Attend a Writer’s Conference? A Risk Worth Taking (Part 3)

By Catherine Hedge

Cathy Hedge In St. Augustine, Florida, 2015

I am thrilled to be on my way to The Kansas Authors Club state conference today.  I know that when I walk through the door, I will be greeted with smiles and enthusiasm.  That won’t be because I am known, though I hope I will find old friends and fellow writer Nancy Kopp.  That warm welcome will because I am entering the world of writers and dreamers.  A very fine place to be…for me!

For those who are first-timers, curious, or seasoned conference professionals, I present reasons from the past that highlight why I am so giddy today!

See you soon, Salina!

*     *     *


By Catherine Hedge (2014)

What a delight!  I have just returned from a regional writer’s conference, The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators of Kansas.  … I was surrounded by enthusiastic people who write because they have something to say and a unique way of saying it. Writing is their art.  My art.

As writers, we sit by ourselves, writing draft after draft.  The stereotype is the pale, hunched, introvert writing until dawn. He’s fueled by whiskey and stale cigarettes.  (Okay, I’m pale, love to write at night, but I need chocolate and Malbec.) But get us all together to share, breathe, and question writing, and we are as excited as middle schoolers!

It makes me realize that to be in close proximity to those who love what you love…whether it is opera, basketball, Anime, or Star Trek, is a joyful a reminder that we are indeed human.  We are social creatures who do best when we come together and  dream.

When I was getting reading for my first writing conference in Salina, Kansas, many years ago, I was terribly nervous.  I figured there would be critics lurking about with long noses and red pens in hand.  They’d stand around in little circles and scoff, “Oh, so like SHE thinks she can write, Poor Thing!”

When I started reading my lead to an agent, I was so nervous that my tongue felt like a sand dune.  I spent my life talking in front of middle schoolers, but something about this pinch-faced woman terrified me.  She started out with, “You write really well, BUT…”  Then she told me that no one was interested in my time period, The Dawn of the Viking Age in England.  I should switch to King Arthur or Ancient Rome.  I was devastated.

Thank goodness my writing mentor, Leonard Bishop was at the conference.  When I told him what she had said, he growled, “Don’t listen to her! You are the one who will make them interested!”  The great part was that for the rest of the conference, he was the star, the darling that every struggling author wanted to talk to.  The one the agents and editors invited to lunch.  And I was the one he asked to join him!

That agent incident is the only uncomfortable memory of my conference life (Well, there were the toothless Klingons at a Con in Kansas City, but that’s another universe.) Since that time, I have attended more conferences to my great delight.

I don’t have an agent and editors aren’t clawing through my front door…yet.  So why am I willing to squander two scarce resources, Time and Money, to spend a weekend with strangers?  Why would I recommend it to you?

You just might…

Be Surrounded by Dreamers…How often do you get to be in a room with hundreds of people who have the same creative life as you?  We think it’s great to sit alone, scowling and scribbling.  We treasure moments we can laugh out loud at our own jokes or tear up at poignant scenes.  Some call that madness. Writers call it fun.

Get Support…You aren’t the only one out there.  Listen to the hallway chatter and you’ll hear just what you’ve asked yourself so many times…

  • I’ve sent out a million query letters but no luck yet! What should I do now?
  • They’ve just published a book about my topic.  Have I wasted all that time?
  • My story line has hit a dead end, but my character just won’t let me stop!   (Leonard would have loved that one!  “Just put the pen down!”)
  • I just know there’s a story in me somewhere…
  • Do you think I have a chance?
  • And those in the elevator, at the table, or in line with you, offer advice, soothing stories, and sometimes answers.

Meet Specialists…Most presenters are as passionate about writing and creating as you are.  By listening to the pulse of the conference, you can tell who they are.  People talk.  “Go see him! He’s fascinating” or “I took a marketing class from her once.  She really knows her stuff.”   Or, “He’s just trying to sell his editing books.”  Watch for the presenters who have crowd gather around them AFTER they have given their talk!  Or the ones who smile when you walk in their classroom.

Hint:  The faculty usually post their websites.  With prior research, you can discover the presenter’s experience, interests, and attitudes.   (The opening lines of agents/editor’s website usually states if they are accepting new clients or open only to established writers.) Does the individual promote a sense of community, excitement…or exclusion?  Those beliefs carry into the presentation.

