Category: friends

Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story

Welcome to Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story by Carmen Peone

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing a Women Writing the West® member and author friend, Carmen Peone, and her novel Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story. I read this novel last week and found it not only an intriguing survival tale, but also a believable and engaging coming-of-age story.

Clearly Carmen has history parenting, teaching or otherwise guiding teenaged boys! She captures the language and nuances of growing friendship, emerging Christian faith and everyday conflict among 16-year-olds. She’s also done her historical and cultural research, which I respect immensely. This historical novel comes alive in her well-crafted words.


Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Summary: In a time when the west was still untamed, sixteen-year-old Delbert Gardner leads two friends into the backcountry for a three-day adventure. Little did they know three days of hunting and fishing would turn into eight days of near starvation, injury and illness. When hope of returning home seems out of reach, Delbert recalls watching his Native American friends construct a fishing weir and sets out to build one himself. To him, it is the only way out.

A Story that Begins with Family

Carmen Peone has family history among the Colville Tribes and spent a great deal of time gathering information from tribal members and history about something I’d never heard of . . . a fishing weir, a fencing and net apparatus used to capture fish in rivers and streams.

Native Fishing Weirs and the Columbia River

Carmen shared with me these insights to fishing and weirs in Native life along the Columbia River:

“For the Plateau Natives, salmon was the main staple. That is until Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1942. In the final draft of the plans for the dam, a fish ladder was omitted. Since then, salmon have ceased the 700-mile migration to the Kettle Falls to spawn.

“Elders talk of young warriors standing out over the falls on wooden platforms with large nets catching those salmon that were too weak to jump the 50-foot falls prior to the dam’s construction.

“Legends, including how Coyote brought salmon to the people from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Arrow Lakes band of the Colville Tribes, have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries in an oral tradition. Those legends have now been recorded and can be found on the tribe’s website: Sons and daughters of elders are currently recording legends so the flames that keep culture brightly burning in the hearts of the people remain alive.  Tradition and culture are fading as young people’s interests have turned to technology and the future.

weir-1“The Colville Tribe is sinking its hooks into the past, dragging tradition along, breathing new life into an almost forgotten slice of culture–fence-style weir fishing. I have managed to dredge this custom from the bottom of the river, helping the tribes bring it into the forefront with a new young adult fiction book titled Delbert’s Weir.


“Four years ago, Tribal Fish and Wildlife erected an aluminum fence style fishing weir and stretched it across the Okanogan River near Omak, WA. They now catch thousands of salmon each summer, filleting and freezing the meat for tribal members and their families. It may not be wind dried like the old days, but it is a way of providing traditional food to the people. The fishing weir is the inspiration of my book Delbert’s Weir. The weir in my book is actually made of cottonwood, the traditional wood used in this area. My character uses horsehair to tie the poles together. Indian hemp or the inner fibers of cattail stock or tule were used as well. Both fibers were also used to make fish nets.”

I appreciate Carmen’s presence  on my blog, and I highly recommend Delbert’s Weir to those adults and young adults interested in Pacific Northwest Native histories and traditions. It’s a great read for deepening historical understanding of the Colville Tribes and insight to their relationships with the earth and water. It also could be used to prompt discussion about how environmental changes and government water management policies deeply affect diverse communities’ traditions and food resources. All in all, Delbert’s Weir is a well-told story of finding one’s courage to survive, with a can’t-put-it-down opportunity for deep learning across cultures.

An Excerpt from Delbert’s Weir:

He watched the leaves of the quaking aspen ripple in the breeze as if to encourage him. “Get up. Keep going,” is what they seemed to say. His mind flashed images of him watching Pekam. He and some other men walked up a stream and pushed fish toward traps. The same traps he’d made.

Delbert jumped to his feet and sprinted to camp. He shook each tent, even his own in the wake of excitement and yelled, “Get up!”

Jed popped his head out first, a grumpy frown on his face.

Ross attempted to open his blinking eyes.

“Come on. Get dressed. Daylights a burnin’. We’ve got work to do.”

Ross rolled over on his back and groaned. “What’re you babbling about?”

“The traps are empty, but I have a plan.” Delbert shook the tents until the boys crawled out. “Pekam spoke to me. No, God did, through Pekam.”

Jed’s sleepy eyes strained to focus. “What?”

“This better be worth it,” Ross sneered.

