Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Sunday, September 17, 2017

POETRY on the road . . .

That poetry writing challenge, OctPoWriMo, starts October 1. Am I ready to write a poem a day for the entire month of October? 

Don't know, but here's a warm-up poem inspired by Daily Write:

On the Road

Slam shut that lock on the suitcase:
We’re ready for another trip.
I don’t care.
Just shake the dust
off those tired beds
that slant to one side,
those early mornings
that roil with routine.
Am I too old to travel without a destination?
Don’t think so.
We’re all headed to our own unique ending,
with or without grace,
as fast as we can go.

from Daily Write

Sign up to participate in OctPoWriMo by October 2  
(or learn more about this poetry challenge)  CLICK HERE

Friday, September 15, 2017

Taking a risk: Radio Interview!

Stephen Pitters, congenial host of Spokane Open Poetry (and sometimes prose), kindly interviewed me today for his radio show on KYRS! This half-hour show features poets, writers, and musicians and is broadcast locally and world-wide through Radio Free America.

I showed up with notes and printouts ready, uncertain as to what would happen, for this was my very first radio interview.

Stephen invited me to sit in front of a massive microphone as he tested my sound levels.

"Louder!" he said.

"Like I don't want the back row to fall asleep?" I replied.

We laughed.

Stephen's friendly welcome put me right at ease. His interview format, a balance of chitchat alternating with my reading made that 25 minute recording session fly by.  I read a short story, "The Last Mermaid," and three poems from a soon-to-be published poetry chapbook. He was a wonderfully appreciative audience. This reinforced my sense that Stephen Pitters works hard to create a nurturing environment that promotes art and culture right here in Spokane. What a wonderful resource.

Stephen's interview with me will air Saturday, November 18 on KYRS from 11:00-11:30 am.

You can also listen to his interviews (including mine at some point), right on his Open Poetry Spokane webpage at:

Some tips Stephen shared with our local authors' group, Spokane Authors & Self-Publishers last month:

  • Listen to the show ahead of time to get a sense of tone, substance, and style.
  • Avoid date stamps when I talk (since the interview would be broadcast at a later date).
  • Use those filmy paper protectors for your script to avoid paper rustling.
  • Lay out your script (printed in a BIG font; I used 16) in the order you wish to follow.
  • Use family-friendly vocabulary or risk getting bleeped!
  • Consider what listeners would be interested in and select readings that let the listener know why and how you write, what you write about, and hint at my storytelling style.
  • Bring a little more than you will use for the time (approximately 25 minutes) and include a short piece for the very end of the program.
So, how did I really do? I loved sharing my poetry and short story. The interaction with Stephen was so very comfortable. His focus made it easy for me to talk about what inspires my writing. I forgot a few things . . . like including my website or that my books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. Bottom line? I feel welcomed into a new community of people who love poetry.

Just in time for next month's poetry writing challenge hosted by Morgan Dragonwillow, October Poetry Writing Month OctPoWrMo, in which we try to write a poem a day . . . Why not join in?

If you are in the Spokane area, why not join Stephen Pitters as he hosts Poetry Rising at Barnes & Noble, Northtown Mall, on this coming Wednesday, September 20th, 6:30-7:30pm. This reading features Laura Read, Spokane's poet laureate.

Friday, September 08, 2017

IWSG: Have you ever . . . ?

September's question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?

'Tis true. I've always written something, and I've often been surprised by what I write. Poetry. Short stories. Flash fiction. Not until I retired did I begin writing those longer stories that turned into books. But I still like to play with genre fiction, science fiction, thrillers, even as I commit to writing historical fiction, a process that typically takes me 3 years to finish one novel.

So now, when I'm very close to finishing the last (and third novel) of a family saga, I'm feeling a bit itchy. So many directions are possible . . . and yet, how will I know which is the 'right' one for me?

Don't you admire those writers who find their niche and simply tell wonderful stories that lead from one to the next, seemingly so seamlessly?

That's not me. Just as much as I love traveling and living in other countries whenever possible, I enjoy playing with words and contexts that don't really seem to have much to do with each other. Well, except for the previously mentioned three-novel family saga set in Scotland, Australia, and Canada.

For example, when we traveled in Turkey for a month, we discovered two pillars from the Roman era hidden in an out-of-the-way waterworks in Istanbul. The head of Medusa instead of being at the top of the pillar, was now reversed. Her eyes blank and unseeing, her hair of twisting stone snakes. And her story not known.

This next month, I will finish Rivers of Stone. Perhaps I'll be writing a poem a day (or a flash fiction a day) for the month of October. Maybe it's just OK to work a little on this or that, knowing that one morning, the story that began as a thread of an idea will take me on an unexpected turn. 

