Author's Notes

Friday, June 28, 2013:

Currently I’m in the middle of what I hope to be the next-to-final editing of text.
This is as much a process as anything, more doing than thinking, coordinating the red pen marks of several readers who have kindly read the body of text of the Thordarson book.  You would think the copy would be clean and free of errors at this point, but there are many marks and comments to consider.

My job today and tomorrow – and maybe the day after that – will be to determine which marks I keep, which to pass over (there are many subjective choices) and how to answer questions of fact that arise without upsetting entire paragraphs.
When I’ve completed this task, I will pass on to Amy Jorgenson the combined edits.  Amy has set the pages and is doing all of the graphics.  It would be quicker and simpler if I could make the changes in digital text, but I don’t have the software.  So the process has become layered and laborious at this point, but still very necessary to prepare it for publication.

On the topic of factual correctness, since this is a history the final copy should not have errors.  And yet, many so-called facts of history are not well supported by documents.  That is the case with Thordarson and Rock Island.
Even at this late date I have reservations about several statements I’ve made, conclusions that will never be air-tight because only a very few people knew the real facts or events, and they are no longer with us.  So, we do the best to tell the story, careful to say that it is not absolute in its correctness, but rather one take on how things might have occurred.

Such is the case with Thordarson’s ashes.   There is a granite tombstone in the small sand dunes cemetery on Rock Island, but there is no direct link to how it was placed there, who ordered it, or exactly what it marks.  We do know quite certainly Thordarson was cremated, and that his ashes rested in an urn in the boathouse for nearly 20 years.
From one local source, a portion of the ashes were scattered, then the rest were buried.  From another local source, a man with whom I visited last week, the urn sat on the stone railing of the second floor of the boathouse as the family members departed the island.  He discovered the urn, then buried it in the little island cemetery.  Later, he conferred with a park official, and the urn was unearthed, and presumably dug up and presumably reburied during a small ceremony.  At that burial a minister, one of Thordarson’s sons and his friend attended.  This came after the island became a state park and it was a more fitting exclamation point to his life than a shrug of the shoulders to answer the question:  Where was Thordarson buried?
It appears the surviving family members didn’t have a strong inclination to bury his ashes, or they couldn’t agree on such an action.  But the state had an interest in what we often call “closure,” in order to be able to point out to visitors the exact spot where Thordarson was buried.
These are not details of earth-shaking importance, but in retelling the reader is given a further, deeper sense of his estrangement from his family members.  The whole point of my doing the book was to learn more about who Thordarson was, and the indecisiveness of his surviving family members in the treatment of his ashes becomes one more example of tensions that existed during his lifetime.

Regarding a published product, Thordarson and Rock Island, I now believe that even with minor delays and setbacks a mid-July date for sending materials off to the printer is quite possible.   -  Dick Purinton

June 13, 2013

During the recent Island Birding Festival banquet (Saturday, June 8, 2013) I had the pleasure of being seated with people I had not seen in a long while.   Each expressed unsolicited pleasure in reading my blogs (which makes my face warm, even now).   One asked if I felt an obligation to produce a blog regularly, knowing there was an internet audience “out there.”

The answer is, partly, yes.  The purpose of most writing is to communicate, to get a point across to others, but the process often includes some form of self-discovery.  It’s always best – and most rewarding - knowing that readers are waiting at the end of that process, readers who appreciate the results.  It’s even better knowing who those readers are and occasionally meeting them in person.
But among the reasons to write is an urge to clarify my thought.  I discovered some time ago (in my 40s or 50s?) that I do a much better job of getting my ideas organized and across to others by writing them down, than by verbalizing them.  That writing process sometimes takes more effort, but in the end the results seem clearer to me and fix themselves in my mind.  Written thought becomes a more permanent means of communication, of course, with potential beyond a single conversation or group gathering.

It may be several weeks between such written communications (whether it is a blog for ferrycabinnews, an article for the Island Observer or a letter to a business associate or government official.)   Each new opportunity  presents a new challenge to write and to think in a concentrated way about a subject.   And when that subject can be approached from a more creative point of view, writing becomes more than just a routine, factual exchange.  (This is not to say that what I think or write has any deeper meaning or greater validity than someone else's.  When written, words may have the power of cohesion and persuasiveness, however.)