 Celebrate Synergy…The best part of a conference happens afterwards.  Yes, if you’re lucky, you’ll have an agent or editor who wants to see your work…or some notes from a presentation on social networking…or a business card from a future friend.  But every individual can leave with power of community.  You’re ready to take on the next day, the next weeks, of staring at that blank screen or page of doodling.  You can do that because you have discovered you are no longer alone.

At a conference, you have voluntarily surrounded yourself with creatives.  You’ve allowed yourself to be open to learning.  You’ve read your drafts to strangers, accepted their feedback, and filtered their comments through your sensibilities.  For days, you have been immersed in your craft, pondering what works, weighing every comment for its usefulness for your writing.  How can that not change you?

Go ahead.  Take the risk.  (Just stay clear of the Klingons!)

Posted in Inspiration, Leonard Bishop, Teaching, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My New Bike…The Whole World in Front of Me!

By Celeste Gantz

Today I rode my new bicycle.  It’s a cruiser that was used as a rental from our local bike shop, but it’s in top notch shape.  I bought a new helmet and lock. It has regular pedals, instead of the ones with the clip-ins. I’d tried them before and they’re impossible!  I need to come to a quick stop and could never get the clips to release.  Almost killed myself a couple times!

I kept putting off the ride after I bought the thing.  I was nervous about it for some odd reason.  I wanted to go with Clay but he’s been so busy and when he finally gets some down time, it’s the end of the day and too hot or too close to dinner or, some other excuse I was always able to come up with. I finally threw the bike in the car and just went.  The Joe Rodota trail out of Forestville begins at the little local park and goes all the way to Sebastopol, about 8 miles.  I thought I really better start slow and not leave it all on the road the first day, so I stopped at Green Valley Road, for a 45 minute round trip.

I felt just like a kid again, thinking about being 12 and barreling down the road on my blue Christmas bike.   There was an older gentleman sitting in the park and I told him I was headed out for a ride on my new bike.  He told me to “be careful!”  While I was riding, I saw some girls in front of me and rang my little bell.  As I passed I said that was my first time to use my new bell on my new bike.  They said hooray! And I threw my fist into the air.  I would have embarrassed the heck out of my children.

Then I ran into (not literally!) an old guy on an electric bike. I had stopped to wait for him to cross a bridge.  His name is Duke, he lives around the corner behind the gas station in a mobile home park with his wife, he’s married (happily).  I said I guess I wasn’t going to put any moves on him today then.  He proceeded to tell me all about his life.  Where he lived as a kid, the bike he rode, his motorcycle, the games they used to play…. I finally had to stop him and said, “Wait!  Let’s save that story for another day.  I know we’ll meet again and I’ll bet there are a lot more of them.”  He said there certainly was!  I’ll try to avoid him unless I have a lot of time to spend – hah!

It was a wonderful first adventure and while I don’t feel “old”, it certainly reminded me of when I was young, with the whole world in front of me.    Love, C

©2o18 Celeste Gantz

Celeste Gantz is co-owner of Gantz Family Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California. 

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Arnold and Ithaca

by John Borel

 Tell me about a complicated man

Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost

When he wrecked the holy town of Troy

And where he went and who he met, the pain

He suffered in the storms at sea, and how

He worked to save his life and bring his men

Back home.

   The Odyssey

Perhaps because I have recently returned from Greece, where our democratic institutions and our western civilization were born, I harken back to the fundamentals of our society.  And I feel that Arnold Borel understood and lived those basics — of fair play, equality, decency, citizen’s rights, freedom of religion and the press, freedom to assemble and to protest.

The Borel Family

I think of Dad as a heroic figure from a time of the past.  The son of an immigrant, he had to work as a youth to support his family in Erie, Pennsylvania; his family, who had been cheated out of their furniture business.  He fought and won medals in the Great War, but at home in this country he had to avoid conversing in the family’s native tongue, German, because of jingoistic prejudice.  Once he was nearly attacked on a public trolley.  In Europe, he went AWOL to visit relatives in Switzerland, where he had memories of a wine so fine it could not travel out of its town.

After the war, he joined the westward movement in America and migrated to Montana to work in the mines and go to college.  He arrived in Butte, worked in the copper mines while earning an Engineering Mining degree and starring on the School of Mines football team.  When he died, Butte columnist Frank Quinn wrote that his death recalled “one of the finest combinations to play football in Butte. Borel, 200 pounds or better, played tackle.  Alongside him was the late Gene Havey, who as an end weighed 138 pounds. There was never a tougher combination to get around than that of Borel and Havey. Both were all-state in collegiate play at the Mines in 1922-23.  Edward Shea, who  played with Borel, Havey and others in “22 said: “Borel was a great lineman—probably the greatest the School of Mines ever had.  He also exemplified the highest attributes of sportsmanship.”  Once, working deep in the mine, he saved his own life by  running first, without looking up to see what was happening, when a co-worker yelled out an alarm of a cave-in.