For I believe that IF Medusa was once a girl with dark eyes and beautiful long hair who bewitched all who saw her, that she never expected to find herself so feared and, finally, upside down and hidden deep in a cistern in Istanbul.

I'm not feeling so insecure about where those next writing ideas will come from or what I'll be writing next, for each morning begins with promise. For now, I appreciate those writers and readers from the Insecure Writer's Study Group who blog about what we all care about: the process of story telling. 

May you all have a good month. And a special thank you to this month's IWSG's co-hosts: Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

You may read more about Medusa from the Smithsonian or from my own Travel Blog

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Author Interview: Chris Loehmer Kincaid

Today, I’m happy to introduce Chris Loehmer Kincaid, author of the newly released Where the Sky Meets the Sand, a terrific read.

Her moving novel about a young woman’s transformative visit to Africa (now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) will release in paperback format on Friday, September 1.

Chris has kindly answered a few questions about how her experiences in Africa shaped her writing, her commitment to the people of Kenya, and her next novel.

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your thoughts with us. I'm already looking forward to reading your next book!

How did traveling in Africa affect how your story developed? On my various trips to Africa, I've met so many people who are happy despite the deplorable conditions they live in. They all have a story to tell. I hope that by incorporating at least a few of their stories into my characters' lives, that others will see their lives as well.

My first trip to Africa was with my daughter and a mission team from Wisconsin in 2006. I had such high hopes that this trip would change the lives of all the people we worked with in Kenya, but I came home disappointed, asking myself, "Did I really make a difference?"

I wrote about that experience in my first book, the memoir, A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven. My daughter had returned home after that trip with much the same feelings. A few years later, trying to find her place in life, she journeyed back to Kenya to volunteer for six months. As I began writing my memoir in 2013, both she and I were called to return to Kenya again, this time to begin forming our own nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers. I guess, though, the simplest way to answer your question, is to tell you that Kenya is a beautiful country with beautiful people who appreciate everything we do for them. I will continue to return to Kenya just to see their smiles.

What do you want readers to know about Tumaini Volunteers Foundation? Tumaini means hope in Swahili, the language spoken in Kenya and much of eastern Africa. When founding our nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers, our main goal was to bring hope to those living in dire conditions. Currently we are working in a community of approximately 2,500 people, very few of whom are employed. The need in this community is so great it seems overwhelming, but our hope is that if we can introduce a few sustainable projects, the community can begin to develop on its own.

If you could give your younger self any writing advice, what would it be? Be patient and keep submitting. When I was in college, I submitted a half dozen or so pieces to various places, and none were accepted. I gave up on writing for a long time, thinking I would never get published and that no one would ever want to read what I wrote. At the time, I think mostly that I didn't have anything to say. Now, with so much more life experience, I don't think I'll ever stop having stories to share.

What's your current project? I am currently working on a novel set in northern Wisconsin in the mid-1970s. It is similar to Where the Sky Meets the Sand in that one of the main characters is also struggling with a difficult past. He is a Vietnam War vet fighting PTSD, which was not even a diagnosis until 1980. Few of the other characters in the book understand what he is going through. I haven't had nearly as much time to write this story as I would like, and the whole time, I picture this young man in my mind, imploring me to tell his story.

For more information about Chris Loehmer Kincaid, visit her page on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. For more information on the Foundation, visit Tumaini Volunteers.

Here's her video trailer for Where the Sky Meets the Sand:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Visiting the Wall . . .

Today we drove about 20 miles to visit the traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial from Washington, D.C. On this sunny afternoon, we walked along the roughly 300 foot replica to find a soldier's name who served in Vietnam with Allen. On Panel 43E, 53 lines down, we found his name and stood quietly for a few moments.

We were then told to go to the KSPS booth for Allen had something to talk with them about and perhaps give them.

KSPS, our local public radio station, sponsored this traveling exhibit as a community service event tied to Ken Burns' upcoming series on the Vietnam War.

While on patrol in Vietnam, Allen's unit came under fire from a bunker. Three men were sent to clear the bunker, one on each side and one from the front. Allen was one of the three men who charged the bunker, killing the man inside. The translator told Allen he wanted him to keep the man's helmet as a memory of this young man, wounded and far from home, with photos of his family and his sweetheart in his pocket.

It was this helmet that Allen gave to the people at the KSPS table. They promised they would do their best to return the helmet to the man's family in Vietnam, or make sure it found its way to the Vietnam Memorial Museum. He also gave them a copy of his novel, Reaching, which includes a chapter about the helmet in more detail.

