The Sun’s Anna Pier sat down in Maxwell Park with the Glen Ellen writer.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve always been a writer. In 6th grade I wrote my first mystery novel. When I was in high school, I wrote a fantasy novel. I thought I was going to be the next J.R.R. Tolkien. And I started writing for local Marin newspapers in high school.
You went to Berkeley. After that?
I worked as a reporter for a paper in Evergreen CO, where my husband and I were living. I didn’t like deadlines, so I got a new job editing rock climbing guides.
How did you get started writing guidebooks?
I had twins, and my editor suggested I try writing a guide to hiking for people with small children. It was very successful, so I followed it with other guides.
In fact, more than 20 of them.
About parks, and places, in Colorado and California. Short hikes, best hikes, guides to. It’s a way to combine my love of the outdoors with my love of words. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I grew up in the countryside of Marin and I was outside all the time. I’m a lifetime hiker. I did mountain biking, backcountry and downhill skiing in Tahoe, and later Colorado. And rock climbing and mountaineering. You can’t be in Colorado without climbing mountains.
Your guide Hiking Lassen Volcanic National Park won the National Outdoor Book Award last year.
It’s a small pond, but I won. A nice gold medal on the cover of the 3rd edition. I first wrote the book when I returned to California from Colorado. Lassen is a park that I really love, and I think that is why this book won.
Lassen burned in the Dixie fire this year.
Yes, 70 percent of it. So my guide has become a snapshot in time. I am on the Board of Directors for the Lassen Association, a public nonprofit. We are focusing now on education about what fire looks like in a park, including the issue of climate change. I am sure a 4th edition will happen sometime, including the fire. All my guidebook writing from now on will be informed by my perspective in the aftermath of the Nuns fire in 2017.
How did you fare in Glen Ellen?
My half-acre burned, but not my home, as the fire played ‘hopscotch.’ So many of my neighbors lost their homes. I can tell you survivor’s guilt is real.
Can you talk about the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center?
I am not an official part of the Planning/Advisory team, but I am a very engaged Glen Ellenite. What happens at SDC will affect the whole Valley. As part of the Glen Ellen Forum, I work to try to get the word out, so people take advantage of the opportunities for public input.
You’re the librarian at Dunbar School.
It’s a job that makes me incredibly happy. Helping with literacy, helping teachers teach children a love of reading. We just received a large donation of books about diversity, equity and inclusion. One of them is about Dolores Huerta, who of course was a key figure in the United Farm Workers movement. That really struck me. I was the half-Mexican girl in a white school in Marin, and the only one who didn’t have grapes in her lunch box. My father was very clear about supporting the boycott. “My family will not eat grapes.”
Did you experience racism growing up?
No, because I don’t look Mexican. In fact, the family was useful to our schools for filling quotas; we were the token Mexicans. But my father and my brother did experience racism. You carry the stories you’re told as a child into adulthood.
Writing in the future?
More stories about travels and human endeavors in the wild, like Search and Rescue Alaska. I hope I did the stories justice. But maybe not more like Death in Mt. Rainier National Park When I came home from researching for it, I just stood on the porch and sobbed for 20 minutes. Right now, I feel myself moving in the direction of essays. Maybe someday I’ll be a novelist.