Family Ready for the Big One?

(And the small ones too) Our Pacific Northwest’s big earthquake hasn’t happened yet, but it could happen any time. Geologists have been expecting the big one and have been trying to warn us for quite long enough. We should all be aware of the Subduction Zone facts. Enough of passive information gathering. Want to get ready? Join me as I help my extended family, and you all, get ready for that predicted event, or any smaller events between now and the #9 earth moving that is predicted. … [Read more...]

Put Some Pizzaz in your Pockets

Imagine big red coat, aged. Faded. Sleeves sport house paint. Imagine a jacket good for yard work – in the back yard onl y, a jacket great for embarrassing your family. Now you’ve it – Ugly Coat.  Ugly Coat and I are out with Handy-Guy Mike, changing the back-up batteries on the smoke alarm systems in a duplex. I pocket the old batteries – some have been in the smoke alarm two or three years. They back up a system that is wired into the building. But we change them even though they are … [Read more...]

Lightning Follows Me

Recently, I nearly wiped out, or was wiped out in a storm. There are dangers in a Virginia battlefield that have nothing to do with sharpshooters and cannons. My husband, Woody, and I were in The Great State of Virginia -- he to help teach ethics to fellow actuaries, me for research on our nation’s history. We both visited the great battlefield at Gettysburg and came away with understanding how the high terrain offers advantages. We learned about strategies of the battle-field generals of that … [Read more...]

Laughland by Ken Byers

Laughland By Ken Byers Ken Byers creates unforgettable characters and sets them against extraordinary moral and physical conflict. In Laughland, Byers is in top storytelling form. Laughland begins with one day of strafing and Napalm in 1967 at Bong Sat Viet Nam. The evil done on that day by Nathan Ferry, one very rich and powerful American, puts the survivors, Matt Eliot, Marcus Steerman and Bill Tagnut, in great danger for the rest of their lives. While Ferry’s men hunt down Matt Eliot … [Read more...]

Mountain Climbing – Research for Uncharted Territory

One of the first question people ask me after they read Uncharted Territory, is “How do you know so much about climbing mountains?” The answer is, I don’t know as much as is in the book. I have climbed mountains, but much of what is in Uncharted Territory is new climbing technique and the newer environmental practices of climbers. What’s in the book is research distilled, so what I learn comes out only when Jack and his friends need it. That’s the trick for all writers. Research in depth. … [Read more...]

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys      By Elizabeth Strout     Review by Rae Richen Is alliteration the only reason for a familial title that doesn’t include the sister? Thus, did the Burgess boys’ sister have to be the least interesting character in an otherwise character peppered story? Does Zach, the most interesting character in the story, have to solve his problems alone, without even the help of the author? Elizabeth Strout, you are better than this. Olive Kittredge was a lot more believable, and … [Read more...]

Hunting for Real Dialogue

Children’s author, Julie Blair, Woody Richen and I took the Middle School Writing Club to Colonyhouse in June. Colonyhouse is a lovely John Steiner log home that belongs to Oregon Writers Colony. OWC sponsored our weekend adventures. One of our excursions was into the downtown of bustling Rockaway Beach, Oregon. I expected a few tourists and the usual contingent of Rockaway town’s people, but it turned out that “our fair city” really was in bustle mode that weekend. Before we left Colonyhouse … [Read more...]

Introducing Young Writers at the Coffee Shop

The Sixth and seventh graders of the Happy Valley Writing Club were invited to read at the Rain or Shine Coffee Shop located at 60th and Division in Portland, Oregon. This invitation brought with it a lot of pride and some fear. “I’m not a good reader,” whispered one sixth grader to me. “But you are an excellent writer, so we’ll work on the reading. Not one of us is a good reader without practice, and that includes your teacher.” She didn’t believe me, of course. I read aloud to … [Read more...]

Being Prepared for the Big One, and the Small Ones, too

My friend, Ruth Jones, has tried to take care of her neighbors and her friends by joining Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) program. Convincing complacent friends to be prepared has been an uphill slog for Ruth, but she keeps at it. Last month, friends were at my house for lunch. We talked (not for the first time) about Ruth’s hope that we are actually collecting the things we need to survive the next (and way overdue) big earthquake in Oregon.  Are YOU ready for the next big quake? So, … [Read more...]

Every day the Preschool Passes

From my office window, two stories above my garden, I hear the teachers first, an alert that my favorite site is occurring yet again.  “Come on, Billy,” they call. "We have to meet the others at the corner.” Or “Susan, push your feet forward. Come this way.” The two and three year olds are out for a walk. Some of the children walk purposefully. Some still finish snack time while on the move. A few arrive at the corner north of my house and impatiently wait for their buddies. One little … [Read more...]