methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Marry or Burn
The short stories of Valerie Trueblood

Author Valerie Trueblood lives every other month in the Methow on property she and her husband have co-owned with friends for 20 years.

Author Valerie Trueblood lives and writes part-time in the Methow Valley. “This is my hermitage,” said Trueblood. “I do a lot of my work here.“ She said she’s glad to be in the valley now, at the best time of year: “It’s the most beautiful.”

Counterpoint Press in Berkeley published Trueblood’s newest book, ‘Marry or Burn’, last year. The book holds 12 short stories beginning with one entitled ‘Amends’ about a woman, Francie, who is living her life in jail. Here’s how she got there:

“When she was twenty, Francie Madden shot and killed her husband Gary. He had joined the Seattle police force six months before, and she shot him with his service revolver. She aimed at his shoulder as he had shown her with the human silhouette at target practice, but she hit his neck and blew out an inch of the carotid artery.

Gary had roughed her up in the two years of their marriage, but this was not unusual in either of their families . . .”

Trueblood wrote non-fiction for many years - essays, news stories and columns about new books of poetry. Another point of focus was investigative reporting on accidents involving nuclear weapons - not detonations, but mishaps during storage, overhaul and transport.

Valerie Trueblood's latest book of short stories explores the dynamic nature of modern marriage.
Trueblood's first book follows the seven major relationships in one woman's life.

Connecting with people involved in tough situations has informed Trueblood’s writing. In Chicago, she served as a caseworker for the Department of Public Aid. In Washington D.C. she was a librarian. She worked in a soup kitchen in Seattle’s University District for 25 years.

For several years she took a Spanish conversation class from a teacher who was also a prison chaplain. “We talked a lot about her prison work,” Trueblood said, “and we learned a lot about prison from her.”

Laughing, Trueblood explains that communications in Spanish weren’t always perfectly clear. She said if some details in the first short story of her new book seem strange, it could be because her understanding of Spanish was lacking.

In 2006, Little Brown and Company published Trueblood’s first book, ‘Seven Loves’, which one admiring reviewer called a “novel-in-stories”. Trueblood says that she is at heart a short-story writer. She’s clearly good at it: Barnes and Noble bookstore picked her for their “Discover Great New Writers” program on the basis of that first book, which tells about the loves in one woman’s life including her son, a lover, her mother and her nursing home attendant, among others.

She has been a contributing editor to the American Poetry Review for many years, as well as writing essays and reviews for the Iowa Review and the Seattle Weekly.

She’s not the only author in their cabin on the Twisp River. Her husband, Richard Rapport, is a neurosurgeon who has written two books: Nerve Endings: the Discovery of the Synapse, and Physician: The Life of Paul Besson.

Trueblood was born in Virginia and went to school in New England. After living several places in the United States, she and Rapport settled in the Pacific Northwest in 1973 when Rapport took a surgical residency at the University of Washington. He has now retired from Group Health Hospital but still works half-time for the University of Washington, at Harborview Hospital.

Twenty years ago, says Trueblood, a Seattle neighbor walked across the street to propose “buying land in the Methow together, and we said ‘yes’”. They came to visit the valley and ended up buying the Twisp River property which they have held in common with Mac Shelton and Frauke Rynd since 1991.

The two couples shared the cabin on the land until Shelton and Rynd decided to become permanent residents and built their own house. Rapport and Trueblood spend every other month in the cabin now, where Valerie Trueblood writes.