Working as a mining engineer, research engineer, shift boss and assistant mining foreman, he could look forward to a promising career in the industry, until he defied management and went on strike in support of workers, losing his job and his career ladder opportunities.  He went on to work as an engineer on the Fort Peck dam project. And he married a sweet and smart Montana girl named Mary and raised a family of seven healthy, intelligent and good looking children, during and after the Great Depression and World War II.  During the war he traveled widely in his work for the Federal Government as he analyzed ore stockpiles for the war effort. He bravely drove his car between Coquille, where we were living, to Arcata where we would move, without lights the entire dangerous coastal highway because of the blackout. In Arcata, he always brought home a gift for the little ones at home, and he would toss his hat in the door for his waiting and faithful wife. He took me to see the manganese ore he was stockpiling for the government.

As a lifelong agnostic, he yet exemplified strong moral values and had great intellectual respect for the religious life. He had intellectual curiosity, and I remember long discussions over theology with thoughtful Father Kelly and fiery Father O’Connor.  On Sundays, he would stay at home and make pancakes using his own sourdough recipe.

Paul, Cathy, John, and Joe cannot wait for sourdough  at their house

He was a man of ideas and pursued theoretical and controversial economic theories about Capitalism.  As a Technocracy advocate and member, he thought money was a cause of evil.  He once embarrassed beautiful and cheeky sister May when he pontificated to her college class at Humboldt State.  In the 1950s in San Francisco, I remember he decried the wasteful use of automobiles, one person to a car.  He converted to Catholicism in his last years, principally to please mother, or at least so I thought.

What is this country I have come to now?

Are all the people wild and violent

Or good, hospitable and god-fearing?

The Odyssey

He was a lifelong gold prospector. He would take some family members up into the coastal range to prospect for gold, and he filled seven vials with gold, one for each of his strong and healthy children. But mother just thought the nuggets glistened and put them in her window after he had died. Where they might be seen and stolen by strangers. And strong and wise brother Gene saved them and put them aside.

He once took baby brother and family builder Bill on a trip as a child, and he accidentally left him at a strange house where no one lived. No one in the car realized fearless Bill was gone until some time had passed. Mistakes like that were rare for the great man; it is well known that he never lost anyone permanently.

He took me into the Siskiyou mountains to the town of Cecilville, with its wide open spaces, big sky country, few roads and fewer cabins.  We visited a hermit, someone he knew about, who lived in a miner’s cabin with no running water and only an outhouse, pots and pans and kitchen ware hanging from the walls.  But this grizzled old hermit with a long gray beard and scraggly hair, had current editions of the New York Times and other literary publications on the tables of this rustic cabin, and they talked long into the night after I had gone to sleep.  There were no people to be seen or heard for miles, but that Saturday night he took me to a barn for a country dance that was filled to the rafters with people and music; country people came out of the woodwork. As Dad might have said, “Ye Gods and Little Fishhooks.”

What was the life I remember of this great man?  Only snippets from my own experience.  He took us down to “Our Beach” in Arcata on Sundays, once chased for miles by loyal dog Whitey, who refused to be left at home. He called our wise and much-loved mom “The Missus” to people he met on the street. He saved beautiful and shy sister Joan at the swimming hole when kids tossed her off the raft, and she couldn’t swim. “Save the Old Man,,” everyone yelled, as he put her on his shoulder and instead of going to shallow water, headed into the deep. Of course, he couldn’t see where he was going. He took us to friendly Madge Buck’s cabin in the mountains, but he was mortified when he thought she, who owned a liquor store, saw him coming out of a competing liquor store with some wine.  He didn’t drink ordinarily, but we had wine at holidays — even the kids — and he preferred port.  His favorite music was Rossini’s William Tell Overture (The Lone Ranger). He played cribbage along with other family card games, and he is one of the few humans who had a 29 hand (but he lost the game.)  He once played cribbage with crafty son-in-law Mark and got terribly drunk on the wine they drank. It was a baby-sitting event.  He was an inventor — he created a chart for scoring football games real-time, long before the media developed their systems. He taught manners —like don’t put your foot on the sofa to tie your shoes, and go to the bathroom if you have gas.  On occasions he would drive the carload of family members from Arcata down to Garberville to play and swim amongst the beloved redwood trees, where we learned by swimming underwater.  He honored brilliant and adventurous sister Ann with accolades for her bravery in entering the service and marrying brilliant son-in-law Harry.

