terry gave me Sonia’s gift, pictured left, I acted as if I knew what it was. “How nice!” I said. A while later, I finally figured it out. Sonia had sent me a spindle. It’s a device the peasant women use to spin wool by hand as they’re walking along or sitting in the marketplace.

If you’ll remember the story of Sleeping Beauty, the thing that caused her to fall asleep was pricking her finger on a spindle. You can see that this one has a wicked-looking point on the end. If I fall asleep and don’t wake up, find a handsome prince to kiss me.

But back to the story: Terry assured Sonia that I would be delighted with this gift, and I am. I haven’t done any spinning with a hand spindle, but I got pretty good with a treadle spinning wheel.

As you can see, my wheel is missing some parts. A couple of moves and grandkids in the area has taken its toll.

My friend Janet Walker taught me to spin. She did spinning for an artist who had been commissioned to do a tapestry for a municipal building, and she said to me, “By the time you’ve completed your first fleece, you’ll know how to spin.”

She was right, but do you know how long it takes to spin a whole fleece?

Actually, prepping the fleece is about as time consuming as spinning it. You have to pick out all the manure and hayseeds and carefully wash it. Then you have to card it into soft clouds before it’s ready to spin.

That’s the way it is with writing family history. Not the picking out the manure part--though that may be an apt metaphore. What I mean is the "By the time you get it written, you’ll know how" part. You might as well learn by doing, because at each stage, you’ll have something to show for your efforts.

My first attempts at spinning were uneven and slubby, but I kept them and knit them into a wool cap that I got lots of complements on. People thought I had bought the yarn at an upscale boutique.

Likewise, when you write your first reminiscence, you’ll end up with a memory on paper that will last longer than you, if taken care of. A hundred years from now, the person who reads it won’t care that it wasn’t polished. What he will care about is that it was written down.
And…by the time you’ve written your first book, you’ll be a good writer.