Lori Tobias

A writer’s journey

In which our coast correspondent learns that the secret to publishing a novel is to never, never, never give up

Next fall will mark 20 years since we moved to the Oregon Coast. The years were some of the hardest of my life, but also the most gratifying. We came to the coast because we loved it. We’d discovered it while living in a small town in Southern Oregon that we abandoned nearly every weekend to camp by the beach. And even though we eventually moved on to Colorado, it was here that we wanted to one day land.

When the hubs got a job offer here, I didn’t see how we could say no. I was pretty sure a similar offer wouldn’t come anytime soon. But faced with leaving my job at the Rocky Mountain News, leaving my Denver friends, leaving all that a thriving city offers, this rugged landscape on the Pacific no longer seemed so enticing. Still, I believed if I wanted to focus on the writing that was important to me — fiction, creative nonfiction — I needed to go someplace where I could be quiet. I needed to take myself out of the race. As it turned out, I actually really liked that race.

Lori Tobias (right) is joined by Denver writer Sherry Spitsnaugle at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. Tobias’s novel, “Wander,” won the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction.

Nonetheless, here I was. Every morning, I’d rise at 5 and go to the office to write. But the words didn’t come. It seemed everything I’d learned in many writing workshops and classes had evaporated, simply disappeared from my brain. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Still, whether the words came or not, the rule I’d made for myself was that I had to spend time in the chair.  

A little more than a year after moving to the coast, my brave new venture seemed doomed. Despite clinging to every bit of pithy advice and encouragement — including a ceramic piece from a friend that paraphrased Churchill: “Never, never, never give up” — I seemed to be getting nowhere. Reluctantly, I decided I wasn’t meant to write fiction. It was time to give up. I made the decision with a mix of sorrow and relief. It had been my dream from a very young age. But now at least I could move on, focus on the career I was building as a travel writer.

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Seeing with fresh eyes

ArtsWatch’s Coast correspondent reflects on what she learned covering the arts in 2018

An editor once told me the best way to learn anything is to write about it. That lesson was driven home this year as I took on the beat covering arts on the Oregon Coast. Prior to that, I would have told you that, yes, the arts are alive and well on the edge of the Pacific. At other times, I could have been heard grumbling that there was nothing to do here. Then admitting, grudgingly, that even when there was, I didn’t do it. I might have said it was a case of “been there, done that.”

In truth, after so many years of covering breaking — often tragic — news, lightened by the occasional feature, and even then hamstrung by the rules of conventional journalism, I kind of forgot about art and just how much it encompasses. I forgot that art unites us, teaches us, makes us better people. That art brightens the world.

Newport’s Nye Beach neighborhood once hosted more rats than visitors.

And so, when the offer came to write this weekly column, I was sorely tempted to say no. Other than living here, I didn’t think I had the connections. But I thought about it and I wavered — yes, no, maybe, well OK, at least for now. I had this idea that it could be a chance to broaden my horizons, to move from that place of stagnation, and start growing again. It was an enticing thought, but really, I had no idea what I’d happened upon.

I soon learned that you can’t write about the arts in a place like the Oregon Coast — a place where one of the largest cities has roughly nine traffic lights — and not come away inspired. Again and again, I have been awed by what people in these small towns accomplish through sheer will, generosity of time and spirit, and the absolute refusal to give up.

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ArtsWatch’s hit parade 2018

2018 in Review, Part 1: Readers' choice. A look back at Oregon ArtsWatch's most read and shared stories of the year

When we say “hit parade,” that’s what we mean. In the first of a series of stories looking back on the highlights of 2018, these 25 tales were ArtsWatch’s most popular of the year, by the numbers: the most read, or the most shared on social media, or both. From photo features to artist conversations to reviews to personal essays to news stories, these are the pieces that most resounded with you, our readers. These 25 stories amount to roughly two a month, out of more than 50 in the average month: By New Year’s Eve we’ll have published roughly 650 stories, on all sorts of cultural topics, during the 2018 calendar year.

 



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We couldn’t bring you the stories we bring without your support, which is what keeps us going. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit journalism publication, with no pay wall: Everything we publish is free for the reading. We can offer this public service thanks to generous gifts from foundations, public cultural organizations, and you, our readers. As the year draws to a close, please help us keep the stories coming. It’s easy:



 

And now, the 25 of 2018, listed chronologically:

 


 

Legendary jazz drummer Mel Brown. Photo: K.B. Dixon

In the Frame: Eleven Men

Jan. 2: Writer and photographer K.B. Dixon’s photo essay looks graphically at a group of men who have helped shape Portland’s cultural and creative life, among them jazz drummer Mel Brown, the late Claymation pioneer Will Vinton, Powell’s Books owner Michael Powell, gallerist Charles Froelick, and the legendary female impersonator Walter Cole, better known as Darcelle. Dixon would later profile eleven woman cultural leaders, a feature that is also among 2018’s most-read.

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