Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brenda Wilbee is an artist, feature writer and award-winning writer of ten books with over 700,000 copies sold in the U.S., Canada, Holland, and Italy. And maybe other countries, too, where I haven't traveled and spotted them in the bookstores.

1. Skagway: It's All About the Gold is my most recent book, published specifically for the tourism industry in and around Skagway, AK, and the Canadian Yukon where gold was discovered in 1896, launching the craziest gold rush of all time. People came from all over the world to fight their way over the pass 14 miles north of Skagway, portal to riches of unbelievable prize. Rumored to be lying in pingpong-sized nuggets along the frozen creeks. Today more than 1,000,000 people show up to see what all the fuss is about. 

2. Shipwreck! was written quite a few years ago. A neighbor Russell who'd pretty much adopted my sons as grandchildren came by one Christmas with a book he'd borrowed from the library. He thought I might enjoy reading it. Did I! ShipwreckI! is that diary put into fictional format. I thought it'd be a snap to write. Just put in a bit of dialog, borrow Emily's lovely descriptions. Not. I sat staring at the blank screen and thought, "What do sailors say when hoisting the sails?" How do they hoist the sails? I had to read more than 200 sea-faring books to learn the lingo and all the nuances, superstitions, and dangers of the world in which Emily Wooldridge once lived.

3-8. Seattle Sweetbriar Books happened by sheer luck. I was writing articles and short stories in a Seattle writers group, where I became acquainted with an 84-year-old woman working on her memoir of growing up with Chief Seattle's grandson Moses. Only she was getting stuff all mixed up--her geography, her chronology. I volunteered to help and went down to my local library in North Seattle. All the Seattle and Puget Sound histories were on the bottom shelf. I sat down style and began going through them. Three books into it, I came across a worn-out fat book called Blazing the Way by Emily Inez Denny, where she wrote a collection of stories about her parents and extended family who'd founded the city. She quoted her mother, Louisa Boren Denny, as saying, "Oh what a book the story of my life would make!"  

Yes, it would, I thought, and I'm going to write it.

I did.

And I wrote five more.

9. Taming the Dragons was born out of necessity. I endured a loveless marriage for ten years, aggravated by conservative Christianity that made my existence subservient to a man whose only use for me was as a domestic and sexual slave. It took me ten years to find the will to leave, dragging my three little kids along with. I returned to school to try and figure out what had happened to me. In that process I learned that women have choice. Taming the Dragons is all about empowering women to choose--without fear of going to hell.

10. Thetis Island was written on a dare by my friend Jerry Jones. It was 1984, the year of romances. "Why don't you write a romance?" he'd tell me. "They're all the rage, you'd make a lot of money." 

"I can't write a romance," I'd tell him. 

"Sure you can."

"No. Really, I can't."

Finally, "Yeah, I expect you're right, you can't."

I cranked out Thetis Island in two months. Sold it easily, but it was not the money maker Jerry promised.

Thetis Island, though, is a fun read. And Thetis Island is real and where I've spent many a good time during my growing up years. My parents worked for the North America Indian Mission on the island, to the left of the ferry slip. I was nine when Dad worked for Pioneer Pacific Camp on the east side. My Uncle Stan and Auntie Ann had a cabin near Pilkey Point and out of which the story takes place. My sister Tresa nearly killed herself one day racing the cliff after I shouted, "Last one down is a rotten egg!"

Here's a bit of odd. The man on the cover? The spitting image of the man I was dating at the time I wrote the book--though the artist never knew Rick Gowdzwaard and most certainly never saw him. Just one of those lovely serendipity things in life.
Brenda holds an MA in English/Professional Writing, a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, and an AA in Graphic Design. She is the mother of three, grandmother of seven, and she currently splits her time between WA, AK, and the Canadian Yukon where she writes and drives summer tour buses through Southeast Tours--link  to the left for the interested.