I don’t recall any corporal punishment, although I got some kind of licking once for being in the wrong field nearby and thereby disobeying some orders.  But one doesn’t remember these things, does one?

No man can plan and talk like you,

And I am known among the Gods for insight and craftiness.

Athena to Odysseus, The Odyssey

I only knew him as an older man, but I think he was a bit of a rogue in his youth.

I only knew him in his mature years, including when he retired to work in the Arcata Post Office. I worked with him in the post office during my college years, and it paid my way through Humboldt State and the University of California.

He got support from a former classmate, I believe, a wealthy Mr. Werlihy, for a final great adventure, to find gold in Venezuela.  Little is known about the travails  and tortures and near-death experiences he faced, but the venture failed.  He returned home, like Odysseus, and reunited with our true and faithful mother and his worried family after a long year of absence, during which she had had to go to work as a private nurse to help support the family.

Listen to me my friend,

Despite our grief,

We do not know where

Darkness lives, nor dawn,

Nor where the sun shines

Upon the world,

Goes underneath the earth,

Nor where it rises.

The Odyssey


I was in Afghanistan in the Peace Corps when he died. He had “hardening of the arteries” in his last years.  I was traveling in India on a monthlong adventure of third-class train rides, alighting in Delhi. I went to the hostel frequented by the Peace Corps, and I was met there by a Peace Corps friend from Afghanistan who told me my father was dying, and the Peace Corps had bought me an air ticket to return home. How anyone would know I was going to arrive there, let alone go to the hostel and bring me an airplane ticket, I would never know. But my true friend said I should cut off my beard, and he sent me on my way.  I went through Singapore and Tokyo, and when I arrived in San Francisco, my famous and wisest sibling, my magnificent and powerful, all-knowing sister Mary, herself a pilot, had arranged for a good friend to fly his private plane to San Francisco and pick me up.  As the plane approached Red Bluff, my great and true brother-in-law Joe saw it and met me at the airport. I arrived at my father’s bedside just before he died.


Odysseus was glad to go to sleep,

After his long adventures

On that bed

Surrounded by the rustling of the porch.

    The Odyssey


Slingerlands, NY

July 19, 2018

©2o18 John Borel

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Arnold Eugene Borel

 By Bill Borel

Since I was the 7th and youngest child of Arnold Borel and Mary Kirby Borel I missed a lot of the history of both the Borel and Kirby families. Much of the early history centered around Butte, Montana. Mary and Ann in particular were close to cousins in Butte because they went to nursing school there. Joan and Gene played with Kirby cousins, Johnny who had been living with a family of racoons finally had his adoption approved, and I wasn’t born yet. After Butte our family was on the move into Oregon and eventually settled in Arcata, California. I was about 3 when we moved to Arcata and it was only a few years before Mary and Joan were married, Gene was in the air force as a radar specialist, May was in college at Humboldt and John and Ann were at Cal Berkley. They didn’t leave in that order, but the point is while I was in grade school and High School they were all busy.

I’m sure I’m not the first or only person to be told these memories of Dad; and I probably don’t remember them as accurately as I should. But I hope they give you a little glimpse into the man. We all loved him dearly.

World War I, Europe

It was emotionally difficult for Dad to join the US military because the Borel family had strong ties to Germany. My Grandfather Borel, who I never met, must have been a strict and unforgiving father. I know Dad was much closer to his mother. But by the time Germany started the First World War in 1914 Dad was old enough to join the military against his Fathers wishes. In order to avoid shooting at Germans dad was able to join the Corps of Engineers and was promoted to second Lieutenant. I don’t know but I suspect it is the reason he chose engineering for his career. He was proud of saying, “You know Bill, the marines are always bragging about being the first ones in every battle. But they weren’t. It was the Corps of Engineers planning the roads and building the bridges the marines crossed. And it was dangerous. We had to find isolated places to cross rivers and hope German patrols didn’t find us. One time a German Fokker saw us and swooped down as my crew was in the river placing bridge floats. I like to pretend it was the Red Baron but of course it wasn’t. The plane did open fire on my crew but he missed and no one was hurt. I and others were on land and we picked up our rifles and shot at him. Someone might have hit him as we saw the plane take a dip and then he didn’t come back. If he was hit I hoped it wasn’t me.”

