So Spake Mo…
On the evening of Friday the 15th of November nearly 50 people converged on Jacobsen’s Books & More in downtown Hillsboro, OR to help me celebrate two milestones: the launch of my first book in two years, STEALING LUCIFER’S
DREAMS, and my cresting of “the hill,” my fortieth birthday.
It was a chance for me to share what stories have meant on my journey
thus far and how the people around me have helped to shape that story.
For those of you who couldn’t be there that night, this is for you.
So Spake Me…
When I was a kid in southern Idaho, my folks would take us out to the hills nearly every summer weekend to go rock hunting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this hobby, it is where you wander steep, sandy hillsides—mostly on your own backside—in one hundred degree weather, dodging gopher holes and giving wide berth to rattler-concealing shadows.
It was awesome!
And the purpose of all of this? Like an adventurer in the days of old, you are searching for treasure, hoping to be the one who finds that one piece of agate, that one piece of quartz that nature shaped with enough startling ingenuity to become a piece of art—with the help of a rock saw and whole lot of patience!
Now, rock hunting involves a lot of walking. All day long, my sister and brother and I traipsed along behind my parents offering up endless examples of leverrite for their inspection. There’s a lot of leverrite on those hillsides. Leverrite? You know, “Leave ‘er right here.” And occasionally in that ridiculous heat we would fall asleep only to be tossed in the backpack with the rocks. (My parents were apparently Herculean in strength—one of those genes they didn’t pass on.)
But the parts of the adventures I remember the most are the stops. Perching on the crest of a hilltop, looking out over that shock-blue sky, the curve of the hills, the twisting patterns of dry creek beds. With the wind the only sound and not another soul around as far as the eye can see—and out there that is for miles—my mind would wander and wonder. I couldn’t have possibly been the first to rest against this boulder, to look out over these hills, those mountains. Who was here before me? Where were they going?
What was their story?
In that moment, it was almost as if I could feel the ghosts of those people milling about me, whispering, Remember me. Remember me because your story is built upon mine. Remember me because to forget me is to forget the meaning of my life. Remember me. Don’t let me be lost. Remember.
I carried that sense forward with me. I carried it to ruined castles in Austria, to winding canals in Venice, to abandoned temples in Greece and Turkey. Remember me. Your story is built upon mine. Remember me.
I think in a way, the whispers of that voice are true: we do learn a little more about ourselves when we learn the stories we are built upon. Stories are our connections to each other, our way to make sense of the world and our place in it. If our souls are an intersection of all the relationships we have ever been a part of, then stories are our definition of these relationships, our understanding of who we are—even when these stories aren’t true. Even when we know they aren’t true.
Facts fade. There is a story in my family of an uncle who, when he was young, left a burning barrel full of garbage unattended in high winds and burned a workshop down to its stone walls. I have had a variety of relatives adamantly tell wildly different version of that story. In some it was his brother’s fort that burned. In others, the burning barrel wasn’t involved at all. And that’s only two generations. But that story certainly helped define me as someone who would never leave a burning barrel unattended. Or at least would be very nervous when she did!
Stories are a kind of magic. Their truth transcends fact and in that their power is unquestionable. And the oldest have immense power. They take us back through time and remind us, not perhaps of the precise facts of events, but absolutely of the greatest that humankind, that we, are capable of. And of the horrors people just like us can and have brought into the world. The magic in every story is its ability to transcend generations, to give us a space outside of time where we can decide anew who we want to be.
Is it true that Marco Polo brought home a bride from Kublai Kahn’s court? Is it true that the Venetian people shunned her so powerfully because of her foreign clothes and her strange religion, that she became a shut in, only to kill herself upon hearing false news of his death? Probably not. But think for a moment of her corpse laid to rest in the basement of the family palace, Ca’ Milione. Think for a moment on her story. Now, tell me you didn’t reflect just for a second on how you have treated immigrants in the past and how our culture is currently treating those of alternate religious persuasions even now.
We are made of stories. Stories of remembrance, stories of shared adventure, stories we never lived, but instead share through books and movies and songs. They tie us together.
