Sunday, May 24, 2015

For the sake of the wolves


The indefatigable Dick Cory, former science and math teacher, Nebraska native, and passionate Chicoan, has created a love story for a wolf. This is wolf OR-7, so named by Oregon Fish and Wildlife biologists who used a GPS collar to track the animal over his 3000-mile trek from Oregon to California and back again. Given the name “Journey” in a contest, the wolf attracted worldwide attention, especially when it strayed into our neck of the woods.

Cory imagines diary entries made by the gray wolf in a whimsical book for kids of all ages, complete with colorful maps and wolf images. The book is called “Journey The Lonely Wolf: The Travels Of OR-7” ($15 in paperback, self-published; available at Made in Chico or from the author at, with a donation made to Teichert Ponds Foundation for each book sold).

“Finding food is not my problem,” Journey writes. “Finding a she wolf mate is. I have heard that I’m the first wolf to be seen in California in one hundred years. Still I have hopes.” The entries end in 2014, three years after Journey started his travels, with his mate Wanderlust raising three pups. All is well, at least for now.


Sentiment is never far from Cory’s pen. A second recently published book, “Days Of Love Songs And Roses” ($30 in paperback), pairs lyrics to some of Cory’s favorite romantic songs with pictures of colorful roses, courtesy of the Butte Rose Society. “You Are My Sunshine” (1933) features the dark orange rose, symbolic of enthusiasm and desire. The Beatles even get in, with “And I Love Her” (1964), paired with the red rose of love.


In a third book, “Dust!” ($20 in paperback), Cory assembles seventy-three short reflections on just about everything, from the Teichert Pond Project to puppy love, from manners and dress codes to “lessons I remember.” Writing on this side of 80 years, Cory notes that dust has always been with him, from cement dust when he worked concrete, to chalk dust when, as a teacher, he went for the abstract.

And found his voice.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The truth, more or less


“In the past,” writes Dave Kilbourne, “I have worked as a US Forest Service fire tower operator, a rattlesnake wrangler, a swamp surveyor, a timber beast and as an alligator hunter,” not to mention for a dozen years serving as Executive Director of the Downtown Chico Business Association. He’s also something of an ex-con, having been “invited to attend the Aiken City jailhouse for a full week at the tender age of seventeen years and six months.”

Kilbourne’s South Carolina experiences are only the beginning. He takes the truth, allows it to ferment in his fertile imagination, and crafts tales that will set some folks to hootin’ and hollerin’ (politically correct this ain’t).

Speaking of craft, he took himself “down to the Sierra Nevada Pub” to find his muse. “During this period as I developed an approach to my own personal style of creative writing, my address simply became Dave, Sierra Nevada Taproom, back by the pizza oven.”

The result has been bottled as “The Blessed Conversion Of Miranda Zamora: And Other Amazing True Stories Of Human Adventure” ($14.95 in paperback from Flying Pig Press,, available from the author at or from Made In Chico (check for upcoming book signings).

By the author’s own count, the book contains “twenty-one acts of literary mischief.” Kilbourne takes the reader to “The Get Back Satan True Blood of the Lamb Abyssinian Baptist Church pulled-pork picnic, fireworks display and old time revival meeting,” and, in another piece, introduces “a fine all-American red-blooded working girl by the name of Ms. Violet Villanova” (whose “elder sister Debidoux had played the lead role in Debbie Does Dallas, which I believed was an art film of a special kind ... because I had seen it no less than four-dozen times during that theatrical period in my life when I showed this film for commercial purposes without a proper license”).

Smuggle in the Chico Roller Girls, Purple Juice, Richard Parker’s cat Jeeves, Chico Billiards, a passel of bawdy jokes, and plenty of beer, and it’s clear Kilbourne not only found his muse, but drank it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

An Alaskan adventure


Sherry Fox Clark writes that she “resides in Paradise with her husband Kenneth Mann and their cat Lucky. After 48 years as a salon and spa owner/stylist, carnival food concessionaire, Harley Davidson Franchise owner, Photo Restorer, Merchant Marine and artist, she is now semi-retired and has fulfilled her Grandmother Stella’s dream to place in print her lifetime of adventures.”

“Stella” is Stella Homes Fox, who moved to Chico in 1975 and died the following year, almost reaching her ninety-seventh birthday. Toward the end of her life she wrote about her experiences in Alaska which form the basis of “Once A Sourdough, Always A Sourdough!” ($19.95 in paperback from Memoir Books; available at Made In Chico and from Replete with historical photographs and news clippings, the book is a record of an Alaskan pioneer woman.

