My writer’s journey began in childhood, not as a writer or reader but as a listener. The stories I heard around the dinner table while growing up in the Territory of Alaska sparked my imagination and formed my identity.
From my great-great-great-great-grandfather, a silk merchant in Kaluga, Russia, who became a lay preacher in the Russian Orthodox Church and joined the Russian Fur Trading Company (little is known about his journey to Alaska, but we know he earned the right to become a colonial citizen and was allowed to stay in Alaska when his contract with the Company was fulfilled); to his son and daughter-in-law whose oomiak capsized while on a whale hunt (their baby daughter was left in the care of her grandparents and so our family line continued); to my great-uncle Jack who delivered the US mail on the Kenai Penninsula (by horse in summer and dog-sled in winter); to another great uncle who smuggled booze out of Canada up to the mines on Alaska’s Chichagof Island. These and many other stories were my entertainment (around campfires in the summer and the dinner table in the winter).
While in grade school, I could not relate to my history classes. My classmates’ ancestors traveled west, and their journey ended when they reached the Pacific Ocean. Mine traveled East and did not let the waters of the Pacific stop them. My different perspective tended to isolate me. I began to write my stories in my heart. They did not make it to paper for decades.
My mother was always reluctant to tell her story, and my aunt refused to talk about Alaska once she escaped. Learning about my mother’s story, the trauma and abuse, racial confusion, and even the murder gave me a greater understanding of her. Writing it all down was therapeutic.
Everyone said her life was like a novel, and I always wanted to write her story but was convinced I did not have the skill. Then along came Facebook.
I began to follow my favorite author, Bodie Thoene. She once challenged her Facebook friends to write family stories for their grandchildren. That resonated with me, and I accepted the challenge.
I started a Facebook group to post memories, vignettes, and stories. Bodie Thoene contacted me and encouraged me to put them together in a novel. She gave me the courage to try through messages, texts, and phone calls, and My Mama’s Mama family saga/series was born.
During one conversation, I complained about the many gaps in my family history. Her advice—write what you know and let your heart fill in the rest while staying true to the flavor of their life and times.
Alaska’s Firy: Glaphira (Firy) Oskolkoff buried the confusion of her biracial heritage — Russian, Yupik, possibly white. Firy didn’t fit in a segregated Sitka, Alaska.
Childhood losses and pain caused her to seek a safe, uneventful life.
Her desire for predictable, peaceful times was doomed. Still, she tried to live by Mama’s words, “Love Bozhe and do what’s right.”
The black and white Movietone news reports shown at the local theater made the war in Europe and even the South Pacific seem far away, unreal. Then the enemy invaded Alaska. It was thought the Japanese Navy would cross the Gulf of Alaska and attack Sitka. To Firy, the more immediate danger was the thousands of American servicemen pouring into Sitka. She must protect her sisters and herself.
About Miss Ruth: PACIFIC OCEAN 1890—Rescued by handsome clipper ship Captain Harlan Walker, Rachel Ruth Merritt and her grandfather are dismayed to find themselves heading south rather than north to Alaska. As much as Grandpa John encourages her to pray and cautions her to be patient, Rachel Ruth knows a mystery awaits her in Alaska, and she doesn’t like mysteries.
Rachel Ruth cannot change the ship’s course but is determined to head north soon and uncover the truth about her father. After all, she is a daughter of the American West and a Merritt. She can do this.
SITKA ALASKA 1962—Everybody had a story about Miss Ruth.
All knew something. None knew everything. As far as the inhabitants of the Alexander Archipelago were aware, she had lived all of her ninety-some years in these islands. Still, there was no record of her in any state agencies: no birth certificate or driver’s license, employment records, or listing in the census. As far as the state of Alaska was concerned, Miss Ruth did not exist. She was a mystery, and Sam Mitchell, Junior editor of the Sitka Sentinel, did not like mysteries.
He was determined to uncover the truth about Miss Ruth. After all, he was an Alaskan and a newspaperman. He could do this.
Alaska’s Mama: We met Miss Ruth in ‘Alaska’s Firy.’ We journeyed with her to Alaska in About Miss Ruth: Dreams Lost, Destiny Found.
In ‘Alaska’s Mama,’ we join Miss Ruth in a canoe, paddle up the treacherous Lynn Canal in winter, clash with government officials regarding Native education, and meet Wyatt Earp’s wife in the Red Dog Saloon.
Teacher, missionary, and activist, Miss Ruth fulfilled many roles in America’s last frontier. She did conform to society’s expectations or norms.
How does she handle the risks to her reputation or respond to the rumors and lies? How does she react to the accusations and betrayal?
Sam Mitchell, Jr., editor of Sitka’s newspaper, continues to delve into Miss Ruth’s history. He is uncomfortable when this reveals issues in his own life, forcing him to confront them, especially his feelings for the lovely cheechako Alice Blakely.
Will Sam take a lesson from Alaska’s premier pioneer woman, Miss Ruth? Does he have the same courage as Miss Ruth?
I am currently writing book four, They Settled in Sitka.
Available on Amazon and other online book retailers.
Whoever created Author’s Lounge—brilliant! Reader’s Magnet is also brilliant!