And for that I am grateful.
Because I have gotten to share some amazing stories with each of you. And this last two years between books has been filled with some particularly wild ones! Obviously, I won’t get a chance recognize each and every one of you tonight the way you each deserve and the way I wish I could, but there are a few I absolutely need to recognize. And I’m going to take the chance to do that now.
Of course, first are my parents, Jon and Susan. If it’s any indicator, they travelled all the way from Jerome, Idaho to be here tonight. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me the space to let my stories come to life and for encouraging me along this mad path. I love you!
My family, Ray, Damien, and Heléna put up with a very distracted Mommy, but they are always there with hug and a goofy story. They are my heart and soul and make every minute of this possible.
Now, there is a particular group of people who have held my hand emotionally and physically through the last eight years. These guys are the shoulders I cried on, the guys who pitched in with the kids, helped keep the household going, even did a covert remodel on our bedroom. I have been blessed with the most amazing neighbors and I don’t tell them often enough how much I love them and how much their support has meant through the post-pregnancy crazies, my surgery, and even just the madness of everyday life: Dana and Brad Silvers, Marisol and Reed Levick, Lisa and John Ohnstad, Amy and Corey Weinheimer, Lynn and Jason Horihan, Jay and Ginger Cox, Mike and Christy May, and Senaida Perez. Thank you. After 40 years, a girl has lived a lot of different lives, enough to know that this kind of convergence of really special people just doesn’t happen all the time.
Is anyone here from the Tuesday Night Write In crew? Doug and Dawn Sellers, Maggie Rivera, Pam Bainbridge-Cowan, Brad and Leah Wheeler, Brad Cameron, Ed Seymour, Traci Taylor, etc. These are my fellow castmates from the set of “Cheers” over at Primrose & Tumbleweeds. For all the conversations on writing, history, psychology, government, politics, beer, family, and whatever else wanders into our path…thanks for giving me a place to come home to!
A book doesn’t happen without some people with some very specialized skill sets. Please help me thank my cover designers Lisa Holmes and John Vincent and my editors, Rob Richards and Teri Watanabe. I’ve heard rumors that we will be seeing tomes from all of these folks in the next year or two, so keep your eyes peeled!
Once you’ve become published, your career landscape changes and those first few years require an enormous amount of focus and emotional fortitude. In other words, you get depressed a lot. I want to thank my amazing friends Tina
Jacobsen and Brad Cameron, and the rest of The Myth Makers literary group for keeping my butt moving and my chin up. You guys are incredible friends. Not sure how I got so freaking lucky. Truly.
This is going to seem like a weird detour, but if any of the ladies from The Artfull Garden are here? Kay, Kelly, LaVonne, Sue, and the rest of you, thanks for making Rustling Sage Bath & Body products so much fun to own and operate and for being so understanding when it came time turn my focus more fully to my writing. Mental hugs to all of you for your support!!!
I saved a very special group for last: my NIWA family. Can I get a show of hands? See, that is how you know you are part of something amazing. Indie publishing was a wild frontier when we stepped onto the scene. Through the generosity of their big hearts and monumental sacrifices of their time, these guys have put together a really amazing support system for us dream chasers out there. Like a real family, we may bicker and pick every once in a while, but we always pull together in the end. And that mountain moves. Thanks for taking me in!
Speaking of which, there are bookmarks coming around the room. If you love the magic of stories, drop by McMenamin’s Grand Lodge on February 2nd. These guys are putting together a huge author event to support local literacy. This—shockingly enough—is a pet cause of mine. We authors do signings all over the Northwest. And every time we do we have an appalling number of people announce, “I don’t read.” Right in front of their children. It’s painful and painfully consistent. I hope you all can find the time to come out and show the community how important we really think literacy is. Cause if we don’t, who will?
So that’s all of my official thank yous, but please know how much it means to me that each and every one of you took the time to make it here tonight. That’s the best birthday present a girl could ask for: people to share in her story.
The Story of Place