“‘Sourdough,’” Clark writes in her introduction, is “a name given to fellow pioneers and miners of the early 19th century in the far North Alaskan Territory, a reference to the leavening used in bread making when yeast is not available.” Stella adopted it.

“I met my future husband, Edward A. Fox” in 1907, Stella writes. “He was an unassuming, quiet bachelor, a kind man, five years my senior, and a successful gold miner.” Married three years later, their destination was Candle Creek “on the northern side of the Seward Peninsula,” population about a hundred people (including eleven women) in 1911. Soon their son K Arthur was born (“K,” Stella points out, is not an abbreviation). Daughter Lola arrived, with special needs, a few years later.

Transportation in the winter was by sled. They met Roald Amundsen “who drove a dog team through Candle Creek on his way to the North Pole” (he wasn’t successful that time).

When mining prospects dimmed, the family decided to move to Seattle. The nearest harbor had frozen and the Coast Guard was called to rescue the party of 14. (The newspaper accounts make fascinating reading.)

Though Candle Creek became “nearly a ghost town,” the family’s deep interest in Alaska continues, and Sherry Fox Clark has produced a loving tribute to her grandmother’s life.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

“The play’s the thing!”


Pity that Shakespeare never met Ruby the river otter, the heroine of a series of children’s books by Chicoan Thersa Mallinger. The Bard specialized in plays on words; Ruby specializes in words on play. Ruby, it seems, doesn’t know how to play.

Mallinger writes on her website ( about an event at Bidwell Park near Bear Hole. “I was blessed to witness a group of river otters playing! So, so cute!!!!! What an adorable idea for a character in a children’s story, I remember thinking to myself. Just like that, Ruby the River Otter was born!”

Through her books Mallinger encourages “self-exploration and discovery through creativity.”

“Ruby The River Otter Doesn’t Know How To Play” ($14.95 in paperback, self-published, available at Made In Chico and the Chico State University bookstore) traces Ruby’s quest to imitate other animals. She floats in the river like the alligator but “soon, Ruby’s back began to get hot and a fly flew right into her mouth. ‘PTOOEY!’ Ruby sputtered, spitting out the fly! She decided it was absolutely arduous trying to be an alligator!”

Ruby tries to have fun like the beaver, but just gets bits of wood stuck in her teeth. So how about being a songbird? “Instead of whistling, a bunch of spit and branches came flying out. She gave the birds a bath ... and it wasn’t the type of bath that birds like at all! ... It was bonkers trying to be a boisterous bird!” (The boisterous illustrations are by Bonnie Lemaire)

The bears, unbearable. The burrowing owl, a loner. So Ruby rubbed on sap, stuck on sticks and pretended to be a porcupine. “There, now no one will want to play with me, and no one will ever need to know that I don’t know how to play.”

But the story’s not over. When the snows come, Ruby makes a discovery. Maybe she does know how to play, a “porcupine” rolling down the riverbank, just being herself. For isn’t that what river otters do best?

Mallinger will be a guest at the Chico State bookstore May 9 from 1- 2 p.m.; the public is invited.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The straight poop


Chicoan Jan Condon is a semi-retired occupational therapist. Teaming with illustrator Chris Ficken, a designer at Chico State University, Condon turned her interest in wellness into an engaging children’s book that makes the mechanics of digestion easy to swallow.

“Stella’s Adventures In The Incredible BioTerrain” ($12 in paperback, self-published; available from Made In Chico, Rusty Wagon in Orland, Patrick’s Ranch in Durham, and begins with young Stella telling her mother she feels “kind of funny in the stomach,” maybe the result of anxiety over not yet having a school science project. Then she falls asleep, and that’s when the fun begins.

Stella dreams that “she just climbed into her mouth--and swallowed herself,” eventually landing in her stomach, only to be greeted by Emily Enzyme. “My job,” she tells Stella, “is to change food in your mouth to be more digestible.” There’s even a little song: “I’m a Fast Movin’ Mama and I get my kicks / Breaking food into Nutrients quicker than quick.”

On into the small intestine to meet Abby Acidophilus. “There are billions of us,” Abby says, “all sticking to the waving villa that are the little hills inside the intestinal wall.” Or, putting it another way: “I’m Abby Acidophilus digesting your food / We hula in the villi to make things good; / The more we are, the better for you and us, / We hula food down to Benny Bifidus.”

