Chance of Sun reads like an honest love story to the state of Oregon.
Kim Cooper Findling’s memoir is a beautifully drawn map of her own journey, starting with a Rogue River backpacking trip in 1975, when she was five. But it’s also a stirring depiction of what it’s like to be an Oregonian.
In Chance of Sun, Kim recounts what it was like to grow up in North Bend, a city on the Oregon coast, and the choices she made as she progressed toward adulthood. The short, linked essays are surprising, resonant and deeply moving.
Many people who call Oregon home are from elsewhere, which makes Kim’s book even more important to the cultural landscape. It was published in 2011 by Nestucca Spit Press, run by prolific author and editor Matt Love. Matt has received accolades for his nonfiction books on Oregon history. His Seven Questions interview includes his perspective on Kim’s amazing memoir and why he chose to publish it.
“Kim is an entirely fresh (and welcome) voice for Oregon, and her memoir of growing up in Oregon in the 70s and 80s is completely novel in its perspective,” he wrote.
A chapter of Chance of Sun won the 2011 Oregon Quarterly Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest. The book is available directly through Nestucca Spit Press, at several indie bookstores in Oregon and through Amazon as an ebook. Upcoming readings include an appearance at Klindt’s Books in The Dalles, Oregon, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 14, and an evening event at Nature of Words in Bend, Oregon, on Aug. 30.
Kim is the editor of Central Oregon Magazine and the Central Oregon ambassador for Travel Oregon’s Ask Oregon program. She writes and edits for magazines and professional organizations, and she teaches writing workshops.
Welcome to the Seven Questions series, Kim!
1. Tell us about your memoir, Chance of Sun.
Chance of Sun is a coming of age story set in Oregon. The story is a meditation on nature, love, and search for self, with a significant dark twist. Much of the narrative takes place in the small towns and woods of Oregon, but the story’s climax is in Portland, where I became caught up in the wild life for a while in my 20s. It didn’t go well (she says drily). Matt Love says my book is about finding myself, losing myself, and finding myself again, all in relationship to my connection to Oregon.
2. How did writing about your life change your view of what it means to be an Oregonian? Any epiphanies about the state or its impact on your identity?
Oh, wow. I didn’t think I could fall deeper in love with Oregon, and yet this book made me do so. I had underestimated, or perhaps just hadn’t properly considered, the value of my small-town Oregon childhood. (As I’ve joked, I never thought my fabulous Coos County upbringing would get me a book deal.) What has been most wonderful about this process is the opportunity to chronicle the details of growing up in rural Oregon in the ’70s and ’80s and then connect with people who shared these same experiences. Here we were, all along, kind of under the radar, thinking our stories didn’t amount to much. Through this book as vehicle, I’ve met so many small-town kids (not just from Oregon—my story is not exclusive), and realized how real and cool and funny and awesome they are. We have much to celebrate, not discount, about our simple, quirky upbringings. It’s an amazing thing to have people approach me and say “you wrote my story” or “your book feels like home.” My sister describes it as “finding your people.” And it’s finding my people all over again that made me fall in love with Oregon even more.
3. Matt Love is an important chronicler of Oregon history. What was it like working with Nestucca Spit Press and adding your personal story to Matt’s impressive collection of nonfiction about the state?
It was amazing and fantastic. Matt is such a champion of Oregon and its people and their adventures. He is also a great teacher who is passionate about authentic stories told well with really great writing. Working with him was invigorating, personal, motivating, empowering and daunting—he demands excellence. I loved every minute of it. Well, when I wasn’t sobbing over the keyboard.
4. You’ve also written a travel book, Day Trips from Portland: Getaway Ideas For The Local Traveler. Is travel writing as fun as it seems? What was the hardest part?
I’ve been travel writing for over a decade and sometimes marvel at how I got so lucky. It IS fun. It is also work. I’ve passed many a vacation with my head stuck in a notebook (or these days, taking notes and photos with my iPhone. Just yesterday, on a bike ride at Black Butte Ranch, my five-year-old said, “Mom, leave your phone be!”) The hardest part of Day Trips was completing the project by deadline, which was a mere nine weeks after I signed the contract! Very empowering to learn that I can actually write 70,000 edited words in 63 days, as well as keep the children alive and not lose my mind (much).
5. What was one of the most unusual or memorable places you visited as part of your Day Trips research?
Given that nine-week time crunch, you won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t go anywhere while I was writing Day Trips except to my home office, wearing my pajamas. Luckily I’d been traveling Oregon for 40 years and writing about it for 10 and had plenty draw upon. But the process did serve to remind me of so many awesome Oregon places. I took the kids to the Enchanted Forest last summer, hit the Oregon Country Fair for the first time since college, toured the historic Columbia River Highway, and will revisit Astoria this summer. What an amazing state we live in!
6. Kim, you write and edit professionally for various magazines and organizations. How did you get started in the business? Do you have advice for aspiring freelance writers?
Sometimes even I forget how much rejection and persistence this route required. But I wanted it. That’s my advice—if you really want it, keep at it. I quit my job in 2000 and dove in to querying, pitching and submitting. Eventually, it worked. More advice—read, write, listen and observe as much as humanly possible.
7. You’re currently working on a novel and a memoir. What are they about, and how do you balance working on two big projects?
The novel is about an Oregon girl who runs away from summer camp. The memoir is, loosely, about love, death, motherhood and laughing until you pee your pants. Having two very different projects enables me to manipulate my innate, Libra-born inability to settle on anything for very long. When I’m working on nonfiction, I want to write fiction, and vice versa. In this way, hopefully, I lurch along forward towards a completed project.