And an AWOL trip to Switzerland

In the First World War, anyone caught leaving their platoon without a leave was court-martialed and shot on the spot as a deserter. Dad’s group was pulled back from the front and given a 3-day rest period. They were only a few miles from the Swiss border. Across a river near his encampment there is a city in Switzerland and I don’t know the name of it. Dad had cousins in that city and he promised his mother he would go to see them. He told one of his friends he planned to cross the river at night into Switzerland and fulfill his promise. His friend begged him not to go because the US Army was closely guarding in that area searching for deserters trying to escape into neutral Switzerland. His friend warned him he would be shot but Dad felt it necessary to go. I don’t know how he found a smuggler but he was smuggled across the river and into the city, found his Borel cousins, and returned to his platoon without being caught. Believe me when I tell you I am so glad he never got caught.

Butte Montana and the Montana School of Mines

I don’t know why Dad chose Montana to get his mining engineers degree. I know he was an exceptional and respected student. He was hired immediately upon graduation by the Anaconda Copper Company in Butte. (More about that company later.) But besides being a top student Dad found football. I know football was one of his true loves in life. He was captain of the team. He is the holder of the football in the team photo. I hope you get a chance to see the photo because it shows a rag tag group of guys with leather helmets, padded pants and tiny shoulder pads. I know you had to be tough to play in those days. And no one was tougher than Arnold “Elmo” Borel. I saw a clipping from the Montana State University newspaper when the Miners were coming into town and all they could write about was Big Elmo Borel and how the Grizzlies had to control the Miners right tackle, one of the strongest, dirtiest players in the league. I’m sure being called a dirty player in those days was actually a compliment. He was elected to the all-conference first team. Considering the School of Mines played the University of Montana and Montana State that was a great honor. Ann, Mary, John (and Phyllis), and I with Mom made a family trip in the mid 1980’s to Mom’s birth town, Marysville, Montana. It was a centennial celebration of the Catholic church there. We were lucky to be invited to a cousin’s wedding in Butte. I had the chance to talk to older cousins who went to school with Dad. I have never heard as much praise and respect given any man at any time in my life. And they told me it was pure evil what the Anaconda Company did to him. Other than football and school Elmo Borel avoided most social functions…except one time a friend talked him in to going to a dance…and he met the girl he was to marry and love the rest of his life, Mary Kirby. Dad was devoted to my Mom, as she was to him.

Anaconda Copper Mining Company

There is a book called Work Song by Ivan Doig that describes Butte and the Anaconda Mining Company. The book describes the terrible the working conditions for the miners and how the company disregarded their safety. The city, the police, and the state government were all in the pocket of the company. The Anaconda Company in 1922 was known world-wide for bribing officials and for destruction of the environment. Workers in foreign countries were essentially slaves. Anaconda was one of the world’s most powerful companies. Conditions in the mines in Butte became so bad that after a pay cut, the Union finally declared a legal contract strike. It was brutal with outside union busters hired to tear down the pickets in an attempt to break the union. It was a terrible situation for a man of principles. Dad was considered management and was required to cross the picket lines even though it was a legal strike. Much of the strike was about safety issues and Dad agreed with the union. He refused to cross the picket lines. He was not only fired, but Anaconda blackballed him from working for any mining company anywhere in the world. He went from a promising engineer to being unemployable in the private mining world. Such was the power of companies in those days. Although unions have had their own problems with corruption and unethical bosses, I will always support the idea of unions to fight for the rights of the workers because of this. But Dad had talent and was hired by the US Government to assay mineral deposits around the country. It was a good job but it required moving the family of six and then seven. Dad knew it was hard on Mom and the family so after several years he took a job in the Arcata post office. It allowed him to maintain his government pension plan and to settle in one town. I was about four. I realize my experience of going to school through High School in one town was different from the rest of the family.

