April 2021 Story Sparks

Praise to the Poets

“I have woven parachutes out of everything broken,” wrote Oregon’s first poet laureate William Stafford. Poets are honored this National Poetry Month  (as are libraries during National Library week. Wordy  — and worthy — celebrations). I love Stafford’s poetry and this short poem especially as he captures the brokenness of human beings and the resilience of the human spirit in eight words. But that’s the beauty of poets from the Psalmists to Amanda Gorman, their capacity to pass our critical sides and bring us directly to our souls. We are in need of such poetry this year as we grieve Covid- inspired ablation. That word, by the way, is defined as “the removal or destruction of material from an object by vaporization, chipping or other erosive process, e.g. ice and snow in glaciers or biological tissues in medicine.” As a wanna-be poet, “ablation” speaks to the corrosive nature of this pandemic and all its destructiveness.

I have a friend who had such a procedure related to his heart. In medicine, the result of ablation is for improvement to the patient. That’s my hope for how we respond to this pandemic, too, as we move through a national trauma that feels like “a destruction by chipping and erosive processes.” Will we find the benefit of something we never expected, grow from the experience despite our fatigue and anxiety and isolation?

Which brings me back to William Stafford’s ability to remind us that we, too, can weave parachutes for safe-landings out of broken things. On a personal level, Jerry’s cancer diagnosis at the beginning of this pandemic helped us have those discussions about life and death, fate and faith that we might otherwise have delayed. We’ve explored vocation vs. family. Friends have become even more important; we build our spiritual lives. And we weave new parachutes — together — because safe-landings matter. Things may not look the same in a variety of venues but that is to be expected if the ablation is to be successful. The threads of friendship, family and faith, inventiveness, creativity and even poetry, are material we can weave — and do.

I offer for continued weaving, “The Way It Is” another Stafford poem I’ve committed to memory and use by permission in the upcoming non-fiction work Eminent Oregonians.

“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You never let go of the Thread.”

May such words this month and the year ahead be the threads we weave for those ways of dealing with brokenness and turn our sorrows toward rising hope — and parachutes.


Speaking of Words

Don’t forget to visit my website page Storytelling Tips.  I’ll update it monthly and hope it will give aspiring writers — especially those interested in writing historical novels — encouragement to move forward.  Find them in the News section at https://jkbooks.com/news/



With hope, a little anxiety and love in my heart, I boarded a plane for the first time in two years to officiate at my nephews wedding in Minnesota. After failing to get Uber to note our address in Southern California as anything other than “Bing Crosby at Greer Garson” (a road sign that is two homes away from our home), I decided to drive the 8 miles at 4:00 am and leave the car at the Palm Springs airport. All went well. My prayer team brought me turbulence-free flights, early arrivals, interesting or silent seat mates. Everyone masked. The airline boarded with last rows first (I thought they should have done that before!). The airline also unloaded us by rows featuring minimal bumping and touching. Very orderly. Very secure in the time of Covid-19. I was so grateful that I had both vaccine shots and Jerry has too even though he stayed at home.

My brother and SIL picked me up at the airport and we drove through the rain 3 hours to northern Minnesota, the site of the grand event. The bride-to-be and groom and wedding party arrived and they were having this wedding no matter the weather since it was postponed from last year. It turned out the rain stopped on Saturday in time for the outdoor ceremony.  It was 45 degrees and we shivered through the beautiful service and they are now husband and wife!

Meanwhile, I checked in with Jerry and all was well at home though Caesar, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had stopped eating, whined the entire time the neighbor took him for his two walks and had spent five hours a day on the back of the couch sitting-sentry, waiting for me to return.

At 6:00 am Central time on my first full day in MN,  I got a call from a number that didn’t register in my brain. I declined it. But they left a message. It was from the security system at home where Jerry and Caesar were holding down the fort. I thought the message was that if all was ok, there was no need to call them.  I called Jerry (4:15 am for him). He said Caesar had suddenly woken up and insisted on going out.  Jerry had opened the patio door then remembered he needed to disarm the security system. He rushed to do that and thought he had. But he hadn’t and I’d gotten the call.  He then opened another door to let Caesar back in. (Caesar likes to go out one door but return at another. We rush through the house trying to open the door he’s at before he tries another. He’s getting deaf so shouting to let him know where we are often doesn’t merit much movement but can annoy the neighbors).

