Author Archives: lindacollison

About lindacollison

Linda Collison is the author of the acclaimed historical novel STAR-CROSSED (Knopf; 2006) which led to the sequel, Surgeon's Mate; book two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series (Fireship Press). She is also a writer of magazine articles, essays, literary fiction and poetry. With her husband Bob Russell she co-authored two guidebooks: Rocky Mountain Wineries; a guide to the wayside vineyards, and Colorado Kids; a statewide family outdoor adventure guide (Pruett Publishing). . Linda has received awards from Honolulu Magazine and Southwest Writers Workshop. In 1996 she was awarded the Grand Prize from the Maui Writers Conference for her fiction. Star-Crossed, her first novel, published by Knopf, was chosen by the New York Public Library to be among the BOOKS FOR THE TEEN AGE -- 2007. Star-Crossed was the inspiration for Surgeon’s Mate; book two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series.


Walking through the words

How we write: Reflections on writing, walking, and words.

I write to discover and I walk to explore. Walking, I’ve found, helps me see things in a new way. Walking generates ideas. Today, Easter Sunday, 2017, I walked with my smart phone and recorded thoughts and observations along with snapshots of what inspired them.

Cairn: a stack of stones purposefully arranged like words in a sentence; a signpost marking the way when the trail is obscure or non-existent. Writer’s block: No trail, no compass, no cairn to guide. Or worse, complacency — no reason to explore.

You can write the truth but you can’t write the whole truth. The very act of writing is one of exclusion, choosing one word over another. A word is an X-Acto knife eliminating the possibility of all other words in that particular place. Sometimes its hard to write because of this exclusion, this leaving behind feels like forgetting. By choosing to tell this story this way, I’ve aborted countless others. Yet if I don’t write, nothing is born, nothing remains. I grieve for the world’s lost memories and all the unborn stories.


Each sentence we write, each paragraph, re-creates a past, one of many pasts, saving it from oblivion. But saving it for whom?

Back home, it’s time to start dinner. I’ll put the ideas I’ve collected in a vase of water in hopes of preserving them. Maybe I can work them into a story, an essay, a poem, later tonight…  But I know they won’t last forever, which makes them even more beautiful somehow.  — Linda Collison 4/16/2017




We Are Pirates

Daniel Handler captures me with barbed sentences followed by a boarder’s slashing and stabbing, and then the takeover is complete. I am in shock, bleeding on the deck. “You got me, Handler, damn you.”  I die a little death.

We Are Pirates is about an American family. This smart, irreverently funny contemporary family story goes slowly adrift, becomes chaotic, disturbing and ultimately sad, like adolescence itself when adulthood is at last discovered for what it is, too late. I can’t go back to my innocent self,  I can only forget the past or change the memory and plunder on.

Piracy is an act of desperation that irrevocably changes life, strips it to bare bones. There is no going back. Like a successful pirate Handler has broken the rules, run up the black flag and taken over the ship. And I willingly went along. There’s no treasure to be found here, but the glint of recognition and the hope of redemption. Nothing to do but keep sailing.

Breathtaking, bloodletting literary fiction by the author known for the Lemony Snicket series.

Coming of Age in Apache America


It’s a cold March night in the high desert mountains of the Apacheria. The young Chihenne Victorio prepares for his fourth dihoke mission, the final apprenticeship he must complete to become an Apache warrior. Victorio has just returned from four days and nights on the Sacred Mountain where in a vision he has seen White Painted Woman in the form of an eagle, he has heard her scream.  The young man breaks fast with a single morsel of dried deer meat. He quenches his thirst through a hollow reed so that his lips would not be weakened by contact with the life-giving water.  Like Child of the Water, the first Apache man born of White Painted Woman, young Victorio dares to ask Lightning for power. In the years that follow, he becomes a leader of his people and fights for their way of life.