The Great Depression, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Fort Peck Dam

I’m sorry to keep referring to Ivan Doig, but this is another fiction book that covers Dad’s time and place in the early 1930’s. The book is “Bucking the Sun” and covers the flooding of a valley in Montana and the construction of the world’s largest earth dam. The town went from isolation to eventually 10,000 workers and now has a population of 233. Dad was an engineer on the project. By co-incidence Danelle and I realized Danelle’s Grandfather was also an engineer there at the same time. Joan was five at the time and she is responsible for the rest of this chapter:

Some of what i remember is fact and some is from hearing stories told about ‘Fort Peck and it is hard to define the difference, but here goes. Closing my eyes I am trying to remember a time of 84 years ago when I was five. I do remember cold and snow and subconsciously I remember the terrain around Fort Peck. When i would draw pictures of scenery I always draw some funny looking hills. Mary, at one time, told me that I drew the coulees surrounding Fort Peck, it was prairie mostly. The home we had was on the edge of town and faced the prairie. I believe that the Hospital was at the far end of the street as an ambulance would go screaming past at least once a day if not more often. I vividly remember that on one day as it went past, Mother got all weird. We soon found out that Daddy was in that ambulance and that there had been a cave-in and that was when Daddy had injured his thumb. I later was told that they wanted to amputate but he refused saying it was his opposing digit and very much needed, even if crushed. There was a party that Mother talked about. Daddy was a part of the Corps of Army Engineers and as such was invited to many social events and one party in particular Mother talked about a dance, and for some reason Daddy could not dance, so when it was ladies turn to choose a partner Mother, unknowingly, chose the Big Boss. she said Daddy teased her long after. Also at that Party they won a roasted pig, complete with apple in its mouth but I have absolutely no memory of that. She said that they shared it with many of the engineers.  I wish that they had a picture. We evidently lived near the main street because I do remember walking to the corner  and buying? ice cream cones. I put in the question mark because Mary once told me that we would walk May down to a drugstore on the corner. May was the baby and we all know how adorable she was. Barely walking, Mary and Ann would take her to the drugstore, I would tag along and they would give us a small ice cream cone at least once a week. I have vague memories of that. I do remember that Daddy was busy and that he was well liked. When we went anywhere people would stop and talk to him and always smiled. Other than that I have no memory of what our parents were like, and only a few personal memories and what Mother told me, I wish I had more.

A Walk with a Dog

The Borel Family

While Arnold was still working as a government assayer he had a large project in a remote mountain area near Leavenworth, WA. An unpaved road was built for access and a campsite was established. I don’t know but I believe the project was to last much of the summer. The site was so remote there were no means of communication to the outside world except by hand delivery from Leavenworth. One late afternoon a telegraph was delivered to Dad telling him his brother Milton had died. It isn’t like today. Dad was devastated but could not get away. He told me he sat alone not knowing what to do. He felt guilt that he had not been home in a long time. He sat there feeling lonely before deciding to walk down the road from the camp. Because of the tall trees, and remoteness of the area there was an eerie stillness. Then as he walked alone down the road there was a rustling noise beside the road. A dog came out from the woods and started to walk with him. The dog did not beg to be petted but only silently accompanied him as he walked farther. Evening comes quickly in the mountains so after a long walk Dad and the dog turned and walked back towards the camp. It was getting dark with the only light coming from the blue sky above the road. When he reached the place where the dog had joined him, the dog stopped and returned to the woods. That is when Dad said he felt a tremendous calm. The next day he asked around the camp who owned a dog but no one did. Workers who had been there longer than him said there were no houses or other campers for miles and miles.

Technocracy, Communism, Capitalism and Senator Joseph McCarthy

Mark, Mary, and Arnold

The Great Red Scare followed WW2. The war ended in 1945 and The Cold War between communist Russia, China and Korea and the democratic countries was a legitimate concern. This isn’t a history lesson but beyond football, Dad was deeply concerned about poverty, politics and the economy.   Lenin and Stalin were willing to fight for Communism. They attracted workers around the world. Poor people couldn’t see that communism talks about sharing of wealth but ends up creating a totalitarian state. Democracy and Capitalism offer the ability (supposedly) of controling the excesses of power by the voters. Dad recognized the evil of communism, but he also felt strongly that greed and power would eventually cause a collapse of capitalism. He lectured me on the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few. I heard him say over and over, “Bill, wealth is an illusion. The money in the banks and in the companies are just numbers. They aren’t backed by anything real except credit and the peoples’ belief in the numbers.” This is him talking, not me. What he did believe was that technical knowhow could provide an abundance of goods. He believed scarcity was artificial. He wrote several articles that were published in a national magazine called, “The Technocrat”. If you are following this you can see that technocracy, like communism was a threat to capitalism. It wasn’t a big enough movement to be a real threat, but a group of politicians and very power-hungry donors led by Senator Joseph McCarthy started a witch hunt.  It was a true witch hunt on anyone that was a threat to the new status quo. People were jailed, and careers ruined. I will leave it that Dad was furious with McCarthy, but also afraid of being named a communist because of his writings. And realistically since Dad was a government employee he could have been investigated and fired. McCarthy’s motto was, “We have to rid the government of the traitors and communists”. Thousands were affected and jailed. Eventually McCarthy over reached and the threat was over.


