My parents moved my sisters and I from the large city of Santa Clara, California to the rural town of Hillsboro, Oregon. I remember the first day, the 'new kid' in school, and how scared I was, then my teacher opened up a novel and began to read aloud to the class. The Runaway Stallion was a story about a boy who was being bullied, because he was a little different, unsure of himself, and an easy target, but one day he stood up to face his adversaries. To this day, The Runaway Stallion has been one of my favorite novels.
An unforgettable moment in my life was when I got to met the author. The school librarian knew how much I loved the Walt Morey books, and since he lived in the area, she invited him to come talk to our school. At the school assembly somehow I found the courage to stand up and tell him how much I enjoyed his books, and asked him which one was his favorite. Of course, he gave the standard answer, "They're all my favorite." Then he asked me which one was my favorite. I replied, "Scrub Dog of Alaska;" another coming of age story about a young boy and his scamp of a dog, who have an unbreakable bond, just how I felt about my dog. My favorite Walt Morey books are the ones with dogs, as I have a special place in my heart for canine friends, because they love unconditionally, and without judgment. A continuing theme is his stories not only revolves around animals, but his love and respect for nature.
A few years later, I met him again, after he wrote what would be his final novel, Death Walk. He autographed the book for me, and I asked him, "Why don't you ever write about girls?"
He told me, "I do write about girls. Much of the woman in my stories are based on my mother."
"No, I mean, why are the heroes always boys?"
He smiled. "I know about boys and how they feel and how they think, I don't know anything about girls."
"We're really not that much different from boys," I huffed.
Then he gave me some sage advise, "Then write your own story where the girl is the heroine. Write what you know and draw from your own personal experiences." He held up one of his books. "My stories are based on my own life experiences. You know the story The Runaway Stallion?"
I nodded, remembering back to that first day in school in the fourth grade at Witch Hazel Elementary. "One of my favorites," I stated plainly.
"The story really happened. My parents did own that little country store and the bridge really did collapse, pieces of the bridge and bodies in the water, one of the worst things I ever seen in my life, but the town came together to rescue the survivors, and then we built a better, stronger bridge."
I stopped to ponder what he said. At the time, I must admit not publicly, but privately, I wanted to write. Then he looked me in the eyes, "The best advice I can give you is tell an exciting story and keep it simple."
To this day, I continue to love all Walt Morey stories.
Walt Morey (1907-1992): Author Gentle Ben, Home Is The North, Scrub Dog of Alaska, Year of the Black Pony, Angry Waters, Gloomy Gus, Kavik the Wolf Dog,The Runaway Stallion, Canyon Winter, Run Far, Run Fast, Deep Trouble, Sandy and the Rock Star, The Lemon Meringue Dog, Death Walk