February 2022 Story Sparks
September Release! Once again I get to tell you about a woman who…
The title of my fall release is Beneath the Bending Skies and the woman is Mollie Sheehan Ronan. There will be more about this story in the months ahead. For now, I hope to tweak your interest by telling you that it is set in Montana (with an important diversion to San Juan Capistrano, California). It’s the story of a young girl coming of age in the mining country of Montana, her relationship with her loving but domineering father and the love of her life — who was once her father’s best friend. Author Melody Carlson’s endorsement included these kind words: “Jane Kirkpatrick never fails to take us away on unforgettable journeys. Her carefully crafted layers of colors, textures, music…transport us to eras of history that we might otherwise miss.” Here is the cover! I hope you like it and will look for it come September! More about Mollie in coming months!
“Let me tell you about a woman who…”. Those were the lines of a reviewer of several years ago about one of my novels. He said I’d created my own genre writing about historical women and that the stories “found a place deep in each of us and brought it gently to the surface.” I always loved that description.
I do write about a specific historical woman but I also so want the story to help her step from her generation to our own, to teach us and touch us with her life. I want her story to unveil universal themes about courage, compassion, love, loss, grief, joy and how faith and community intersect with them to help us learn how to live together despite our differences. In the process I discover things about myself, about why a certain story won’t let me go. Which is why when someone asks me how long it takes to research a story I’m always baffled because many of the stories begin with an unanswered question from years before and they often draw on my own childhood as I rob the cradle and the woman’s grave. A footnote in a book researching about the Sherar family (A Sweetness to the Soul) may take me years later to an Oregon trail story about community in a time of trial (All Together in One Place). I never am sure where the road will lead.
But I think that is the same pattern we experience in living even if we aren’t writers. At least if we are interested in continuing to pay attention (as the poet Mary Oliver notes) there will be moments whose meanings reveal themselves only years later. Just this morning I remembered a time when my dad became frustrated with me because I put the handle on the wrong side of the milk pail (we had a dairy) and thus lost 2 seconds in transferring the milking machine on to the stainless-steel bucket. What I took from that encounter I now see was that planning ahead was critical; that if I lost seconds (or made a mistake) it was of my own doing and that to avoid problems one must anticipate. Sadly, anticipation often converted to anxiety about had I done enough, had I properly prepared. Looking back, I see him now as someone who worked hard to support his family, yet who in later years turned to me seeking direction when he felt he’d failed. I wonder when he got that message of not being enough?
The Norse word “to read” means “to unveil a mystery” and I think it is a mystery not only of the author’s making but within ourselves as well. It is in reading that we can shortcut some of life’s trials by seeing how others managed a conflict between independence and love (A Flickering Light) or the survival skills of a childhood trauma (The Memory Weaver) or the betrayal of a husband (One More River to Cross). Stories, like maps, allow us to not only find our way but reduce the fear and anxiety of the unknown.
So when you find yourself lost in a novel, do not chastise yourself for forgetting to fix dinner or letting the clothes wrinkle in the dryer. You are doing healing work — therapy — inviting others to help you unveil that mystery that is in part the work of living. I hope my stories help you do that. Writing them helps me uncover those mysteries for myself, so thank you.
Homestead – the Movie
Homestead the Movie is still moving forward as we hope to sign contracts this month. The film producer will have 4 years to complete the project (make a movie!) so don’t buy the popcorn yet! It’s a fascinating process. I’ll keep you posted.
Black History Month
This is Black History Month and I have news about Letitia Carson, one of the first African American women to cross the Oregon Trail and later file two lawsuits that she won which was highly unusual in Territorial Oregon where black persons were excluded by law. A Light in the Wilderness is also about friendship and living well with one’s neighbors. An elementary school in Corvallis, Oregon is being renamed The Letitia Carson Elementary school and a group of citizens, farmers, educators, historians and others have begun work on the Letitia Carson Legacy Project. Here’s a link to their mission and hopes I’ve posted on my website. The group includes Oregon Black Pioneers (OBP), an association that helped with my research about Letitia. Currently, on Facebook, OBPs are celebrating various stories of Black Oregonians. There is also a link to donate to their work and if you’re looking for a way to help me celebrate my 76th birthday this month, you can do that at this site. You can also donate to another project of my heart, the Batwa indigenous people of Burundi. Visit the website of First Presbyterian Church in Bend and click on donations and you’ll find the Burundi project right there! Thank you for considering that!
Read and Paint
Remember a few years ago when an Oregon art studio sponsored a read and paint project that used This Road We Traveled as the stimulus for 20 watercolorists to paint their version of that book? The project turned out to be a fundraiser and a fabulous evening of story-telling and appreciating the power of art. (One of the pieces I bought and gave to Jerry for his birthday is by Cindy Pitts and is now my website’s home page picture shown here). Well, it is happening again! This time with The Healing of Natalie Curtis. I will keep you posted about public viewing and a presentation likely in late July but it is such a great honor to have written about women who can inspire art.
Most of my events are set for spring and summer so soon I’ll be letting you know about them. But for those interested in joining a book group from Las Cruces New Mexico on February 17, the Mesilla Valley Readers of southern New Mexico invite you to a Zoom book group discussion of The Healing of Natalie Curtis at 4:00 pm Pacific on February 17, 2022. I’ll be there! It will be great fun to be able to talk about this story in settings where much of it took place!
Please pre-register through email@example.com
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 973 4833 6331
I’m excited to share that you can get Everything She Didn’t Say for only $2.99 until Feb. 28, 2022. This special e-book event is available on Kindle, Nook, Christianbook.com etc.
Race and the Wild West: Sarah Bickford, the Montana Vigilantes, and the Tourism Decline, 1870-1930
by Laura J. Arata
University of Oklahoma press
A most fitting book for this month is a non-fiction work by public historian Laura J. Arata. She tells us about a woman who…. Though not a novel, it reads with the kind of fluidity of a great story-teller. Sarah Bickford was a black American entrepreneur in Virginia City, Montana who sparked the interest of the author when the author encountered “Hangman’s Building.” Like Letitia Carson’s story, there was just a fragment of Sarah’s story to begin with. Former slave. Married a white man who when he died left Sarah property including 2/3 of the water company that Sarah ran until her death in 1933. (Unlike with Letitia’s common law husband, there was a will). This is a well-researched, fascinating history of a woman of color. The Hangman’s Building was her office. Now don’t you wonder “How did that happen?” And for me, that’s the beginning of a great story. And Laura Arata has given us one with photographs, too.
Another book I read this month is by Kathleen Ernst (of the Chole Ellefson Mystery series). Kathleen has a new series with an immigrant woman as the protagonist. Hanneke Bauer is the star of Lies of Omission. I read this one through the night. It is a mystery that I didn’t see coming. I hope you’ll look for it. Kathleen is also a great teacher and she is offering several workshops — some virtual and some in person — Click here to see her newsletter/blog (titled Sites and Stories) and a brief description of her classes. She’s also leading a trip to Norway in May 2023. Something to consider!
I love libraries.
Wouldn’t it be great to hear about a woman who…by listening at the human library ?
Not sure what you can do to make a difference?
Maybe starting a human library would help bring people to a better understanding of each other. I’m going to see just what it might take. Let me know if you move in that direction. I’d love to hear your story.
Have a great month!
Bye for now,
Bye for now,