About 1954 a doctor who had also gone to the School of Mines and knew and respected Dad approached him to develop a gold mine in the interior of Venezuela. It sounded like a great opportunity and it gave Dad the chance to do what he loved most: mining and minerals. The doctor had the mineral rights and it appeared the biggest hazard was the remoteness of the mine. As always, taking care of the family was Dad’s biggest concern and the doctor promised to pay a salary to Mom. Once Dad was in Venezuela the pay checks quit coming. The cost far exceeded the doctors’ ability to pay. Everything depended on the success of the mine. After two years it failed and Dad returned to Arcata and the post office. It was crushing. The real hero during this time was my mom. She had a nursing degree but had not used it. She was able to find a job near us taking care of a paraplegic. It was hard work and did not pay very well but she managed to provide for us. We were poor. And yet she found the 25 cents to send me to the Saturday matinee. Thank you, Mom.

The Final Years

The family grew and spread out. We went to Toronto, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, San Diego, Afghanistan and New York, Red Bluff and Gerber, Texas, The SF Bay area, Oregon and Washington State and other places. Dad needed more care. I don’t know what caused it but the great mind needed help. It was the week before my spring finals at the University of Washington when I got the call from Eugene to come to Red Bluff. Dad was in a coma. I was able to take incompletes in my classes, got on a Greyhound, arrived at some ungodly time in the morning, and was rushed to the hospital. Everyone in the family was there except Johnny. John had joined the Peace Corps and was stationed near Kabul, Afghanistan. The Peace Corps notified John that Dad was in a Coma and they would do whatever they could to get him there.

His Last Stand

He refused to die. Who knows what a person in a coma knows? Dad preserved all of his energy. He did not move but quietly breathed. We all took turns talking to him, telling him the things we wanted him to know one more time. And then it became a race to get John home. The Peace Corps flew him from Kabul to San Francisco. Mary had a friend with an airplane who waited at the San Francisco airport and picked John up as soon as he landed. We were constantly informed where John and the plane were. We started telling Dad John was in San Francisco, he is on a plane, he landed in Red Bluff. We waited. And then there was a rush and the door swung open and John was there. He was tired and looked at us not knowing anything other than Dad was in a coma. He moved to Dad’s head and said something. Dad let out his last breath.

About Mom

Two words best define our Mother: Faith and Family. Although this paper is about our Dad, I have to say Mom was the glue. She was the stable one when you might least expect it. She had a strength and resolve that carried her through some tough times. True to her Catholic upbringing she made every Mass, every Rosary Friday, and every holy day. Her look when praying told you she was communicating with God. She loved Dad and he loved her. She supported him in decisions that did not turn out well. And most importantly she loved us kids and would fight for us. And together they passed on to all of us life lessons and style more valuable than money. It’s true, look around.

Mary Borel and Amy Rintoul, July 1982


©2o18 Bill Borel

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Hearts Aren’t Crystal: A Reminder

By Catherine Hedge

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA One of my children has had a rough day.  Though I wish I could wipe it all away, the best I can do is tell her to put one foot in front of the other.  She’ll make it, my strong and persistent one.  But it reminds me that sometimes, that path forward seems impassable.  I am re-posting this old piece to remind myself that tomorrow will be brighter


Kansas is beautiful today.  The sun is brilliant. After a week of brutal cold and icy winds, the warmth penetrates the icicles hanging off my deck.  It seems they weep as they disappear.

Heartbreak is much like a winter freeze.  Some of my friends are suffering the cold of heartbreak.  I hope the thaw of healing comes soon.  This repost is for you.


Hearts Aren’t Crystal

Posted on April 22, 2012 by Catherine Hedge

By Catherine Hedge

I once read a old fairy tale about an innocent girl who met with tragedy.  The Ice Queen broke a magic crystal.  A shard flew through the air, piercing the child’s heart.  Originally sweet and loving, she became increasingly cruel and rigid while her brother tried to save her.  I wonder if that’s what happens when our hearts are broken. Sharp fragments bury themselves into our psyches  and dare us to pry them out.

I’ve never met anyone over fifteen who hasn’t had a broken heart at least once.   Sadly, most of us experience it multiple times and know all the platitudes people use to make us feel better:

“Just keep yourself busy.  You’ll get over him/her soon enough!”