“I was sure there would be fish in at least one of them. But listen, when I was young, I saw Pekam and his pals walk up a creek toward different types of fish traps filling ‘em pretty fast. I think we should try it. It’s like herding cattle, but with fish. In water.”

“Now?” Jed complained. “Can’t we at least give the horses a drink first?”

Delbert turned his attention to Jed. “When did you start caring about the horses’ well-being?” Delbert felt hair on the back of his neck spike outward, so he spoke in a calm, slow tone, “Did you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you. Did you hear me? It’s early. I wanna finish sleepin’.”

“Sure ya do.” Ross walked off.

“Hey, we can water the horses. Then how ‘bout trying to catch some breakfast.  How’d ya like worms for breakfast?  If you’re really fast, maybe you can snatch a grasshopper or two with a flick of your tongue.  I’ll start callin’ ya frog, or does toad suit ya?  Or would ya like to go on a Sunday afternoon stroll?” Delbert felt his patience leave his body as quickly as his last meal disappeared from his fish-oiled fingers.

Ross glared at him.

Delbert held out his hands. “You got a better idea? We’re outta of food. You think it’s gonna magically drop on our plates, cooked and all?” His tone sounded as impatient as a hungry wolf.

“Well, no…” Ross slouched and rubbed his eyes.

“Well, let’s get goin’.” Delbert marched toward the beach. He sat on the cool, damp sand, tore off his boots, and rolled up his pants. He slid the tip of his toe in and shivered.

Jed grunted and followed. He sat beside Delbert and peeled off his socks.

Ross straggled behind. He sat a spell before he yanked off his boots and rolled up his pants, grumbling about the injustice. “Maybe we need to cut off the legs of our britches. I have a feeling we may be in there–a lot.” He tilted his head toward the creek.

Delbert stared at his bare feet. No need to stir those two up any more than they already are. “Okay. Let’s walk downstream a ways, check things out, and meander back up.”

“Yep.” Ross’s eyebrow twitched. “Whatever you say, boss.”

Ross’ll be eatin’ his words soon enough.


Author Bio:

Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988 gleaning knowledge from family and friends.  She had worked with tribal elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes-Sinyekst- Language and various cultural traditions and legends. She has owned and trained her horses for thirteen years and competed in local Extreme Challenge Competitions for three years.  She lives with her husband and tribal member Joe.  They have four grown sons who are also tribal members and seven grandchildren.  With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons.

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Is There a True Olympic Spirit, Beyond Medals and Ideology?

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games draw many of us to watch in wonder; each devoted athlete has dedicated his or her life to the agonizing, fine art of perfect completion. Whether they are competing against other athletes, or whether they’ve ascended so high that they’re competing only against their own previous best records, the athletes humble me with their focus and achievements.

olympic hearts by sundeip arora

For the novel I’m writing, I researched the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. As at the Games to be held that summer in Berlin, the National Socialist officials staged a show for the world. There was a temporary ban on signs, graffiti and actions that discriminated against the Jews, so as not to offend the world with the true extent of Nazi intolerance. Only one Jewish athlete competed on any German team. Rudi Ball, a hockey player, was simply too talented to exclude and Germany couldn’t win without him.  It seems he was aware of the politics involved in his selection; it is reported that he bargained to get his family out of Germany in return for his commitment to play.

Of course, 1936 was not the only time when politics or politically-fueled violence heightened the tension and drama of competition, marring it with cruelty. In 1972, terrorists kidnapped and killed nine Israeli athletes. In 1996, a white supremacist set off a bomb at the Atlanta Summer Games. While the victims must be remembered, I choose not to name the offenders, these or any others who corrupted the spirit of competition with their evil intent. They don’t deserve to be remembered.

chalking hands by melodi t

One of the images that I will hold from these Summer Games is what I saw after a girl gymnast lost control during her event and fell short of her best. This happens frequently and it’s uncomfortable to see; we non-athletes wonder how, after hundreds or thousands of practices, does the athlete lose his or her grip? It can evoke our sympathy because we know how far we are from attaining what that athlete could accomplish, even on his or her worst day. I don’t recall the country or team this girl represented, or even her name, although I wish I did. What I remember is that her teammates stood with her in a circle, shoulder-to-shoulder, arms clasped.  The camera audio picked up their voices, reaffirming to one another that their deeper purpose was unity and relationship, something no one could take away.

respect by cecile graat

So there may be a true Olympic Spirit, a human choice to live beyond politics and any excessive will to win. Of course we strive to bring our honest best to any game, to fulfill our humanity. But when one of us falls short of a perfect performance, we can reach out with affection and mercy instead of flinging judgment and rejection.  When we lack understanding, we can decide to bring a receptive mind instead of weapons. We can gently whack the dust off of one another after we fall, choosing to believe that we are all related. That’s what those girls did and at that moment, they’d already won.