I'm not saying today's visit to that open, grassy field where the replica monument had been set up was easy, but as we watched others look for names of loved ones, we were moved and at peace.

Peonies at Manito Park (Spokane 2017)
For more information about the Vietnam Traveling Wall:
Or, for information about Ken Burns' program on the Vietnam War:  Or, read the KSPS article about the Traveling Wall here in Spokane: 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

August IWSG: I hate tailgaters

So I'm tooling along at my usual 5 miles above the speed limit, when someone, typically in a RAM truck, starts pushing my back bumper and gesticulating wildly. I have 3 options: Stay at my current speed, go faster, or pull over. Sometimes I use the flasher lights to say, "Back off." If the person doesn't slow down, I pull over. And I wonder what happened to the world of courtesy to other drivers? When did drivers simply stop following posted speed limits (especially in school zones)? Or ignore stop signs? Or 'forget' to use their turn signals? 

Sometimes I daydream that we could all use paintball guns when someone's driving is reckless. But that RAM truck driver probably has a real gun ready to use. Sigh.

So what has my pet peeve about other drivers have to do with writing? This month's question from the Insecure Writer's Support Group is: "What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?"

When I'm reading what someone else has written, what turns me off faster than someone who tailgates:

--Errors in basic punctuation in any published work. 
--Stories that blatantly exploit sex or violence in any genre.
--Stories that end without resolution or leave characters hanging but tag to the next book.
--POSITIVE: I love good writing that immerses me in the story world, even with lapses as noted above.

Horses at Eagle Crest, Oregon (2016)
When I'm writing (or working with a writing group), what pushes me away:

--If I don't have the right research to write the scene. Solution: Jump sideways slightly to find what I need.
--When my characters are like ghosts. Solution: Write dialogue and/or character back story to find out more about them.
--If the writing group is too positive and my only benefit is from reading aloud. Solution: Ask questions for more critical feedback.
--If the writing group is so negative so I go home nearly in tears, not believing in my story or myself. Solution: Find a new writing group.

When I'm editing

--I wish I could work on more than one project at a time, for example, start the next story while editing the current one. For me, the editing of a novel takes discipline, months of time, and a different way of looking at story. 

So far, I haven't been able to work on more than one major project at a time, not even writing poetry while editing a novel. Solution: Work consistently on the editing. Yes, I write nearly every day, early in the morning. No interruptions. Quiet. Sounds like heaven.

Now writing this post was fun. At first I was a little worried it would be too negative, but two surprises: For every peeve, there's a solution (except for tailgaters). And I'm thankful once again for online writing communities like the Insecure Writer's Study Group and A Round of Words in 80 Days that connect me with other writers. 

Why not go visit a few, join in, and celebrate YOUR writing.

Summer at Manito Park (2017)


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

July IWSG: Revising the Past . . . Again

This week, I met with my small writers' group and told them about the post due today -- and my ambivalence in writing it. At the name, The Insecure Writer's Support Group, everyone said, "Oh, I need that," and "Send me the link, Beth."

I was reminded again how difficult it is to write a story. We may quibble over plot and conflict, character arcs, degree of backstory, authenticity of setting, or even correct grammar. But when we share our stories, we may not control the theme.

I'm in deep revision just now of Book 3, Rivers of Stone. That doesn't really describe what I'm revising or why. For somewhere along the way in generating this story, all the way through the first and second and third drafts, I fell back into a theme I thought I had long left behind. Instead of writing a serious historical romance, I wrote about an abusive marriage in the 1840s. Ugh. This subtheme did not fit my story. It made my characters unlikeable, and a happy-ever-after ending unthinkable.

So I'm working through all 70 chapters, reshaping, recasting, and re-imagining. I hear the echos of my childhood in all I've written. I'd like to forget (and have done my best to do so) that morning when I was 9 and my sister 8. We were awakened by the sounds of my mother being badly beaten. We huddled in bed, too frightened to do anything. At dawn, my stepfather brought my mother into our bedroom and said, "Take care of her." I'd like to say she left him, but she didn't, not for another decade.

My dear hubby says that very good writers write intuitively, drawing on their subconscious. Oh, that didn't work this time. But I still believe in my story. Maybe the revisions will be done in roughly five months. That's not so long a time to get it right.

Your turn: Have you considered what themes run deep through all your stories? Have you ever been surprised by a turn one of your stories took? And what did you do?

May the coming month be a good one for us all. Don't forget to go exploring on the list of some 230 followers of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Find out what we've been up to this last month. Be inspired -- and write!