Considering the Oyster

Since June 1st, I have had the terrific honor of being an artist-in-residency at the esteemed Espy Literary Foundation, located in pictureque Oysterville, Washington. I applied for this award some two odd years ago, was told a year later that they Foundation was suffering financial difficulties and promptly forgot all about it.

Now that my life has been radically changed with the new job, new city, new engagement, I hadn't really been putting the necessary "umph" back into the Shigeyoshi Murao book that it really deserved, and deep in my dark dark soul- I knew it. So when the Espy Foundation President, Polly Freidlander, called in early May while I was at work...I could scarcely make out her words and comprehend that I was being offered a month away to write. I managed to eke out that novelist Shawn Wong was on the literary committee this year and had in fact, selected my application amongst a host of many others as something worth investing in. Cripes!

So with the incredible grace of my boss(es) at JANM I was able to pack a tiny bag, exactly two books (I chose Louis Fiset's newly released book on Camp Harmony and James McNaughton's Army published book on Nisei Linguists) and some wet weather gear and headed to the peninsula.

One week into the residency, I can say that chapter one is in fairly solid shape, and chapter two (pre-war Seattle leading up from the immigration of Murao's parents from Chinran, Japan to Seattle all the way up to the outbreak of war in 1941) is finally emerging. There are eleven chapters outlined all together, some more distant clouds on the horizon than others. But I'm pretty thrilled that I can actually SEE the book now- its bold strokes and feathering highlights and textures.

In between marathon reading/writing sessions, if there is ever a break in the rain of course, I am on my bicycle exploring the cranberry bogs, the rhododendron forests wet with young ferns and the husks of emptied oysters. Along the path I've already met a black bear ambling straight down the road, a two day old fawn nursing on her mother, and an entire flotilla of beavers leaving filagreed silvery currents in their wake.

Until I can get my claws on a usb cord to download photos, I'm borrowing these excellent shots by local photographer, John Granen.

For a charming little description of historic Oysterville and illustrations of the gingerbread houses painted wedgewood blue and firetruck red that line the main street feast here. The houses on this particular street each have a historic, handpainted sign telling you who the original owner was and when the house was built. Cuuuute! Clambakes and crossword puzzles in my pedal pushers.

Created in 1998, the Espy Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Oysterville, Washington and dedicated to advancing and encouraging the literary and visual arts. The Foundation was named for Oysterville native Willard R. Espy, a wordsmith and memoirist, whose prolific career celebrated language, word play, light verse, and what Henry James once called the “visible past”: the events in the history of a time and place that can be recovered and preserved by the reach of a long memory and a gifted imagination. Serving the needs of emerging as well as established writers and artists, the Foundation’s main focus is our residency program.

Since the Program’s inaugural year in 1999, residencies have become the centerpiece of the Foundation’s service to writers and artists. The Foundation’s goal is to provide an environment in which residents can pursue their work without interruption. Writers and artists live and work in the serenely beautiful village of Oysterville–a national historic district–located near the northern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula, on the southwest coast of Washington State.