Research and Information, the Old, Hard Way

In research for my fiction writing, I use primary sources when available. The internet is a wonderful thing but there are a lot of opinions flashing around, impersonating facts. Because of blatant plagiarism, bias and writers apparently on magic mushrooms, I work to cross-check online information against books, photos, magazines and video from the relevant culture and period.

Scientific American, March 1967

For my novel-in-process, I purchased on eBay a Scientific American (SA) issue dated March, 1967. Reading, I was struck with the scope and depth of the scientific information that, for many people, was everyday reading.  Adults and older children sat down in their living rooms with this magazine to expand their understanding of the world, in their free time.

Here are some of the featured articles in this issue:

“Toxic Substances and Ecological Cycles” Yes, people were concerned about the environment then, even before the current “green” marketing barrage. This article concerned radioactive materials and DDT.

“The Heart’s Pacemaker” focuses on the detailed functions of the atrioventricular node and sinus node in the human heart.

“Ancient Ararat” is an expedition into the civilization of Ararat, or Urartu, via archeological finds in Turkey.

“The Surface of the Moon” begins with the subtitle, “Nine spacecraft have provided thousands of close-up pictures of the moon…” and questions the moon’s origin.

“Behavioral Psychotherapy” considers abnormal behavior and its relationship to “social learning.”

“Salt-water Agriculture” suggests that plants in sandy soil might flourish in even oceanic-strength salt water.

“The Origin of the Automobile Engine” in 1876 and how it had progressed since then.

“Advances in Superconducting Magnets” had wide application in research.

Scientific American
“The Amateur Scientist”

Two other regular features in SA were “Mathematical Games” and “The Amateur Scientist,” which demanded considerable thought and effort from a reader.

While the magazine topics may seem basic and outdated today, several articles were groundbreaking in that year. You can still connect the relevance of that technology to our current research and concerns.

I ordered this sixty-cent edition (I paid more than sixty cents, but it was still a deal) of Scientific American to check facts related to my novel’s plot because there was no website with that relevant information. Of course, the irony of finding the magazine and purchasing it over the internet does not escape me. It’s just one more reason that the internet will always be my friend–my smart, funny, colorful and distracting friend who will eat up all of my time if I let her…my friend who can give me a false sense of intellectual security because she’ll show me almost anything I ask her to, even if it’s not correct. More, the internet says to me, this isn’t enough. You must look for more. Absolutely. I keep other friendships with libraries, archives and good old printed books.

This magazine from 1967 gave me more than my money’s worth. It is a snapshot of a time, information and its context. It reminds me that unbridled access to knowledge does not equal an education and scratching a surface teaches me nothing about depth. I admire the writers and readers of this 1967 publication for their curiosity and focus because it meant calculating, studying, writing and owning information, the hard way.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
cover art

This review is based on a pre-release reading of the uncorrected, “galley” proof provided to me by goodreads. Novel Release Date: June 5, 2012.

I just finished an early taste of summer vacation, with a rich and engaging book. Nichole Bernier’s debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., is a brave and breathtaking story about the subtle natures and interplay of womanhood, parenting, marriage and friendship.

The story begins as Kate Spenser, her husband, Chris, and their two young children begin their seven-week vacation at the beach. Kate is still processing the death of her friend, Elizabeth Martin, the victim of a plane crash in Queens that is abruptly overshadowed by the disasters of 9/11. As she mourns her friend, Kate also finds herself responsible for Elizabeth’s secrets and legacy; Elizabeth directed in her will that Kate alone receive the locked, antique trunk that holds Elizabeth’s journals.

Kate, although a reluctant interpreter of her friend’s written life, takes the responsibility seriously. Her commitment to reading Elizabeth’s journals influences not only her memories, but raises questions about Kate’s own decisions and marriage. Her fascination, which borders on obsession (as mine did, reading “over her shoulder”), stirs Kate into uneasiness. While ruffling the surface of her marriage, the responsibility also places her at odds with Dave, Elizabeth’s surviving husband, who struggles with his own suspicions about Elizabeth.