I’ve felt the urge recently to do several blog topics, but because of other commitments I’ve not gotten to them.  Those notions haven’t completely passed, and I’ll get to them soon.
One major, lingering, overriding commitment is my current book project - now marketed here on my new website - the soon-to-be published Thordarson and Rock Island.   More time than I would have guessed has been invested in this project.   Research, assembly of the pieces of information, plus writing original text, is only part of this process.   The decision to self-publish this book presents a whole new set of challenges.
In my next Author’s Notes, I’ll talk about some of those challenges. – Dick Purinton  

SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2013 - 

  The month of August is well along and summer as many of us recognize it seems nearly over.  

I've awaited word of printing of my book, just as others have anxiously waited, and now at last I've received a print date from Worzalla, of Stevens Point.  During the previous weeks of August, while we were traveling to England, final submittal of digital book files to the printer occurred.  With naiveté I thought that action might result in a finished product by the end of the third week of August.  Not so.

There were proofs of the cover to be made as a first step (the only four-color printing is the cover), then the insertion of a Certified, Sustainable Forest Product logo per printer's requirement, and then approval of the individual page proofs.  The latter "proofing" I did in about 20 minutes between trips on the Karfi my first day back, believing that to tinker with text at this point would only add cost and would further delay the printing process.  Right or wrong, approvals were given to the printer to proceed with the text pages.  

I had still assumed this step might result in a button being pushed the following day to start the press, with shipment to follow in another week or so.  This was not to be, perhaps due to the printer's own scheduling of their other various job orders, my book taking its place in the lineup for press run.  

When, then, I asked, can I expect my book will be printed, bound, trimmed packaged and shipped?  

This Friday I was given a print date of Sept. 10th for the press, with shipment to follow on the 14th.  Since the 14th is a Saturday, an unlikely delivery date, I would expect Monday, September 16th as the actual date for receiving the books.  The quantity of 1500 copies is rather small by Worzalla press standards, but it will represent a fair dollar investment on my part, with future public acceptance and sales only a guess.  I can always reorder if it becomes necessary, several months from now.  I assume these are questions large publishers also face when they gamble on a new book, a relatively unknown author, featuring a subject that might receive mixed interest from the general public.

From past experience, I've learned that if reasonably well done, a book on local subject matter ought to result in at least 500 copy sales.  And if well-written and well-received by readers, then perhaps 1000 initial copies may be needed.  If the book is well received and also prompts a favorable review or two, and if the topic has a timeless quality about it, then there is the further chance copies will be sought by readers farther afield, over a span of several years.

Since Thordarson and Rock Island were untouched subjects for many years, and then only briefly in magazine articles (summarizing his life with a few photos as space allowed), and since Thordarson's activities cut across so many different areas of interest from inventions to books, noted political figures to businessmen of the day, and since so many people visit Rock Island State Park each year and might have questions about his instinct is that this book about Thordarson and Rock Island may strike a note of keen interest with readers. We'll have to see.  Following one of those bouts of optimism, I ordered 1500 copies. Now it's my challenge to publicize and make this book available to as many people as I possibly can.

To this end, having a captive audience of passengers onboard the ferry KARFI to Rock Island when I work as captain has been a big help, with bookmarks distributed to passengers containing pertinent information about this web address.  It seems to already have produced interest, and a number of resulting advance book orders were made.

So, to those who have already placed your order for Thordarson and Rock Island, I thank you for doing so, and I ask for your continued patience until copies are delivered to me on Washington Island.  I have your mailers addressed, and I will see to it yours are the first copies to be placed in the hands of readers, even before book store orders are filled.  

Your interest, your orders and your patience are very much appreciated.  - Richard Purinton

[The B & W photo above is of the Thordarson gate at the top of the hill, near the tank house, on the way to the lighthouse.  Still in surprisingly good shape considering it has been out continuously in weather since at least the 1940s, it is one of the few wooden structures of Thordarson's to have survived.   This photo is from an album of Daryl Johnson, Washington Island, who worked for the Thordarson's as a young girl of 12 or so, around 1943-44, baby sitting for granddaughter Julie Ann and cooking meals for the family.] 




   A Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association annual meeting was held here Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, with representatives of many of Wisconsin's ports, governmental agencies and professionals who design and build port structures, including dredging. 

The conference ended at noon, Friday, and when I went to the Island Ferry Office I learned that my anticipated book shipment of three pallets had arrived late the previous afternoon.   Our crew had put the books in the steel storage building.   Because one pallet held just four cartons, I placed those boxes on my truck.  On the way home I decided to stop first at Kathleen Dixon's IslandTime bookshop, next to Red Cup Coffee and the Post Office.