Benny, Abby says, “lives in the large intestine, or colon--that’s the last stop for your digested food before, well, before it hits the toilet. That’s why we call him The King of Poo.” (Cue Stella to put on rubber boots.)

Benny the bacteria and his “marvelous crew” wheelbarrow out the stinky stuff. Off to the side is Stanley the Stem Cell, on patrol. “Is anything wrong?? (I hope, I hope!)” “Gosh no, Stanley,” says Emily, “Stella swallowed herself to come down here to see what happens to the food she eats. We’re giving her the Grand Tour.”

When Stella wakes, she realizes her body “is a miraculous world. ... What a perfect science report for my class project.” And that’s the straight poop.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

WordSpring conference at Butte College


The fourth annual WordSpring creative writing conference ( will be held Saturday, April 25 at Butte College, featuring workshops in fiction writing, poetry and more throughout the day. Admission at the door is $40 for students, $70 general; there’s a reception at 7:30 p.m. April 24 at 1078 Gallery in Chico with Pam Houston reading from her fiction ($2 suggested donation).

One of the workshop leaders is Butte College English instructor Finn Kraemer, who, he writes in the third person, “is a citizen of both the United States and Ireland, and has lived in the African bush, an Irish coastal village, small town America, the Saudi desert, and downtown Los Angeles. All the wisdom Finn has gained in his life can be summed up in five two-word phrases which he will not share here.”

Kraemer plays with silences, with things not said, in his new collection of fifteen short stories, six of which were previously published in literary journals. “Wounds, And Their Making” ($15 in paperback from at situates the reader in mostly everyday worlds, the outlines of which are only lightly drawn. The inner life of his characters is what captures the writer’s imagination.

Stories in the first half of the book seem to demand explanations, names, words that are never quite provided.

In “Joseph Paul Thane,” a ten-year-old boy with that name meets a dying man named Joseph Paul Thane. In “Sarah,” Sarah Mae Rifton in ICU had smiled but “she wasn’t smiling at me. What had she seen that would make her smile like that?” “In My Father’s Silence” “the cabin held an old quietness, three makeshift rooms pieced together with rusty nails, rawhide, and dirt. ... The wind came in cold whistles through the gaps in the walls and the floorboards creaked as if tortured. ...”

Later stories are more hopeful, many structured by Biblical texts. “Regarding Michael,” “Father Donovan smiled down at Sean, and touched his head. ‘Aye, Sean,’ he said. ‘Your Da spoke well. It’s a right proper miracle.”

All in all, a good word with which to break the silence.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chicoan’s memoir focuses on politics


Robert M. (Bob) Jackson has made Chico his home for over four decades. Retired as a Professor of Political Science, he served as Dean of the School of Graduate, International and Sponsored Programs at Chico State University. Now, he’s turned his life story into a series of reflections on war and peace, poverty, privilege, polio, and political science (he calls it “Polly Sigh”), and the mystery of life.

“Wherever I Go...: A War Baby’s Tales” ($9.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle) begins with Jackson’s birth on November 6, 1944 “in the midst of the deadliest war in history.”

“Rather than cheating or fighting, for which I’ve never had any talent,” Jackson writes, “it was my mouth that got me in trouble.” The chapters of his book, which include family photographs, provide the reader with the sometimes salty observations on Jackson’s travels around the globe and his exploration of the inner life.

In 1952 his two brothers were struck with polio as was his father, who was later also plagued by a series of heart attacks. Recent generations know little of the polio scares back then. “I learned early in life that fear of the unknown can cause individuals and even neighborhoods to behave in selfish and even cruel ways.” Others reached out to help. “This generosity of spirit ... transcends the color of one’s skin.”

He worked at a steel mill in the mid-60s and got a taste of the civil rights movement and later worked for the election of Eugene McCarthy on an anti-war platform. “This war baby concluded that if humanity’s self-destruction is to be avoided, it is not new institutions that are needed. Rather, it is a profound shift in human consciousness.”

“So,” he asks at one point, “what is it that I know? ... I understand and accept that along with Divine Spirit, I am the co-creator of my life experience, for I am responsible for my attitude and actions. There is nothing outside that I need to have in order to ‘fix’ me.”

Controversial and outspoken, this is Bob Jackson. Wherever he went--there he was.