Category: Wander In

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Big city: small world

My reading in New York City had just ended and I was signing books at the sidewalk tables out front. A young man approached: “Are you Lori Tobias?” For an instant, I stared at him, nearly speechless. I am used to people approaching me on the Oregon Coast with that question. But let’s face it, the Oregon Coast is essentially a 363-mile-long small town and my mug has been plastered in newspapers around here for more than a decade. But big city, anonymous New York?

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Back to the Big Apple

“Start spreading the news.

I’m leaving today.

I want to be a part of it

New York, New York ….”


OK, so I’m not leaving today, more like 10 days from today. But if all goes as planned, I will soon be getting on that big jet plane, flying to my family in PA and then hopping on the train to Penn Station. I’ve got a room at the Washington Square Hotel where Hemingway once stayed.

I’ve been set for this trip for months, and yet I’ve been convinced that the very reason for it would ultimately be canceled. The invite to read at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village came in March, but even as the date grew close, there was no mention of my reading on the website schedule. I told myself either way, it would be OK. This is, after all, New York.

The trip comes with all kinds of emotions, excitement, a bit of nerves, wonder … but I’m also having a terrific time tripping down memory lane.

It was 1988.

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Author and Journalist Lori Tobias is ready to Wander

“Wander,” the debut novel by Oregon Coast Today columnist and former Oregonian staff writer Lori Tobias, opens with a tantalizing hint of what is to follow:

“In our little village of Wrassell, in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, we saw all kinds of prizes beckoning on the horizon, and we couldn’t wait to get there… By the time that winter was over, three of us would be dead, another forever lost, and all of us changed.”

The novel is set against the backdrop of an unforgiving Alaskan winter, and the story deals with love and heart-wrenching loss.

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Review by The Oregonian

Alaska provides setting for Oregon author’s tale of love and loss

(Author photo: Chan Christiansen; book cover, Red Hen Press)
By Amy Wang | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM, updated August 21, 2016 at 11:01 AM

Winter in Alaska is not for the faint of heart, as the narrator of Lori Tobias’ new novel, “Wander,” well knows. So it’s with many a misgiving that the young radio reporter, who goes by Pete, sees her bush pilot husband take off from their rural town for a season of chasing paychecks on “the Slope,” as the oil fields of northern Alaska are known.

Lonely at home and still striving to prove herself at work, Pete is in an emotionally vulnerable spot when she meets the new guy in town, Ren, a son of the Ivy League who offers a tantalizing glimpse at a different sort of life. What she doesn’t know about him is that Alaska isn’t his destination: It’s his escape.

“Wander” (Red Hen Press, 152 pages, $15.95) is a compact but fully packed story, a simple but heartbreaking tale of a woman caught to her dismay between two very different men in a harsh landscape. It’s told with sharp, spot-on dialogue and efficient characterizations – unsurprisingly, given that Tobias once wrote for The Oregonian and the Rocky Mountain News.

Tobias, who lives on the Oregon coast, will read from her book at several coastal events:

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A new chapter

As I write this, I am on the cusp of my birthday. A big year for me. My book is to ship on that day, as well. It’s my dream, that magical, mystical moment I’ve been envisioning for nearly my entire life. It’s taken a long time to get here, but I have no doubt it has come at precisely the moment it was meant to.

And yet, what should have been one of the best seasons of my life has, in fact, been pretty rough. In the past months, I’ve gotten myself so stressed I’ve made myself physically ill. To the point of several doctors’ visits, one unexpected emergency procedure and several tests at the hospital. And guess what? I’m fine. It seems I’ve just been such a bundle of stress, my body rebelled. But some good, much good, actually, did come of it. Knowing I had to overcome my fear of public speaking, I did what any seasoned journalist would do, I went into research mode. And I learned plenty.

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Wander, Coming Soon

My dad was a storyteller. I didn’t think of him that way when he was alive, but after he died all my best memories of Toby were of him sitting at the table or on the front porch or with buddies at the local tavern telling a story. Usually it ended in laughter – he loved to tell my hubs stories about me, like the time I went for my first bra, a 28AAA, and told the clerk, “I’ll need a bigger size next time.”
Sometimes, too, it would be one of those tales that left him shaking his head over some inexplicable woe he just didn’t understand.
My mom didn’t tell stories so much, but every morning before she went to work, she left notes for me and my sister written in longhand, usually on a yellow legal pad. In them, she would tell us what to cook for dinner or to take care of some household chore. Often, they’d be accompanied by a few bucks for a cold soda or ice cream. Once after she’d grounded me for the entire summer, she wrote, “And please tell Lori to behave. She knows I hate to punish her.” The grounding lasted two days.
Between my dad’s verbal tales and mom’s written notes, it seems natural now that I would become a writer. I asked for my first diary at 11, started a journal at 14, wrote my first poem the same year, and at 16, asked not for a car but a typewriter, and received a yellow Smith Corona in a brown plastic zippered case. I already had the portable my mom’s boss had given her when he retired. It was a Remington Noiseless Model Seven and came with it’s own carrying case. It was – and still is – missing the M key. I’d been banging around on it since I was 5.
Writing for me was never a choice. It just is and always has been what I do. I think it may very well be how I cope with life, how I process it, make sense of it. And I love it, but damn, it is a hard way to make a living.

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