Lilacs in the Woods? Clues to a Vanished Homestead

This lilac bush turned a family hike through the woods into a find-the-clues game of discovery. Lilacs are not native to Montana. If you find one growing in the wild you can be sure it was put there, on purpose. Perhaps by a long-ago homesteader who planted it outside a home that’s since vanished? What stories lie behind it? Not far away we found a few paving stones. And then the remainders of a foundation wall. And then apple trees. … Read More

Meals: A Big Part of the CCC Day

Food. Fuel, pleasure, and sometimes one more key helpful in unlocking a character’s life. Writing Hitch, I’d have missed something important if I hadn’t considered it. This is a story set during the hungry years of the Great Depression, and for young men signing up for hitches in the Civilian Conservation Corps, food–the three regular meals a day that were a staple of CCC life—was a big deal. In a folder at the National Archives regional facility … Read More

Heirlooms Can be Key in Unlocking Characters

The key into a character can be as simple as a sewing basket that goes unnoticed until something causes me to remember why I’ve kept it.  It belonged to my mother.  Her mother made it. Memories flood in—hours in fabric departments. Mom laying out a pattern.  Cutting, matching notches, pinning, fitting. Machine stitching. Marking the hem—Stand still!  Finishing and pressing.  Here!  Try it on! What do you think? Mom poured all of her talent—and love—into the things she made for … Read More