Kickstart Your Writing Blue

December 2017



▪ Q&A: Tracy Prince on writing photo histories
▪ Writing prompt: Year’s end
▪ Yarn Spinners tell tall tales December 21
▪ Report from Wordstock
▪ Congratulations, Finn Ra’Kai!
▪ Flash markets at the Short List
▪ Student showcase: “Reflection” Finn Ra’Kai
▪ Subscribe to Kickstart for free!
Q&A: Tracy Prince on writing photo histories
Writing prompt: Year’s end
Yarn Spinners tell tall tales December 21
Report from Wordstock
Congratulations, Finn Ra’Kai!
Flash markets at the Short List
Student showcase: “Reflection” Finn Ra’Kai
Subscribe to Kickstart for free!
Dr. Tracy Prince 2016

Dr. Tracy Prince

Q&A: Tracy Prince on writing photo histories

Joining us for a Q&A this month is historian and Portland State University research professor Dr. Tracy Prince. Her written work includes three books of local history: Portland’s Goose Hollow, Portland’s Slab Town (with Mike Ryerson and Norm Gholston), and, most recently, Notable Women of Portland, which she co-authored with her daughter, researcher Zadie Schaffer. Historical images figure prominently in all three of Prince’s Portland history books, which were published by Arcadia (recognizable by its sepia-toned covers). We talked with Prince about writing photo histories.

How much of the structure and content of your Arcadia books are determined by the photos?
Arcadia has a strict structure that requires focusing on images (photos, maps, advertisements, postcards, etc.). Introductions can be no more than 4 pages. Captions can be no longer than 75 words. It’s tough to pack a lot of original research into such short captions. But I do, and it’s made me a better writer. I always steer the story toward race, gender, and class issues, since this is my academic research focus. People love photo histories. It’s a great medium to have people engage with complex racial and gender history and to enjoy learning local history.

Where do the photos come from?
I use many historical archives: Library of Congress, Oregon Historical Society, City of Portland Archives, Portland State University, Oregonian, and many others. I also know several private collectors who are gracious about lending use of their images.

Do you have the photos when you start the project, or is acquiring the photos part of your research?
I’ve been researching Portland history for 17 years, so I already have many images when I pitch the book to the publisher. Then I spend about 1 ½ years on each book, doing further research and acquiring rights to many more photos. All three of my Portland history books have more 220 images, so it’s a very big undertaking.

You’re working with historical photos. Does the limited availability and quality of the photographs affect what you write?
Sometimes there’s a story that needs to be told, since it’s historically important, but I don’t have an image. For example, in my Portland’s Goose Hollow book I wanted to tell the history of Native Americans living in Goose Hollow in the 1860s to 1870s, yet there were no photos. I used a Lily E. White photo of a Native American woman, to visually demonstrate that history. I often use images of newspaper articles, maps, or a photo of the contemporary location to tell stories about historical events when no photo can be found.

Have you had trouble getting permission to reproduce photographs in your books? If so, how have you worked with that?
Many historical photos are in the public domain (generally photos taken before 1928) so are free to use. The Library of Congress and City of Portland archives clearly state that their images are free to use. For my Portland’s Goose Hollow book, I used 70 images from the Oregon Historical Society (OHS). The cost was $700. I sought a local business to underwrite the cost and gave them a photo and thanks on the last page. Since then OHS has stopped charging for images used in history books, but they (and many other archives) still charge to scan a photo if it has not yet been scanned.

For my Notable Women of Portland book I worked with more than 20 university, government, and private archives. If asked to pay for images, I pointed out that these projects are labors of love, that the publisher provides no budget for acquiring photos, and that the book is promoting important history. They often worked with me. If I couldn’t afford to use an image, I found another—I took a photo of a book cover on the topic, took a contemporary photo of the part of town I was writing about, or used a screen shot of a newspaper article.

Do you do new, original research when writing these local history books or rely on your existing knowledge?
I do massive amounts of original research for each book. I write about local history because I’ve researched race, gender, and social equity in Portland history for almost two decades, and I feel that so much of that history has been overlooked. I’m tired of my children learning Portland history from Portland Public Schools that includes very few women and people of color. I’m trying to change that. My books teach about Portland’s complex multicultural history.

Why is it important for Portlanders to know about notable local women in history?
My daughter, Zadie Schaffer, and I discussed doing a mother/daughter project. We discussed that the only Portland woman she’d been taught about in Portland Public Schools was Abigail Scott Duniway. We hope that Notable Women of Portland helps mend the telling of Portland history so that our children grow up knowing more about Portland women’s history.

The book includes women of the suffrage movement, women during WWI and WWII, women working toward civil rights, women in the arts, and women in politics. I’m especially proud of the extensive Native American history included in the book. For a decade, I’ve researched the mostly forgotten history of Native Americans in Portland and the continuous interactions between Native people and pioneers in Portland. So I especially wanted to publish my research and use this book to tell more of Portland’s post-1840s Native history than told in any other book.

What’s your next local history book project?
I’m working on a book on Native American art of Oregon and a book on Chinese vegetable gardens of Oregon. Another book I’m working on is Might Oughta Keep Singin’—a narrative non-fiction book on four generations of breast cancer in my family and the music of the south. There’s not enough time in the day for all of my research projects!

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt: Year's End

Endings can be happy or sad, important or not. Some signal new beginnings. Write about an ending you experienced. Why did it matter to you?

