by Janet Fisher
With the release of my new book, I wanted the world, at least my corner of it, to know about this story which is so special to me. I share a bit of the wanderlust my ancestors had, and have lived in many places over the years, including quite a few towns and cities in Oregon, the book’s primary setting. So I could be considered a “local author” up and down the state from Portland to Ashland.
In most of these I planned signing and reading events. And while I believed the hometown would come out for me, what about the larger towns?
I decided I wanted to do something special in Eugene, Oregon’s second-largest city. I had lived in this Lane County city, but a long time ago. Did I still have enough Eugene connections? An idea began to brew. The venue, Tsunami Books, was made for it. They often bring in musical entertainment. They have a stage, an old piano, and space large enough to hold the sound of a trumpet. And I happen to have a cousin, Don Fisher, who plays trumpet professionally. I wanted my reading for this event to be a reading set to music—Don on trumpet, backed up with piano.
Don agreed to do it, and a friend Patty Wilgus agreed to play piano. We started practicing, and it looked like a go.
My book follows my great-great-grandmother Martha’s trek west to Oregon in 1850 and portrays the struggles she faced on that raw frontier. The Civil War played heavily in Martha’s life during her years in Lane County, a hotbed of North-South rivalry despite the distance from the troubles back in the States.
So for this Lane County event, I wanted to bring a touch of that Civil War era into my presentation. Using the two great songs from opposing sides of the conflict, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” for the North, and “Dixie” for the South, Don and Patty would surround my spoken lines with song, sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholy, as we dramatized a thread of story from the book.
On the evening of the event the rich sounds of trumpet and piano added a sweet blend with words, wine, and welcoming conversation. Before and after the reading, Don and Patty provided background music, offering some easy-listening tunes and revving it up a little from time to time for something a little sassier.
And the reading set to music? Folks seemed to enjoy it a lot. And we did have fun—which tends to be contagious.
Did it add to the buzz? I think so. We got some mentions on it in the press. Besides the positive reaction from people who attended, traffic picked up nicely on Facebook and my blog when I posted about it. My son-in-law Robin Loznak took a video and posted on You Tube. And there’s word of mouth. People talk about something that’s different. Booksellers notice. And readers. And that’s what it’s ultimately about. Readers.
Janet Fisher grew up on the farm her great-great-grandmother Martha bought almost 150 years ago. Janet’s first published book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin (Globe Pequot Press/TwoDot imprint), portrays Martha’s daring decision to buy that farm when her husband died, leaving her alone on the Oregon frontier with their many children. After Janet earned a master’s in journalism with honors from the University of Oregon, she taught college writing and wrote freelance for newspapers. Two of her historical novels were Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest finalists. Now back on Martha’s farm, she’s the second woman to own and operate this family treasure—one of the few Century Farms in Oregon named for a woman.