This story begins as an intriguing mystery about Elizabeth–her personality, relationships, changes and affections. Yet, this mystery is only the wrapping that conceals other, more tender dilemmas for the reader to unfold. Through her strong characters, striking observations and deep insights, the author leads us to ponder the dedication it takes to endure uncertainty; about the people we love, about seemingly random events and the “mere” coincidences that make the difference between life and death. The greatest mystery I savored in this moving story is the immeasurable cost of secrets, which protect, torment and shape us.

Nichole Bernier draws the reader into Kate’s private, conscientious point of view. Reflecting on her deceased friend, Kate considers that some people “don’t fit into a box. They grow to infiltrate everything, and when they suddenly go missing, they are missing everywhere.” In another post- 9/11 moment, Kate considers that, as for having a third child, “It seemed a dangerous thing, having more children than hands.” (Out of respect for the uncorrected proof status of my galley, I won’t quote more than this…although I could go on and on with great pleasure, thanks to many “aha” moments of literary and emotional resonance.) The author rings true with her characters and a timeless consideration of the dangers of love, in its many mysterious forms.

Please find more information on the author, book excerpts, the first chapter, release date and where to purchase at: Nichole Bernier’s blog and her author website. Thanks to goodreads for drawing my name out of the great hat of cyberspace. I will post this review on their site, as well.

Something New

This blog is now designed for you. I’ll post good things here that you might not find, otherwise, so think of it as a place to refresh yourself with something new. You might even chuckle now and then.

Roses in February

Scrawling letters and shapes with a crayon, from childhood I was hooked on pictures, words and colors. Storytelling is a joy to me. I write fiction and I’ll write about that, sometimes. I do a lot of research for my writing and I’ll share what I learn. I also draw and paint and craft stained glass. My daughter is learning photography and I hope to share some of her photos, too. I do a little gardening, as well.


As a child, I plunked on Mom’s piano and then learned classical guitar, bringing notes, melodies and harmonies to my teenage heart. My new guitar is an important part of my life today, so that might pop up here, along with mentions of my favorite music and musicians.

My parents, children and grandchildren give me more love than I thought possible. Sometimes I think they’ll make me crazy but they’d say, “Oops, too late. You already are.” Good crazy, I hope. I think it’s hereditary. They keep me emotionally flexible.

Life mapped my path in several directions. Sometimes I thought I was lost, but now I look back and enjoy the design. Thanks to social media, I’ve rediscovered old friends I feared I’d never see again. I’ve found new friends that way, too. So here we are.

photo by Karen Barefoot

I went to school (a lot). Looking for what I loved the most led me to love many things. Creative writing, literature, languages, visual arts, music and medicine. (We won’t talk about the school loans, but rather, life enrichment. That’s what matters, right?) We’ll have many topics to share.

I hope you like it here. Stop by again. I welcome your comments and conversation. This really is for you.

K. Lyn Wurth  (Kelly)

On Paper Wings

Have you ever read stories that resound with syncopation and flutter in your imagination? With pleasure that is almost painful?

I have.

Marly Swick was one of my creative writing instructors when I completed my M.A. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She blessed me with her quiet and meaningful thoughts on my writing. Most days, I still wish I were in her classroom, so I could hand her my work and say, “What do you think?” I hope that I carry a bit of her nature in my own creative self, these years later.

She teaches at the University of Missouri now and every time I think of that, I tell myself, “Well, Missouri is close to Iowa; in fact, we’re neighbors. I ought to go take another class from her…” Then I wake up. But it’s a nice dream, even though I’m a big girl who’s supposedly been writing fiction for long enough to handle it myself. Sigh.

Today, I want to tell you about Paper Wings, one of her novels. Except that “about” is one of the hardest things to address in another writer’s work, as well as my own. I’ll try. Open this novel and you’ll find a mother, a daughter and a family. You’ll read it and wonder about how love is even possible, with people being as broken as they are, and yet…children grow up and most people survive longer than you might think. You’ll experience the early 1960s and a specific sort of neighborhood with clearly-drawn characters, but they spread open the wings of your mind to what is universal and truly human.

So, why are you still here and not buying this book? Go on, now.

And Marly, thanks for writing (and teaching.)