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September 2020 Looking back

This is the first September since 1999 that I'm not prepping to teach a Fall Term writing workshop. It has taken a while for that to sink in. I've known for some time now that this moment was coming. My husband will retire soon and we don't intend to be idle. But the thought of walking away from the weekly stimulation of interacting with other writers at all levels of their development was too difficult to fathom, so I continued to commit to one more term... and another, and another. It took a worldwide pandemic to break the cycle.

Like so many others who find themselves spending more time at home, I've turned my attention (halfheartedly, I admit!) to getting rid of the huge amount of papers I've amassed from 20+ years of lectures and handouts. I've dreaded the task. But I don't need the papers anymore; time to purge.

I've discovered it's easier than I thought it would be. Being free of the clutter is part of it. But those papers also remind me of how hard I've worked, how many hours I've spent outside of the classroom to come up with material that might help people become the writers they wanted to be. Looking back at all I've accomplished makes it easier to move forward. I've earned my badge.

And oh the memories! The good, bad, and ugly. Fortunately, the good have far outweighed the other two. In addition to the lifelong friends I've made, I have a stack of autographed books from students who went on to publish the stories they began in my classes. That's pretty damn rewarding.

My editor dropped off the manuscript for Come Snowfall this morning. Time to get my own story polished and published!

Photo of girl on horse

August 2020 Come Snowfall progress

COVID-19 is still very much a controlling factor in Oregon. The extended break from classroom courses, along with the college's acknowledgment of my twenty years of service, has me accepting that it's time to end that exciting chapter of my life and focus on my writing. It wasn't an easy decision – I will miss the weekly interactions and dialog with fellow writers – but it has given me the space I needed to work on my Western literary novel, Come Snowfall.

The story takes place in 1880's eastern Oregon, and is about a twelve-year-old girl, Alice, who discovers how far she's willing to go to save what's left of her family. My husband and I went camping near Baker City last summer to research the area where my story takes place, near the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountain ranges, and visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. It's been fascinating to learn about the history of the pioneering west.

Photo of Covered Wagon

Covered Wagon

 Photo of Cindy Relaxing in Camp

Cindy Relaxing in Camp

Photo of Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Sign

Entrance to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

First Place Kay Snow Award

The opening scene of Come Snowfall earned first place in the Kay Snow Awards for Fiction from Willamette Writers in 2018.

May 2020 Iditarod Nights launch

Early last year, Multnomah County Library asked if I'd be interested in working with Ooligan Press – a student-run teaching press affiliated with Portland State University and its College of Liberal Arts & Sciences – to revise and republish my romance Iditarod Nights in collaboration with the Library Writers Project (the ebook was the featured title from the Library Writers Project in August 2017). I was honored and viewed the offer as an opportunity to bring the story up to date, and to work with a dedicated team of grad students. I learned so much in the year that followed, about myself and my writing and how a younger generation of professionals view the world.

But Oregon has been in COVID-19 lockdown since mid-March, and as the April 14 release date approached, it became clear this wouldn't be your typical launch, with a book-signing party or bookstore appearances. I couldn't even share a celebratory cake with my workshop group, because all spring courses at MHCC had been canceled.

The resourceful team at Ooligan proposed a book launch video, produced by the author, that they could post on social networks. My project manager said I could just use my smartphone, as though it would be a breeze. It probably would have been, for her. It was a steep learning curve for somebody who was still getting comfortable with the idea of using a phone for more than just making calls. But we'd all worked too hard on this project for me to drop the ball now. After two weeks of frustration, stubbornness, and with the help of a great digital crew at Ooligan, I had a book launch video.

Multnomah County Library planned to give the book front-facing shelf status in all their branches, but all the branches are closed at the moment. Plan B: write a post for the library's website: "In the Spirit of Adventure and Happy Endings: Cindy Hiday talks about her book Iditarod Nights."

And for a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges Ooligan's design team experienced when it came to the book's cover, read "Designing Romance Covers: What Works?"

Iditarod Nights book cover

All in all, it's been a book launch to remember!