Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm writing my wish

I moved to the Silicon Valley of California in 1983 after grad school in Oregon, the state I consider my home state. Military brats get to choose their home states, since they often don't feel they really belong in any particular spot. There were no jobs in Oregon, so...I ended up in Calif. That said, my heart belongs to a tiny town in the Willamette Valley that has only 800 people. It's boomed up from about 700 when my family settled there after my dad retired from the Air Force. I never really lived in Scio--just sort of camped there between terms at OSU and U of O, so my idea of what the town is, is probably rather romanticized. I remember the six-party phone line when we first moved there in 1968, and the friendly people at the two grocery stores, the P.O. (we were general delivery at the time), and the bank.

Scio is the model for Baxter, Oregon in my book. But I needed a private college, so I selected Linfield College in McMinnville--just for its looks. In my mind, Linfield is the perfect Preston College for Anna's journalism department. I love the brick buildings, the white pillars, the grassy lawns. I even took photos to use as inspiration when I write about Preston. As far as I know, Linfield is nothing like Preston. I am taking abundant liberties with both Scio and the college to mold them into Baxter, Oregon and its Preston College. In actuality, I have only stolen my *impressions* of these places, since I never spent a lot of time in either, and certainly was never involved in the town politics or the newspaper in Scio--and I have only driven through Linfield. Nothing about Baxter is really Scio. Baxter is bigger, has more shops and, of course, the college. But I hope that Baxter will feel to readers the way Scio feels to me. Small, cozy, friendly, full of pickups and normal people. It is a place where you have to slow down on back roads because there's a tractor in your lane. It's a place where just outside of town, you can drive up on a hill that gives you a view across a beautiful green valley, and where there used to be several covered bridges scattered like little jewels over wide streams. I love Scio and its environs, and I'm working to make Baxter the kind of small town my readers will love. It's the place I wish I could live.

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