I am fascinated at how one simple act changed my life.
For over 35 years, I had been a professional storyteller. I know that we can learn about the history of a person, an area, or a country through reading the stories people told.
Nearly two decades ago I volunteered at the weekly Estacada Library Story Time. The Children’s Librarian chose a simple art project for the pre-school tots. It was my job to tell a fun story to set the mood for the craft. My repertoire was varied, but if the perfect tale wasn’t obvious, I wrote one.
Once each summer the library hosted a fair, the center of which was a Story Festival. Professional Oregon storytellers arrived to thrill audiences with their well-told tales. One year, my librarian approached me with a new project. “Estacada children should know about their history, but there are no books for them to read. Can you write a story about Estacada history to perform at the story festival?”
And so my journey into Estacada’s history began. I combed the records of the pioneers, the railroad, the power company, the beginning of the town, and its growth. There were few records, but what I did find piqued my interest. Historical biographies and railroads are in my blood, and every tidbit I gleaned encouraged me to delve deeper. The area’s past was like a puzzle, and every fact I learned was a new and important piece.
I gathered enough material to write a story for the festival. In my story a train becomes a runaway, and I found that, like that engine, I couldn’t stop. Estacada history became my passion.
In 2010, at a Willamette Writers conference, I met a woman who wrote the history of West Linn for Arcadia Publishing. After seeing what she did, I said to myself, “I can do that!” Arcadia accepted me as an author. It thrilled me to have the opportunity to bring Estacada history to the entire country, printed in a book by a well-known publisher.
Oh, my, what a project that was. Quickly I realized that, since there was no comprehensive record and no organized collection of historical photos, I would have to ask the citizens of Estacada to help me. Over the course of the next year, I talked with over 200 people. They shared stories of their families, and generously lent precious photos so I could copy them for the book.
The publishing format of Arcadia is to print a series of photos with a short informational caption beneath each picture. The finished book, Images of America, Estacada, was a pictorial capsule of Estacada between the years of 1840 and 1980.
As I edited the material to fit within the number of pages and total number of words I could include, I faced a dilemma: What information must I condense? Which stories would I have to leave out altogether? I painfully made the decisions that had to be made. Those stories for which there wasn’t room were cut from the final version of Images of America, Estacada, where they languished in file drawers and on computer disks.
In 2015, I learned that The Clackamas County Cultural Coalition provides grant money to fund “Heritage and History” projects. A second book on Estacada falls into their first priority to “tell and build upon the stories of Clackamas County.” I quickly applied for a grant. I am thrilled to say that the second Estacada book project was awarded a grant. Money from this grant will cover 11% of my project costs.
I pulled out the information I collected for the last book, but couldn’t use. In addition, I talked with people who had new stories to tell me about Estacada. In the process, I collected additional unpublished historical photos.
I signed a contract with The History Press to publish Estacada Sagas. What excited me most was that within their framework I could transform the facts I learned into interesting, funny, or poignant stories. My goal is for my readers to be so entertained that they will want to read the next tale, and the next, and read them aloud to their family members.
Readers can enjoy learning about Estacada’s past as they travel through the pages. After all, that is what good storytelling is all about.