Eventually Caesar figured out which door to use, ran in and Jerry re-armed the system. He assured me all was well, so no need to call the security company. Jerry and I said our good-nights. He took some medication for pain and went back to bed…only to be awakened by the sheriff’s department deputies sent out by the security people.  Jerry opened the door…and set off the alarm again.

But the good news was that the police were still there, assured the company that all was well and he could go back to bed. After he called me I called ADT, the vigilant company, and thanked them for doing what they were supposed to do. And that next time I assured them I would take their call.

Jerry says in the last almost 45 years of our marriage that I’ve brought excitement into his life even when I’m not present. But I think it’s Caesar, the guard dog with an apparent sleeping/grieving disorder.

Wedding picture: courtesy of Brian Bossany who captured the first kiss between my fabulous Nephew Clayton and equally fabulous new niece Dani!


Children’s Book Bank

On April 22, join a virtual Fundraiser for the Children’s Book Bank.

This unique Bank which makes books available to children, will host a “Tell me a Story — the Book that Got me Through event.” I’m one of the celebrities. Perfect for Library and Poetry celebrations this month. The auction is open now for donated experiences like a design consultation, unique meals, a book gathering with me via zoom in June (includes a free book) and so much more. Most of us can recall a children’s book that touched us deeply. I’m remembering Beverly Cleary’s masterful works for children and adults. She passed away at the age of 104 this past week. This event gives us the chance to honor the importance of children’s books. Maybe I’ll connect with your book group! Find out more at https://www.avlaunch.me/tmas



Things are opening up for in-person and Zoom events, sometimes both mediums for the same occasion. Mark your calendars and tune-up your web skills!

May 8 – 11-12:45 am. Annual Emma Day. On behalf of the Aurora Colony Museum and my three book series about the amazing Emma Giesy (who helped found what was once the oldest communal colony west of the Mississippi River) I’ll be giving a presentation on Strong Women. Watch via Zoom from home, or join a Zoom session with refreshments at the museum. There is a limited number of tickets available and reservations are required. Visit https://www.auroracolony.org/events/emma-day-2021 for details and to register.

CANCELLED May 16 – 1:00 pm. Linn County Historical Society presentation at the Mennonite Village 5353 SE Columbus St, Albany, OR.  (This event was cancelled after this April Story Sparks newsletter was distributed.)

May 20 – 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm.  Women of Worth presentation. Rolling Hills Community Church, 3550 SW Borland Road, Tualatin, OR. No lunch provided due to COVID restrictions. Free event but register by calling the church at 503-638-5900

June 13 – 2:00-4:00 pm. Weaving Story Threads presentation sponsored by Deschutes Public Library. Zoom event limited to 25.  https://www.deschuteslibrary.org/calendar/event/61642 to learn more and register. The library offers a number of amazing courses. Check them out!


Word Whisperings

A Warrior’s Heart
by Misty Beller
August release from Bethany House

This fascinating book re-writes the definition of warrior in many ways. It’s set in the early 1800s in North America, Canada but it has the feel of discovery that one finds in the Clan of the Cave Bear.  This is a cave related story that introduces a hidden community that a member of the American military stumbles onto. He is held captive by a people who don’t understand who he is and who wish to protect their community. The exquisite descriptions, the emotional tension and the building of trust is captured in singular images. You may pre-order now. It’s a page turner!

I also want you to remember Bless the Birds Living with Love in the Time of Dying by Susan J. Tweit. It’s a memoir and it comes out at the end of this month. Spectacular story-telling.


Wretched Little Poems

When I was a child, I wrote what I called wretched little poems. I saved a few but I’m not going to share them.  I’ve managed to get a few poems into my novels and I’ve written one for Marie Dorion’s celebration (A Name of Her Own) that is framed and hangs at the St. Louis Church foyer close to where she is buried.  “Stalwart Woman” was another written for Eliza Spalding Warren of The Memory Weaver. But the first poem I snuck into a novel was for A Sweetness to the Soul and I had Joseph Sherar write it for his wife, Jane. I leave you with the first stanza because poetry and love are natural mates to bring both beauty and resilience into our days. And I just officiated at a wedding where love abounded.

“To be so loved/that time stands still when I’m with you/and does not start again until you’ve gone/and I am left to wonder why the hours pass so quickly when you’re with me/and so slowly when you’ve gone.”

I share Joseph’s views as I am four days away and missing Jerry (and Caesar). I’m heading home tomorrow.  Have a wonderful spring and maybe try writing a few lines of poetry yourself. You are all more creative than you think.