‘Meet The Author’ with Shirley DicKard
Local author and editor of The Camptonville Courier Shirley DicKard has released her first novel, “Heart Wood.” We snagged a few minutes of time with DicKard and asked her a few questions about her latest book and her life.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Writing a book was never on my bucket list, yet at age 74, I’ve just published my first novel, “Heart Wood.” A registered nurse by profession, I’ve worked in pediatrics, public health and as a traveling school nurse for five local, mountain schools. In years past, I’ve modeled for a leather designer in Italy and delivered babies on the Navajo reservation. I live on a small homestead near the Middle Yuba River with my husband Richard, a retired Nevada City dentist. I’ve been a coordinator of the Nevada County Women’s Writing Salon, and a founding member of The Sierra Muses Press.
What brought you this area?
Four seasons, vibrant arts, interesting restaurants, natural beauty and a good community of people. Back in the ‘70s, my husband and I spent a long time looking for a place to set down roots and raise our family. This area had it all. We’ve been here over 45 years.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always looked for the story in whatever work I did, whether making up stories for my little sisters, developing a family life education curriculum, writing grant proposals for my community, and currently, as editor of The Camptonville Courier. But when I inherited my great-grandmother’s scrapbook from the Gold Rush days, I knew I had to tell her story. That was the seed that grew into my novel, “Heart Wood.”
What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author?
I must confess, right now it’s a long-lost book from my childhood: “Deegie and the Fairy Princess.” I’d given up on ever finding it, couldn’t even remember its name, and though I sometimes grumble about the internet, that’s where I found my beloved book, written by a man who fled the Russian Revolution as an orphan in 1917. It’s one of my most treasured books because it connects me to a part of my childhood I thought I had lost.
What is your book about?
Heart Wood – Four women, for the Earth, for the future.
Deep within the heartwood of a small oak writing desk is a legacy that mysteriously connects three family women, each writing a century apart (past, present and future), yet timelessly connected by the family desk. Each woman sees man’s destruction of the natural world through the eyes of her time. “Heart Wood” speaks of women’s collective power to protect the Earth they love and of three generations of women who reach through time to support each other in doing what must be done.
What inspired you to write this book?
It started as a tribute to my great-grandmother Emily Hoppin, who ran a farm near Woodland, and was known for her eloquent writing and speeches. In 1915, she was elected president of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs and used her influence for protecting California’s women, families and natural resources. I felt a kinship with her and my story grew into a conversation between her life and mine as a back-to-the-lander in the 1970s. Then one night I was visited by the future in the form of an apparition of my great-granddaughter. She told me she is living the future world we are creating today and must be part of our story.
What do you find most challenging about writing a book?
After working on the novel for ten years, then independently publishing it, I thought my challenges were over. Hardly. Now, in addition to marketing, I am revising my website (shirleydickard.com) to include all the historical documents and links to resources I used in writing. My blog will continue with current news of concerns I covered in “Heart Wood,” ie: decreasing fertility, increasing food intolerances, over-use of technology and monitoring, human greed, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all plans for book launches, but the Sierra Muses Press will reschedule, featuring “From Cowgirl to Congress” by Mila Johansen, and “Heart Wood.” Stay tuned.
What is your key takeaway or message you hope readers find in your book?
In “Heart Wood,” the ancient wise woman Shima’a sent this wisdom to the future: Listen to the silence; hold the earth in your hands; gather the women; then do what must be done. I hope readers will be attuned to the intuitive voice found from spending time in silence, and that we learn to understand that what we do – and don’t do – matters to the future. Pay attention, for more and more, it is the women who are leading us from the heart – and that is how the earth will survive. As one reader wrote: “May ‘Heart Wood’ be the acorn that enlightens us all to act.”
Where can people find your book?
Support our independent bookstores! At this point, “Heart Wood” can be found or ordered through our local Nevada County bookstores, on Amazon and indiebound.com. For signed copies, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please describe what you’d consider your own perfect day.
A leisurely cup of steaming dark roast coffee, a few hours of solitary writing, endless time in my homestead garden, walking the trails with my husband and McNab border collie, chatting with daughters and neighbors, writing on a collaborative book project with granddaughter, dinner from the garden with my husband’s homemade bread and a glass of red wine, then reading until my eyes droop, and snuggling under our down comforter.
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