Recognize this mural? If so, reply in the comments section below and tell us where this is. The first person with the correct answer (city and state) wins an autographed copy of my novel Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyon. Contest will run for the next several months as design continues for my new travel guide, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017. So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments. We’ve had three winners in previous months, and this could be your turn to win!
I’m happy to have Margie Crisp as my guest today. Margie has a new book coming out in Spring 2017 called The Nueces
River: Rio Escondido. She is also the author and illustrator of the award-winning book River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, published by Texas A&M Press. River of Contrasts won the Texas State Historical Association Award for the best illustrated book on Texas History and Culture in 2012, and the Best Book of Non-Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, also in 2012. You can learn more about her at www.margiecrisp.com, or www.coloradorivertx.com.
Welcome, Margie. I know you traveled over 800 miles along the Colorado River to write River of Contrasts. How did you do that? Mary, first of all thanks for this interview. I’m a big fan of yours so this is a thrill. To be
honest, when I started my research for River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting
myself into. I didn’t have any training as a writer (though I had taken a few courses from the Texas Writers’ League) and ended up just following the issues and subjects that interested me. Luckily the river’s geography determined the structure of the book. I chose to start at the headwaters so I pointed my car northwest and started driving. In the upper basin the river is nothing but a trickle so I asked ranchers for permission to walk along the river. When I started exploring the river’s middle reaches I began hauling my kayak along but only the reservoirs held enough water for boating. The best paddling was without a doubt in San Saba County and down to the head of Lake Buchanan where the river runs through limestone canyons and pecan bottoms. From the Highland Lakes to the coast I paddled numerous day trips and a few overnight trips. I wish I could say I’d run the river in one trip from the headwaters to the Gulf but by taking many shorter trips I got to experience the river through flood, drought, and different seasons.
Did you do something similar for your new book on the Nueces River? I started the project the same way—looking on maps and then taking off in my car with camera, coffee and sleeping gear. I’d spent time along the Nueces but I’d never followed the river. Because my husband, artist William (Bill) Montgomery agreed to create the art for the book, we took trips to the river together as well as separately. We started the project in the midst of a record drought and it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that there was sufficient water for paddling the upper sections. So most of our paddling and boating trips were in the lower part of the river.
What made you want to take on such a project? I am passionate about Texas rivers. Historically people relied upon
our rivers for food, water and transportation. A look at settlement patterns shows camps, farms and towns clustered around waterways and moving from the coast inland along the rivers. Nowadays, the people of Texas seem to have forgotten just how essential rivers are to our communities. There has been a shift towards viewing rivers as the private domains of the wealthy instead of as the great common resources that they are. I try to entertain and engage readers long enough to slip in a little education but ultimately I hope to help people feel a connection and appreciation for our amazing Texas rivers.
Traveling down these rivers requires significant time and energy. What advice would you give someone about a long river trip? Honestly there are so many variables with weather and river conditions that it is impossible to plan for every contingency, but sunscreen, a good hat, and a set of dry clothes are my essentials. Plus, lots of water and snacks!
Tell us about your other art. What media do you work in? What subjects intrigue you? I’ve worked in a variety of media over the years. Currently I’ve been working on a number of large watercolor and pencil drawings for a January 2017 show at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton. My art is based upon my personal experiences in the natural world so local flora and fauna are my mainstays.
You’ve exhibited many, many places and have work in the Austin Museum of Art. Do you have any exhibits coming up next spring so people can get a taste of the new book? When I considered the Nueces River project, I realized that I wanted to research and write but creating the art was daunting (the Colorado River book took over five years). Luckily my husband was interested in the project and he created a body of artwork (oils, watercolors, pen & ink) for the book. It was great to work together but we describe our journey as being parallel tracks: my writing and his art are our individual responses to joint experiences. I don’t describe his art and he doesn’t illustrate my words. Obviously I’m biased but I think the art is magnificent! We both contributed photographs for the book.
What’s next on your agenda? I’m in an art period. One of my quirks is that I have to either make art or write. After I finish up the art work for the next show, I’ll go back to writing again. I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels and there are lots of wonderful rivers to explore!
Many thanks for joining us today. I’m looking forward to tracing the Nueces with your new book.
We have a winner! Catherine was the first to correctly identify the location of the little goat in the picture as Rocksprings, Texas. Her winning answer came at 8:11 pm on July 2. She wins a free autographed copy of my novel about the shaman who lived along the Rio Grande over 4000 years ago, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons. Thanks to everybody who entered through the website and Facebook.
The little goat sits on the corner of the courthouse square in Rocksprings, the self-proclaimed “Angora goat capital of the world.” With a population of about 1200, Rocksprings is the county seat of Edwards County, on the edge of the Hill Country. It’s also the location of the Devil’s Sinkhole Visitors’ Center, right on the square. Sign up there for an evening bat tour at Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area, a few miles out-of-town. Millions of bats fly out of their daytime home in the sinkhole about sunset every evening from March through October.
Watch for the next “Where’s Mary?” and enter your guess for the location of the photo. Remember, you gotta play to win!
This week in part three of “Where’s Mary?”, this cute little statue is the clue. Guess the right town in Texas and win yourself a free, autographed copy of my novel Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons. Just post your guess in the comments below. Contest will run for the next several months as design continues for my new travel guide, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017. So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments!
Week Two of the Contest! Guess where Mary is from the photograph above. Answer must be the correct town, state, and exact place (business, park, museum, etc) Enter your guess in the comments below. If you are correct, I’ll send you a free copy of my novel, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons!
