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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Announcing Family Trees: a Novel of the Northwest, by Linda Crew

I'm happy to announce that my new book is finally out, available in both ebook and print editions through Bookbaby and on Amazon Kindle.  Other print-buying options through independent book stores and online sellers will be available February 1st.

 

No, I did not hunker down last Spring at the start of the pandemic and knock out Family Trees--I think most writers got the word about Shakespeare writing King Lear while he hid out from the plague--but the focused time at home did allow me to concentrate on finally finishing it.

 

I actually began work on this novel in 2009. That September to be exact.  If I got out a calendar I could probably nail the day and hour the story sparked to life in my brain. My husband and I had gone up to Dallas to attend a large church funeral for a logger who'd recently been working for us. A question I often ask myself when starting a book is whether it's really my story to tell.  Could there be someone better positioned? That hot afternoon as I watched slides of guys with their hunting trophies, it hit me that maybe I was the writer uniquely suited to tell a story set against the backdrop of Oregon's timberlands and the business of tree farming.  Because, look—I was in the middle of it all.  My first grade true love was cul-de-sac neighbor Bruce Shepherd, whose daddy logged in the area around Valsetz.  I'd grown up knowing the families who owned the timberlands, and now my husband and I were among those who tended small acreages of trees and knew each other through the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.

 

My parents took me camping and taught me to love the forests, but figured trees were for walking under, never for cutting down.  I don't think they ever quite understood why my husband and I would want to use planting and limbing trees as our excuse for being out there in the fresh air of the forest. Why not just go fishing and have happy-hour martinis at a lake-front campsite?  But now, here we are, card-carrying members of the Nature Conservancy, but also people who sometimes hire loggers to cut down a patch of trees.  Like I said, I'm in the middle of it all.

 

Family Trees  is set in 2009-2010, and I wrote it in real time so that the concerns of the day for my characters were true to the current issues. After a couple of years, my work on the story ended up being sidelined by real life and personal stories that felt more compelling for me to write, but when I revisited it a decade after I began, I found my beloved characters waiting for me, and I was newly intrigued by my pre-pandemic depiction of life in Benton County, Oregon. Now my job was only to improve the telling of the story, adding the nuances that only ten rather difficult years of living can add to a writer's sum of wisdom.

 

My characters feel like real people to me, and I've enjoyed spending time with them so much, it's hard to finally put them into the computer and hit SEND once and for all.  I've noticed, though, that characters only truly come to life when you commit them to the page and the bridge is formed between the writer and the reader.

 

So, it's time.  To let them live, I need to release these characters to the page and the  world.  A trusted writer friend once called Family Trees "a good read."  That was about 27 versions ago, so I hope my loving labors have done nothing but improve it in the interim.

 

This isolation has been rough. On everybody for their own reasons. They say it's going to be worse for awhile.  I'm hoping my book might serve as a comfort-food-type read for these coming dark days.

 

Hang on, everybody.  Stay well.  It's going to be the best Spring ever!

 

    

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An Anniversary Visit to Wake Robin Farm





Something quite lovely happened one day last week at Wake Robin Farm. I was working in my office, and when I heard a car in the driveway, I got up and looked out the dormer window. Not too many people show up out here on the farm, and unfortunately a high percentage of the ones who do are interested only in converting me to their religion. No, thanks.

But these folks parked their truck so deliberately in our two-space, picket-fenced “lot.” I considered just not answering the door, but somehow, watching the man and woman walking up the gravel drive, I impulsively decided to take a chance. I hustled down the stairs and opened the door.

“Jenny!” It was our tenant who’d lived in the other old farmhouse on our property many years ago.

“And you remember Rick?” she said.

Of course. Rick and Jenny had actually held their wedding in the living room of the old house Jenny had rented from us for several years. Now she said they had decided to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary by taking a nostalgic tour, and took a chance on checking out what had become of Wake Robin Farm. They weren’t surprised their house was no longer standing (it was starting to fall apart even then) and said they were just relieved the whole acreage hadn’t become a development.

Then Herb showed up from town and we all sat around the living room trading stories of the old days and how our lives had gone in the thirty-five years since they married and moved away. Jenny and I agreed it had seemed like Herb and I were so much older than them back then. The age gap between being a bride of twenty-five and a young mother of thirty-one was way larger than those same six years seem now.

We were all so happy to find out both marriages had survived the rough patches and that we were still hanging in there together.

For almost twenty years now the Millsaps have had a storybook house on a farm of their own up in Mulino, a country community outside of Portland. Jenny has a studio out back for creating her beautiful glass beads. They even have a willow tree just like the one that still stands by the old site of the house where they were married.

Rick and Jenny—thanks for showing up! You made our day.




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