“No one ever died of a broken heart.” (Are they so sure?)

“If it were real love, none of this would have ever happened.”

“Just wait.  Someone better will come along.”

You know they mean well, but all you really need is someone to wrap both arms around you, to say, “I am so very sorry….”, and to listen. Sometimes it seems you’re asking them to listen forever.  You tell the same story so often your sister, brother, mother, friend could say the next line, but still the spinning of it is healing.

You need someone to say, “It really wasn’t your fault.” Even if it was.  You need to talk about little moments, insignificant before the break-up, that become magnified into monumental foretellings.  (Why didn’t I see it coming?  How could I have been so naive?  Why wouldn’t he/she change when he/she knew I needed him/her so much?) Characteristics that were once endearing when you loved the person become traits that drive you crazy.   Places you adored, holidays you cherished,  friends you shared, you avoid in the aching, dulling  aftermath of a soured romance. That shard of heartbreak can keep digging deeper, shredding your spirit until it seems there is nothing left.

Some creatures really are made to love only once.  My daughter told me a story of a friend who used to hunt wild geese.  He was very proud of bagging a large goose until he saw the gander circling, landing, and calling out for hours for his lost love.  The sound was so mournful, he never hunted geese again.  That goose may have returned to search for years.  They mate for life.

But humans are lucky.  We do have the capacity to love again, if given the chance.  Perhaps a dear friend, a new lover, or our child reaches inside us and finds that old injury.  Somehow, with patience and hope, they tweeze out the slivers of glass.   That makes us love them even more.

©2o12 Catherine Hedge

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Helena P. Schrader

Thank you for sharing this view into the inspiration and freedom that history can give writers!

Charlene Newcomb

d88c8ede6f85d9322d24a68312a35b73Helena P. Schrader’s recent works have been awarded Readers’ Favorite Gold, a Feathered Quill, a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, Chaucer Awards, and indieBRAG Medallions. Helena’s newest novel is The Last Crusader Kingdom: Dawn of a Dynasty in Twelfth-Century Cyprus, and I invited her to talk to me today. Readers, you are in for a treat – Helena brought pictures!

Welcome to my blog, Helena!

Thanks for having me, Char!

51+lbPa+jRLYour new novel, The Last Crusader Kingdom: Dawn of a Dynasty in Twelfth-Century Cyprus, begins after the events of Third Crusade, which you wrote about in your excellent Balian d’Ibelin series. This novel has ties to the earlier series, but it can stand on its own. What is this book about?

In a sentence: the establishment of a Latin (crusader) kingdom on the previously Byzantine island of Cyprus in the late 12th century.

Since that probably sounds fairly boring to…

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Repost: #ChillWithABookAward Winning author, Charlene Newcomb talks all things bookish with #ETLBW @charnewcomb @ChillWithABook

Congratulations, Char!  Here is a lovely interview with our Pen in Hand writer, Charlene Newcomb.


…I am delighted to welcome author Charlene Newcomb to the blog this afternoon … Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Award! You must be so happy that your work has been recognised in thi…

Source: #ChillWithABookAward Winning author, Charlene Newcomb talks all things bookish with #ETLBW @charnewcomb @ChillWithABook

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A Discovered Diamond – Book Review of For King and Country

This is great, Char! Congratulations!

Charlene Newcomb


There is a new site in town – rather, on the web – for reviews of historical fiction: Discovering Diamonds. You should definitely bookmark or follow this site if you are looking for good historical fiction.

And I am thrilled to report that For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars, has been selected as a ‘highly recommended’ diamond. Read the great review.

“Ms Newcomb has stepped outside the normal restrictions imposed on novels set in these times in that her Henry and Stephan are not only comrades in arms, they are lovers. In a sequence of beautiful scenes, she breathes careful life into their passion, moments of tenderness and love that make it abundantly clear theirs is not a short-term relationship, theirs is the love of a lifetime.”

If you haven’t read the book, I hope the review might sway you! Give it a chance. Get…

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A Glimpse of the Caribbean

file-12-18-16-10-10-51-pmImagine getting this picture through your car window! You might enjoy reading about my Epicurean Traveler trip to Aruba!


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Writing Medieval Lincoln – Lincoln Castle

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on Charlene Newcomb:
The Observatory Tower I wish I lived closer to Lincoln or could have the Enterprise transporter take me the 4000+ miles in a few seconds. While I am wishing for the transporter, I might as…

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