Contest will run for the next six months as design continues for my new travel guide, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands, which will be published by Texas A&M Press hopefully in April 2017. So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments!
The editors at Texas A&M Press have brainstormed a catchy new name for my new travel guide to Southwest Texas. How do you like From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Southwestern Hill Country and Lower Pecos ? I really had not put much thought into the title, even though that’s pretty important, so I was counting on the editors to come up with something more compelling. I think they’ve done that very well! What to name the area from Utopia to Barksdale was also a quandary for me. I’ve gone back and forth between “Southwestern Hill Country” and “Western Hill Country” several times–having to change the text each time, of course! I’m glad the title specifically designates the Lower Pecos because the area is so special in so many ways, yet a lot of people don’t know much about it.
Photo by Thomas C. Self
New Contest! Guess where Mary is from the photograph above. Answer must be the correct town, state, and exact place (business, park, museum, etc) Enter your guess in the comments below. If you are correct, I’ll send you a free copy of my novel, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons!
Contest will run for the next six months as design continues for the Visitors’ Guide to Southwest Texas, which will be published by Texas A&M Press sometime in 2017. So take a good look at the picture above and give me your comments!
I’ve almost got everything submitted to Texas A&M Press for my new travel guide to Southwest Texas. The editor and I have shortened the title a bit, but it’s the same book as I wrote about in the last post. Southwest Texas includes places west of San Antonio, south of I-10, north of the Rio Grande, and east of Big Bend. The new book will include the Lower Pecos Canyonlands as well as parts of the Western Hill Country, such as Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. I’ll point you to good places to eat and sleep, and fun things to do. Plus give you some local history and color along the way. And there’s lots of color.
Southwest Texas has been home to some real characters in the past 150 years or so. You’ve probably heard of Judge Roy Bean. But what about Dr. Brinkley, the goat-gland doctor and radio baron? How about Cal Rodgers and the first transcontinental flight in 1911? Or Jerusha Sanchez, the first civilian settler near Barksdale?
The manuscript for this endeavor is in editing now, and hopefully all the illustrations will be in the hands of the publisher next week. So stay tuned; I’ll let you know when we’ve got a final product. This is kinda fun!
A few weeks ago, I told you a little about my recent trip to Iceland. That trip fulfilled a childhood dream to visit a place where ancient Norsemen settled around geysers and hot steam rising from the ground, a place where glaciers, icebergs, and volcanos dominate the landscape. But settle the did. When the Vikings began to settle Iceland around 874 A.D., there were only stunted birch trees around the edge of the island. No forests like in other parts of Scandinavia or Europe, or Britain, where Vikings also settled. The Vikings used the small birch trees as supports for the roofs of their stone and turf houses, which had a typical “long fire” built down the middle.
Livestock was also kept inside the houses during the long, cold, and dark winters. The Vikings
brought cattle, horses and sheep with them on the boats to Iceland. Their main objective in immigrating was to find new land for raising animals. The climate was too cold to raise grains or vegetables, so animal husbandry, hunting and fishing became the main occupations.
The pioneers established farmsteads often supporting 50-100 people, but no real towns. The people were loosely governed by 39 chieftains who settled disputes. By 930 A.D., a gathering of all the chieftains began to settle serious crimes and blood feuds, if possible, at a place known as Thingvellir. Thingvellir is sometimes called the first parliament in Europe. The place is located at the rift between the American and Eurasian continents. The rift grows wider a few centimeters each year as tectonic plates shift. You can actually snorkel in the clear ice water of the rift, but I was cold enough as it was. As you can see below, the day was rainy and gray.
Archaeologists have discovered several Viking farmsteads, right where the sagas and oral histories said they would be, in recent years. This summer archaeologists were working on a site in downtown Reykjavik, next to a tavern that proclaimed it had been there since 1889.
We also visited the place where the 13th century chronicler of the Icelandic sagas, Snorri Sturluson, lived. Most of what we know today about Norse gods comes from Snorri’s writing. The 800-year-old manuscripts are displayed at a museum in Reykjavik, and the stone-lined hot pool at Snorri’s farmstead is still maintained. Just like many people today, Snorri probably enjoyed a good soak at the end of the day.
I fulfilled a childhood dream a few weeks ago. I went to Iceland. Somehow the notion of a land where boiling water dances up from the ground while huge ice glaciers cover other parts enchanted me. So my son Miles and I set off for an adventure.
We made sure we saw a glacier up close. And that was the real payoff of the trip because the wind was howling off the frozen snow about 60-70 miles per hour, and it was pouring down rain. I kid you not, I could barely walk the short distance because the wind made me stagger backward with each step. And the blowing rain made sure we were soaked head to toe. Up to then, we had been pretty well prepared, but only an insulated, water proof suit like ice fishermen sometimes wear would have kept us dry or warm. The glacier was so huge! It filled my entire range of vision with blinding, glaring white. I was thrilled!
Hot water also spews up violently from the earth in Iceland. The island is volcanic, with active eruptions every year or so. Remember Eyafjallajökull? When the Vikings arrived in 874 A.D., they quickly discovered many hot springs and geysirs. The main geysir in Iceland today is not as impressive as Yellowstone, but a few still blast off with some regularity.
The center of the island consists of lava mountains and glaciers. No trees, no animals, no towns, no roads for hundreds of miles. The volcanic hot springs and glaciers create rivers, however, and stunning waterfalls. Every thirty miles or so we had to stop for pictures. I’ll talk more about Vikings in another post, so stay tuned, and thanks for reading!