Yarn Spinners tell tall tales December 21

Nancy’s Amazing Assemblage of Yarn Spinners, Tall Tale Tellers & Big Fat Liars will entertain you and your friends with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry on Thursday, December 21. The action starts at 7 p.m. at the Copeland Commons room of Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon.

Readers include Mark Alejos, Jamie Cauley, Catherine Magdalena, Kerry McPherson, Mizeta Moon, Mark Robben, Ann Sihler, and Nancy Woods.

Donations are accepted, but if you’d rather get in for free and clap a lot as your contribution, that’s fine, too. Just be prepared to laugh, cry, and everything in between.

Report from Wordstock

By Jamie Cauley

Twas the night before Wordstock and all through the house
Preparations were underway for me and my spouse

I hung up my favorite lit t-shirt with care
For soon it would be seen by writers everywhere
My pen and paper were ready to record words being said
While future writing inspirations danced in my head

Wordstock—Portland’s annual literary festival—is as exciting to me as Christmas. Like the malls in December, the downtown Park Blocks bustle on this November weekend with word nerds looking for the perfect literary experience. There are lots of options, from workshops to discussions to pop-up readings.

This year I planned on attempting to minimize travel between the host buildings (the Schnitzer, Art Museum, Historical Society, and more) while attending events on some of my favorite topics: food, poetry and animals. I showed up early, like a child eager to open presents, and further fueled my excitement with espresso and macaroons from Cafe Umbria.

My favorite event was, “A Literary Dinner Party,” which featured a panel of local chefs, cooks, and writers. My favorite panelists wrote a collection of essays titled Pie and Whiskey, a book whose idea was baked at the Spokane Literary festival. The authors wanted to add a little flavor to the typically dry reading event. Their solution? Serve pie and whiskey to the audience. At their first reading (in Spokane), they baked ten pies and brought six fifths of whiskey, and 300 people showed up! The event has continued (with many, many more pies and gallons of whiskey), and the creators pulled some of their favorite essays (all about pie and/or whiskey) together into their anthology.

I bought the self-titled book that day at the Wordstock book fair (using the $5 voucher you get with your Wordstock admission ticket) and started a list of other books for me to read later on.

My new list of reading material sits right next to my musings on newly inspired writing ideas. I plan to chip away at both lists before next year’s Wordstock, in November 2018, when I’ll be back with a fresh journal and new enthusiasm to do it all over again.

Congratulations, Finn Ra’Kai!

Kickstart student Finn Ra’Kai got good news last month: Ra’Kai’s story “Reflection” was on the long list of finalists for the Rainbow Unicorn Stuffie Mix-Tape Awesomeness Flash Writing Contest, sponsored by the online magazine Plenitude. The contest was for flash of 500 words or less.

Ra’kai’s story appears in its entirety in our Student Showcase, toward the end of this newsletter.

Flash markets at the Short List

Not sure where to submit your own flash fiction? Check out the Short List, a directory of markets for microfiction, flash, and other short works. Curated by Portland writer D.L. Shirey, the directory lists more than 500 markets that accept work of 4,000 words or less.

Shirey has organized entries by word count. For each market, he includes a link, a note regarding payment or reading fees, and a very brief (of course!) description.

Student Showcase

“Reflection” by Finn Ra’Kai

Kickstart student Finn Ra’Kai started writing in college when an autobiographical writing class served as an avenue for exploring sexuality, gender, and spirituality. Finn started writing again in earnest in February of this year. For Finn, sharing very personal topics with other writing students and receiving feedback is an opportunity to share authentically and vulnerably, which allows for deep healing.

This story made the long list of finalists for Plenitude magazine’s Rainbow Unicorn Stuffie Mix-Tape Awesomeness Flash Writing Contest.

In nature, outside of civilization, I feel free. No labels. No expectations. No judgment. In the mirror of the pond, the lake, and in the mirror of my lover’s eyes, I see my reflection. Clear and clean and cool. I am a man who loves life, a man who loves people, loves dancing and laughing and working with my hands. I am an artist, a musician, a writer, a singer, a lover.

For three days in the Central Oregon Cascades, my girl and I explored forest roads, rivers, reservoirs, and spent a day playing hide and seek with Hidden Lake. Our bodies became slick with sweat as we hiked through the underbrush, exploring around our remote campsite. In the river we washed the sweat from our bodies and cleaned the various scratches and scrapes on our legs and arms we received from scrambling over downed trees and pushing through underbrush. Looking at my reflection I appreciated my square jaw, my dancing eyes, my short cropped hair. Alive, loved and whole, I felt the cold water dripping down from my hair, down my face and chest, refreshing and cool.

After three days in the forest my girl and I are hungry and tired. In the car, we agree to stop in the first town to get some food, any food. We land in a former timber town that is now supported by tourism.

We leave the pups in the car, as we cross the street in hungry pursuit of food. I look forward to eating bread and potatoes, sugar, anything with simple carbohydrates, PLEASE! We spent three days camping, subsisting off of chicken sausages, cabbage, cherries and avocados. I am jonesing for some carbohydrates. My girl doesn’t eat gluten or sugar, which are two of my primary food groups.

We wait our turn, enjoying the English-style public house and the cool, liberal vibe of a tourist place catering to outdoor adventurers. When it is our turn, the bartender asks, “What would you two ladies like?”

… and my reflection cracks in the mirror.

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A Nancy Woods production

Thanks for reading Kickstart, which is a publication of Nancy Woods—author and writing coach. If you have any comments about the newsletter, feel free to email them to Nancy or her newsletter sidekick (aka editor) Ann Sihler.

Nancy and Ann
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