Allison's Book Bag

A Letter Changed Author Rosanne Parry’s Life

Posted on: March 27, 2014

The book I’m reviewing this weekend is Written in Stone by Rosanne Perry. It’s about the Quinault and Makah Indians, two Pacific Northwest tribes whose background I’ll cover tomorrow in a post. Parry spent her first years as a teacher in Washington on the Quinault Indian Reservation. The bio blurb on the back of Written in Stone says:

There she learned to love the taste of alder-smoked, blueback salmon, the wind and the cold mists of the rain forest, the sounds of the ocean and the eagles, and the rhythm of a life that revolved around not the clock and the calendar, but the cycle of the salmon running up the river and returning to the ocean. The writer she became had everything to do with the people she came to cherish and the land between the Pacific and the Olympic Mountains where stories seemed to grow out of the earth all around her, tall and sturdy as cedars.

On Saturday, I’ll review her novel which was inspired by those experiences. Save the dates: March 28-29!

Parry was born in Illinois and lived just a few miles from the childhood home of famous author Ernest Hemingway. When Parry turned five, her family moved to Oregon. Parry has also lived in other states such as Arizona and Washington. She also made a temporary home in Germany, moving there just as the Berlin Wall was coming down.

Her large childhood family included six siblings. One brother and sister were twins. Her grandfather from Berlin also lived with the family. He lived to be 96 years old.

Growing up, Parry’s favorite job was being a summer camp counselor. She also liked to play with violin, but couldn’t throw a Frisbee. Now her favorite job is being a writer. She also enjoys many outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, skiing, and going to the beach. Of course, Parry also likes to read. Some of her more unusual interests are juggling and riding a unicycle.


RosannePerryParry shares with Literary Rambles that her road to publication was more long than bumpy. She started seriously writing when her three children were under the age of six. Parry’s plan was to take the time she had at home with her children to develop her writing. If she wasn’t getting anywhere by the time her youngest started school, she’d set the writing aside and go back to teaching—another profession which she loves.

Two weeks after her fourth child had started kindergarten, Parry got a check in the mail from Oregon Literary Arts for almost a thousand dollars. It was a fellowship to help Parry finish her work in progress. That was a life-changing letter. A Parry got an agent and, within a year, sold her first novel.

For Parry, one of her favorite things about being a children’s writer is the friends she has made. Under Ten Things to Know About Me, Parry states that she feels blessed with an amazing community of writers in Oregon.

Parry’s critique group has been instrumental in keeping her novels authentic. One example she gave Literary Rambles involves her book Second Fiddle. Writing it required Parry to have knowledge of Paris, but she has only been to Paris once. Among her critique group, however, were members who had lived in Paris as a high school exchange student, a college exchange student, the child of a diplomat, and a street performer. The group helped her understand how far a person could walk in a day, and which parts of the city would feel safe, and what kind of reaction they would get from typical Parisians.

Authenticity is equally important in books such as Written in Stone, which I’ll review here on Saturday, and is set in the 1920s. Parry tells Literary Rambles that sometimes the simplest things proved the hardest to check. For example, you’d think train schedules and fares would be easy, but apparently nobody keeps out of date travel guides. Parry had to look in the archive of a travel book company. Her list for one historical novel amounted to more than 60 sources.

One interesting anecdote I found while researching Parry involves social media, with which she isn’t comfortable with. Her novel Second Fiddle features a character who plays a violin. She teamed up with another author who had written about music too. They invited the Metro Youth Symphony to come to a local bookstore and play with them. Parry explains to Literary Rambles: “They played a little Mozart. Liz read her book and talked about researching the life of Wolfgang Mozart’s big sister. Then the kids played Pachelbel’s Canon, which is a piece of music my girls are working on in the book. I read a little from Second Fiddle. The musicians and I chatted a bit about the fun of making music with friends. And then we handed out kazoos so everyone could play.”

Parry now lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in Portland, Oregon. They have four children and three chickens. They also raise fruit and sometimes their voices in song.

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