There, in front of her store, we opened up one of the boxes.  This was the first time either of us had a chance to see the finished product.  I had expectations and knew what it should look like.  Kathleen had   taken a number of advance orders from customers, but she hadn't seen any of the material, other than my description of its contents.   She hailed Cooper Henkel, who was sitting nearby on the Red Cup porch, to take several photos. 

Small book shops are important for the sale of books of regional interest, I've found, and although I've developed a website that will now permit direct sales by credit card, many local readers and island visitors enjoy browsing and picking up books with a local flavor where they can thumb the cover and scan pages.  Right now, for a few days at least, Kathleen's shop will be the only store handling the book.  When I have more time, in the coming week, this book will become be available at other outlets, including mainland book shops.

Next Saturday, September 21, I'll have a signing party at the Ferry Terminal lobby, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm. 

I should mention that Kathleen is a valuable member of the Island Literary Festival Committee.   She has been a participant with the Key West Literary Festival for many years, and she knows how such an event can be successfully run.  Her knowledge of writers - local, statewide and national - is tremendous.  Naturally, I'm pleased that she mentions my name to her customers.  Many people I've met aboard the Karfi this past summer received book information from Kathleen, along with her recommendation.

So, after several hours Friday spent fulfilling my own backlogged list of customer orders, I have, more or less, two pallets of about 1400 books remaining to be sold.  I expect this to be a long-term process, over several years, maybe.  But we're off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to receiving reader book orders and comments.

       *  *  *                 *  *  *                  *  *  *                *  *  *


                                      READING, ALONG WITH RALPH AND SHARON  - Posted October 13, 2013

I must confess to being skeptical of the term and activity of writers known as "reading," since my invitations previously were to speak before groups with historical interest (at least that's what I believed).  As a consequence, I mostly provided remarks about history, sometimes with historical photos, more to educate than self-promote.

This past weekend, the Washington Island Literary Festival of October 4-5-6 struck me in a new way, and after pursuing writing in earnest for several years, I now believe I've graduated to become a writer, too.  

While I listened to others present information about their material, talk about themselves and their writing process, and listen to them read passages from their books, I thought:  I can do that, but why tell people what they can read on their own time?  Shouldn't I tell them something new, and relate it to something not in my book?  

Well, that is the point of the practice of "reading," and I learned this by listening to others.  When my own turn came Sunday morning at the Rock Island boathouse, the fortress-like structure on the water's edge built by Thordarson in the late 1920s, I, too, tried to combine background and text.  

A part of my reluctance to step out (although this ego has very soft bounds) was in learning just how entertaining it can be listening to other writers talk about and read from their work, without the least embarrassment or self-consciousness.  And it was because they were communicating ideas through words, describing their personal process. The entire weekend was for me, in that way, both a great learning experience and a pleasurable time, getting to know other writers through their presentations.  I don't think I was alone in absorbing those things:  over 80 other attendees enjoyed themselves in similar fashion, whether we were listening to poetry or prose.  

I want to put up a small ad here for Ralph Murre and Sharon Auberle, two serious, dedicated poets from Baileys Harbor.  Both were students of Norbert Blei's Clearing classes.  Ralph started his Little Eagle Press several years ago, specifically to publish poetry, his own and then others.  He is also an accomplished illustrator and graphics designer, as his website demonstrates.  

[And now, this is where my own lack of experience in electronic arts comes to the fore.   I spent over an hour yesterday writing a piece in this very space, but when I clicked on Ralph's website links to copy them, i lost my own work as my screen switched to his website. Consequently, I gave up and had supper instead.]  

Now, try this link!


So, this time I saved what I wrote, and then I copied the link with Ralph Murre's poetry pages, so that you can visit Ralph's site if you wish - and I do hope you will, as there is a "new" recycled poem posted almost daily.  Plus, Ralph also has another - his own poetry site at     Both sites are nicely illustrated with special graphics, sometimes by Ralph's own hand, and other times the artwork is supplied by others.  A tasteful and refreshing way to spend a few minutes each day, reading what others have written.

And, now, that gets me back to the presentations of last Sunday morning in the Rock Island Boathouse.  What a setting!  What a privilege and honor to "read," talk about, and illustrate how Thordarson's life and Rock Island influenced one another...even beyond death, as the story of his ashes indicates.

It was my great pleasure to be there in the Boathouse Sunday morning, along with Ralph and Sharon, and I echo Ralph's words emailed a few days afterward:  

    "Many years ago I walked into that great hall and dreamed of seeing some sort of performance there, but never dared to consider that I'd be in the show."

   -  Richard Purinton       *    *   *    *                      *   *   *  *