I’m delighted to introduce Neva Andrews – a published author whose own life reads like fiction!
Where did you grow up? I was born in a tarpaper shack in a small farming community on the edge of the Sevier Desert in Utah. By the time I was old enough to remember anything, the family had moved onto a small farm with a two-room farmhouse with two large screened in porches. The six of us, my parents, three older brothers, and myself, lived there until I was ten years old when we moved to a farm in southern Idaho.
What are some memories you have of that area? That’s a dangerous question to ask an old woman. In Utah, we had no flowers or trees or grass around out house. Greasewood grew in our front yard. The soil was too alkali even for sagebrush. Mother had a large garden out away from the house where it could be irrigated from the ditch water as the fields were. Besides raising all our vegetables, she always had some zinnias and marigolds.
Although I had to help my mother in the house part of the time, I much preferred to be outside, riding the horse or tagging my brother around, herding the cows, discovering where the birds hid their nests, or whatever other adventures he thought up. I felt really proud when my brother had to help in the field and Dad entrusted me with herding the cows.
What an a mazing image – a young girl herding great big cows! What’s a favorite memory from that time? One of my favorites was the day my dad entrusted me with a pocket full of matches and let me help burn weeds.
Often I heard from my brothers, “You’re not old enough, and besides, you’re a girl.” That day, my dad thought I was old enough, and it was so exciting to strike a match, set a pile of weeds on fire, then pick up a burning forkful and run with it to another pile of tumble weeds. I ended up with singed arm hair and eyebrows, but I didn’t mind. I was old enough!
Did life change much when you moved to Idaho? I was 10 years old when we moved to a farm in southern Idaho. I continued to help my mother and learn to cook and keep house, but now I got to drive work horses on farm machinery.
One of my favorite jobs was mowing hay with a horse-drawn mower. On a fine day in early June, I saw a dark cloud rising in the west. “That looks pretty bad,” I thought. So I kicked the mower out of gear and began unhitching the team. I barely got them unhitched and headed toward the barn when the storm raged upon us. When hail started pelting us, they began to go faster than I could run, so I dropped the lines and dove into an abandoned hog house to wait out the hail. After the storm, I found my team sheltered up on the east side of a grove of trees.
Wow! That must have been pretty scary. And it’s amazing presence of mind for a child. What activities did you family like to do together? One day Dad decided to take us all on a picnic on the horse-drawn hay wagon. We put together a picnic lunch and drove out into the sagebrush south of our farm. After lunch, Dad drove on south. We knew the Snake River was out there somewhere. He parked a little way from the canyon and we walked over to the edge and looked down on two beautiful blue lakes. They lay in the bottom of the Snake River Canyon between Jerome and Twin Falls. It was our first sight of Blue Lakes, and although many people had seen them before, I felt like an early explorer who had discovered Blue Lakes for the first time.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Probably, when I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a cowboy! By 6th or 7th grade, I realized that would never happen, so I decided to be a teacher.
What brought you to Minnesota? My daughter invited me to move here to be closer to her. That was two years ago. Besides my grandchildren and great grandchildren here in Minnesota, I have four sons and four grandchildren in Colorado.
What do you love about living in Minnesota? What are you not particularly fond of living here? I love being surrounded by family with scads of great grandchildren to enjoy. I love the lakes, and getting a canoe ride about once a year with a grandson. I love the trees and getting to know wildlife that is knew to me. I’m not particularly fond of a winter that doesn’t stop by April.
Me neither! (I’d rather it stopped in February.) Tell us about your writing journey. When I was in 6th grade, we studied World History. For our final exam, the teacher gave us the choice of taking the test or writing about what we had learned through the year. I chose to write a travelogue, telling about the people, events, products, etc. as I traveled to the different countries. I had no idea how much work it would be. I sat night after night and wrote with a pencil by the light of a kerosene lamp. It was my first writing assignment with a deadline. When I got my paper back with an “A+ Very Good,” I decided I should write, although I still planned to be a teacher.
About that time, I started entering the American Legion Writing Contest. One year I took second in the county and second at State. In high school, I enjoyed writing the one page essays we were assigned in English class. For one of my classes I wrote a ranch romance which garnered another A+. I began dabbling at writing poetry, a writing form I never perfected.
It wasn’t until my late husband and I retired from 45 years of working with Wycliffe Bible Translators that I began to try to write for publication. I took a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature, submitted a few stories and articles to magazines, had several of my horse experiences published in a regional farm-ranch magazine, and wrote feature stories for the local newspaper. About this same time I began attending a writers’ conference each year. I also wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper for two or three years.
I have written and done assisted self-publishing of four middle grade fiction books. My main character, Jo Barkley, does many of the things I used to do plus things I was never able to do or dared to do. If you’d like to know more about my books, go to www.jobarkley.com.
What is a lesson you’ve learned during that journey? I learned that writing regularly really helps to keep the creativity flowing.
Has anything surprised you along the way? That I could write material people actually enjoyed reading!
Tell us about your current work. I am currently working on a YA/Adult novel taking my character, Jo Barkley, into adulthood. It’s set on the home front during the 1940s when World War II is raging. Women were not admitted to the main events in pro-rodeo at that time. The unique twist in this story is that Jo disguises herself as a young man and enters pro-rodeo as a team roper to try to earn money to buy the ranch she’s always dreamed of.
Oh, yes, there is a bit of romance as she becomes engaged just before her boy friend goes off to war. Will he return?
We’ll have to read it to find out! What are your future plans and goals around writing? I really don’t have plans beyond my current project, Driven by a Dream. I am 87 years old and looking forward to more time to get to know my great grandchildren. As I am able, I would like to find ways to promote my books on the internet.
What is something you’d like to experience in Minnesota that you haven’t yet? I would like to see more loons and hear their varied calls. So far I have only seen one, and that was not a good sighting.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? Except for people in a few small towns in Colorado, most people don’t know that I’m a published author.
If you’d like to know more about Neva and her books, check out her website at www.jobarkley.com. You’ll find many more stories about Neva’s life growing up on the farm, riding horses, living as a missionary, and a whole host of amazing adventures.