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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Wedding in Yangshuo

Once upon a time at Wake Robin Farm in Oregon, I was miraculously pregnant with our first child.

That same summer, on the Li River in Southern China, a pretty woman exactly my age was also expecting. She and her husband were both artists.

Our child, born in August, was a son. Theirs, born in October, a daughter.

Twenty-two years later these children, now grown, would meet in Beijing.

The girl from Yangshuo had been studying English.

Our son, traveling with a university program, was rapidly become proficient in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

These two could talk to each other.

They could fall in love.

And did.

This is their story.

And ours.

Everything in this book actually happened, even the lovely, fateful coincidences.

Especially those........


So begins my new memoir, which is just out as an ebook and will be available as a paperback shortly. For readers of Children of the River, now in print almost twenty-nine years, Wedding in Yangshuo can be read almost as a companion book, as it explains the inspiration for the YA novel, and shows how deeply impacted the future of my life was by its research, writing, and publication.

For everybody else, my memoir is simply the story of my writing life, my marriage, and the life-changing trip my husband and I took to Yangshuo, trying to carry the family flag as our son married a girl from this most scenic corner of China.  Read More 
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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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Fond Memories

A year ago today it was like spring, and I decided to try acting like a well person. I took up my loppers and headed out to work in my trees. About a half hour later I tripped, fell, and broke my ankle. It’s amazing to me how long it’s been since I’ve given that fully healed ankle a second thought. If only brains healed so quickly and efficiently. But that’s a long story, a book, in fact (coming soon), and not what I want to write about here.

It’s just that this anniversary reminded me of some unfinished business derailed by my accident. The previous day last year I received, out of the blue, an email from Thy Chan, known now as Tony Te, with a picture of himself as a child at Wake Robin Farm. Through the magic of Facebook, the internet, and a helpful sister, he’d found my site. I loved this—him writing that he had such happy memories of playing at the farm while his parents helped during harvest. This was during the time when the stories of families like his were inspiring me to write CHILDREN OF THE RIVER.

Now he works for a wedding photography company in Southern California. He's also an events coordinator, in charge of the Cambodian New Years Parade in Long Beach, the biggest new year's celebration in Southern California.

Thank you, little Thy, all grown up into Tony Te, for coming back for a cyber visit!

I also recently heard from some middle school students in Nebraska who were reading Children of the River and wanted to know how things had turned out for my Cambodian character Sundara. Of course Sundara is fictional, so the best I can do is to report the "happy endings" of the good lives being lived here in the US by the Cambodian refugees we met back then. I'm glad to say that every follow-up story I've heard is a good one, and reinforces the idea that refugees from other countries have helped make America strong. As my husband likes to say, "Bring 'em on!"  Read More 
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