Washington State Magazine

Summer 2004


Summer 2004

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In This Issue...

Features

Short Shakespeareans :: Sherry Schreck has built her life and reputation on her love of children and Shakespeare and her unbridled imagination.

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Photos of the young Shakespeareans }

All that Remains :: Nearly two-thirds of the Lewis and Clark Trail is under man-made reservoirs. Another one-quarter is buried under subdivisions, streets, parks, banks, and other modern amenities. Almost none of the original landscape is intact. No one appreciates this contrast like author and historian Martin Plamondon II, who has reconciled the explorers' maps with the modern landscape.

Full Circle :: Steve Jones and Tim Murray want to make the immense area of eastern Washington, or at least a good chunk of it, less prone to blow, less often bare, even more unchanging. The way they'll do this is to convince a plant that is content to die after it sets seed in late summer that it actually wants to live.

Listening to His Heart :: As a student at WSU in the late '60s, Ken Alhadeff questioned authority with zeal. "I was part of a group of folks that marched down the streets of Pullman to President Terrell's house with torches, demanding that the Black Studies Program not be eliminated. It was a war between us and those insensitive, bureaucratic regents," says Alhadeff...who is now a regent.

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Where the Lilacs Grow :: A short story by Pamela Smith Hill}

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Cattle & Women :: An essay by Laurie Winn Carlson}

Departments

:: SEASONS/SPORTS: WSU hall of fame adds five

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Music: Music in response to tragedy :: Bill Morelock plays music discussed in his article "Winter was hard"}

Tracking

Cover: Perennial wheat is not a new idea. But its development on top of increasing input costs and environmental concerns could help secure agriculture's future in eastern Washington. See story, page 33. Photograph by Robert Hubner.

Panoramas
Pamela Smith Hill

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Pamela Smith Hill. Bill Wagner

Stories about growing up

by | © Washington State University

Pamela Smith Hill isn't one to forget her roots.

Born and raised in Missouri, Smith Hill set one of her novels, A Voice from the Border, in the Show-Me state, and another, Ghost Horses, in South Dakota, where she lived and worked for nearly a decade.

And her early training as a newspaper reporter-long ago in Springfield, Missouri-is part of the reason for her success today as a writer of award-winning books and short stories for young women and girls, she says. "As a reporter, I had the chance to listen to people, to the way they talk, and to observe details of their own worlds and their settings."

Smith Hill is director of the Professional Writing Program at Washington State University Vancouver, where she has worked with scores of students since joining the faculty as an instructor in 1996.

Her students run the gamut from those seeking careers in communications to those interested simply in improving their writing. But to all of them, Smith Hill stresses the value of writing crisp, clean copy, accurate and precise in detail and description, such as this excerpt from her third novel, The Last Grail Keeper: "I moved so close I could feel the heat from the fire, smell the old man's sweat. Then he turned sharply and spoke toward the corner where the fire cast no glow, just beyond the box of sparkles."

Smith Hill says strong detail, particularly that which bolsters the historical authenticity of a piece, is key to successful writing. Whether she is crafting a story set in the Dark Ages, the Civil War, or 1969, Smith Hill anchors her readers with a resilient connection to a specific time.

"I have to get as close to the past as I can, even when writing fantasy. It is important for me to know what kind of fabric, for instance, the women used when they wore mourning gowns during the Civil War."

Such detail, Smith Hill says, helps make fiction seem real. "Getting as close to the reality helps me break down the barriers for my readers," she says.

Smith Hill's appreciation for history is central to her literary success as well. In 2002, she was recognized for a Web history of South Dakota she coauthored, which has become required reading for fourth-graders in that state.

Her books have been chosen for an Oregon Book Award, as a Junior Library Guild selection, and as a finalist for a Mark Twain Award. Voice of Youth Advocates, a library journal devoted to young adult literature, picked The Last Grail Keeper for its selection of "Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 2002," along with titles by Ursula K. Le Guin, J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix, and David Almond. Smith Hill's fourth novel, nearing completion, is a fantasy, set in the Dark Ages.

Enrollment in the professional writing program has grown from about a dozen students when Smith Hill became director in 1997 to 90-100 students this year. Study options include a variety of technical, creative, magazine, and professional writing and editing courses; multimedia authoring; and internships.

That an instructor teaches as well as writes is not novel. But Smith Hill brings a deep passion to the combination: "A handful of professors transformed the way I thought about the world. In part, I believe I teach to give back in some small way."

Smith Hill has another, more practical motivation, too. "I teach writing because writing is such an important part of living, and whether it be for a profession or simply to be able to write on the job, I want to instill in my students the same passion for communicating."

Smith Hill says she likes to write for pre-teen and teen-aged girls, because those are formative years in young women's lives, times when they might be most receptive to the writer's call for independent thought and self-empowerment.

"When we are that age, we make important decisions about our lives," Smith Hill said. "When you write for adults, those readers can be touched by a book, but rarely are they changed by what you write."

On Her Way, an anthology for young girls recently released by Dutton Children's Books, includes Smith Hill's "Where the Lilacs Grow," a story about growing up in southern Missouri farm country.

You and your children can read Pamela Smith Hill's "Where the Lilacs Grow" (included in the anthology, On Her Way). Just click here.

Categories: Education, English, Fiction, WSU faculty | Tags: Writers, Writing

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