Twenty years later, Victorio’s younger sister Lozen dresses for her four-day dihoke rites, the most sacred of Apache ceremonies. Lozen slips into a doeskin dress painted by her own mother’s hand with meaningful symbols,  the sun, moon, and stars. The dress has been blessed by the di-yin, it possess great power. While wearing it Lozen shares the attributes of White Painted Woman, Mother of all Apaches. While wearing it she will reenact her first menses and impregnation, through movement and dance. The ceremony will involve four runs symbolizing the four stages of life and four nights of sacred dancing. There will be a great feast but Lozen can only drink through a hollow reed to keep her lips from touching water.  For the next four nights Lozen, who had begun to bleed, is the embodiment of White Painted Woman.


What Lozen becomes as she matures, is something much different. She never marries, she never takes on the traditional female role. Instead, Lozen becomes a Warrior Woman and rides with the men, using her God given power to locate the enemy through upturned palms.

Victorio and Lozen were two Chihenne Apache adolescents who came of age in the 1800’s in what is now the state of New Mexico. Warm Springs was their homeland.


Victorio died in Mexico, on October 10, 1880 at Tres Castillos, Mexico, in a massacre that killed seventy-eight Apaches, and took captive the remaining women and children. His sister Lozen died a prisoner of war, in Mobile, Alabama. She was about fifty years old.





Coming of age is a critical time in a person’s life. Although maturation takes years, it is often realized in single moment, as if a threshold has been crossed. If a society does not test its youth, its youth will test themselves through means of their own. A right-of-passage ceremony should be something more than a party and a pretty dress. More than a night at the bars when we turn 21. Bar and Bat Mitzahs? Rumspringa? Quinceanera? How do we mark that passage in 21st century America?





China’s Mother Road

…”You see,” says Li… “We want to live. Right now we are just shengcun. We are just surviving. We want to shenghuo. We want to live! You know? We want to really live!”  — from China Road pg. 193 Random House trade paperback ed.

China Road; A Journey into the future of a Rising Power, is a fascinating and illuminating travel memoir by NPR correspondent Rob Gifford.  Gifford, who has spent years studying and reporting from China, takes the ultimate Chinese road trip, 3000 miles along Route 312 from Shanghai on the Pacific Coast, west to the border with Kazakhstan. Along the way he engages a cross section of inhabitants, including servers and patrons at Shanghai Hooters, Amway reps in the Gobi, cave dwellers and Tibetan monks, truckers and taxi drivers, prostitutes and karaoke hostesses, yurt dwellers and Christian church ladies…

Although the subtitle suggests a political bent, the book’s focus is much more personal and anecdotal, which makes it immensely readable. The author strikes up conversations with ordinary Chinese, Tibetan, and Uighur people he meets on his journey (It helps that he is fluid in Mandarin). It’s not so much a journey into “the future of a rising power” as a journey through present day China with glimpses into the past and many disturbing questions about the future.

Five thousand years of history is daunting. Gifford interweaves historical references concisely, along with statistics, here and there. (Did you know China has the highest rate of  female suicide in the world?) What comes through most is the author’s curiosity about the people he has spent so much time among — as a student, as a news correspondent, and as a traveler. Less disdainful and opinionated than Theroux (and more current), breezier than Peter Hessler, Rob Gifford writes with understanding, humor and curiosity for his subject — the people of modern day China.


“So what is your dream?” I ask Ren.

“My dream is to be like you,” he says…

— from China Road.















Adventures in reading: Stories from Nagovisi

A Red Woman Was Crying 

A Red Woman Was Crying by Don Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled upon this collection of linked short stories at a bookstore in Hilo and was immediately absorbed in the Nagovisi way of life and the glimpses of human nature we share. Through the perspective of various narrators the author explores his experience as an anthropologist in the South Pacific Island of Bougainville during the Vietnam era. As such, these short stories form a fictional memoir. Don Mitchell writes with an anthropologist’s eyes and ears, and a writer’s heart. A Red Woman Was Crying is compelling, enduring literary fiction. I highly recommend it!

View all my reviews

A Red Woman Was Crying; Stories from Nagovis by Don Mitchell on Indiebound