The Rogue Valley is home to more than its fair share of writers. Some were born here, but many were drawn to the region by its inspiring landscape, mild climate and support for the arts.
"I would say this is one of the top 10 places in the world for writers," says mystery author Robert Arellano, who lives in Talent. "There's the natural beauty, of course, but there is also a lot of support."
An Edgar Award nominee for his noir novel "Havana Lunar," Arellano says local residents celebrate reading and writing.
"I feel like as soon as I came here I was embraced by readers as well as other writers," he says.
With strong community participation in writing groups, open-mic poetry readings and organizations such as the Chautauqua Poets and Writers, which brings acclaimed writers to the valley for readings and workshops, it's no wonder that literary types flock to the region.
Lawson Inada, Oregon's former poet laureate, has lived in the valley since 1966 and currently makes his home in Medford.
The winner of the American Book Award for his collection "Legends From Camp," Inada says the region is a wonderful place to be a writer.
"There are great bookstores, Shakespeare and people who love poetry all over the Rogue Valley," he says. "It's a fine place to write and to enjoy the works of other writers."
Many of the writers who have made the Rogue Valley their home over the years are themselves examples of the extreme variety that enriches the valley.
Here are just a few notable literary talents, past and present.
Vladimir Nabokov and his wife, Vera, spent the summer of 1953 in a rented house in Ashland where he finished his novel "Lolita," a controversial work that is frequently cited as one of the most important novels of the 20th century. Among the places Humbert Humbert takes Lolita in their trips across America is "blue, blue Crater Lake." He also wrote poetry, including "Lines Written in Oregon," a poem that makes clear his enchantment with the natural beauty of the area.
Con Sellers may be best known as the author of the novel "Dallas" that spawned the CBS nighttime soap opera hit, which he wrote under the pseudonym Lee Raintree. He was a prolific author of pulp novels, with a particular gift for two-fisted, tough-guy fiction. In a 1978 interview, Sellers told the Mail Tribune that he sold more than 220 different books and stories under 44 or 45 different names. He loved the valley, where he lived for nearly 25 years, teaching creative writing students at Rogue Community College and raising show horses on his 60-acre ranch in Grants Pass. Sellers once referred to his ranch as his "place in the sun." He and his wife lived there until his death at age 69 in 1992.
Ashland novelist Dean Ing, a former engineer, amateur inventor and bestselling author of more than 75 high-tech thrillers such as "The Ransom of Black Stealth One" and "Cathouse," favors characters who use their scientific know-how to solve problems, save the world and get the girl. He stayed in the Rogue Valley in part to be far from the primary targets of nuclear annihilation. Ing's books reflect a certain Rogue Valley spirit, featuring independent-minded people who aren't afraid to ask questions and who will fight to the death to save their friends from flying robot assassins.
Johnny Gruelle created both the Raggedy Ann doll and the sweet cartoon illustrations about her. At the peak of his career he found himself in need of some rest, so Gruelle and his family left their Midwest home to visit a friend in Jackson County. The fresh climate and breathtaking scenery revived Gruelle's spirit and helped him create some of his most notable work. Gruelle was known for his fanciful nature and belief in magic, which was reflected in the whimsical renderings and drawings he created during a year and a half spent in Ashland.
Zane Grey, a writer of popular Western fiction, including the best-selling "Riders of the Purple Sage," was also an inveterate angler. He first visited Oregon in 1919 to fish the waters of the Rogue River. Grey returned to the Rogue throughout the 1920s, which inspired his "Tales of Fresh Water Fishing" and the novel "Rogue River Feud." His fishing cabin at Winkle Bar, in the lower Rogue River canyon, is now a historical preserve.
P.K. Hallinan is a writer and illustrator of more than 80 children's books filled with rhythm, rhyme and life lessons about kindness and love. He and his wife have lived in their home near Mount Ashland for 21 years. They came from San Diego, Calif., to the Rogue Valley for a change of scenery and to enjoy the seasons.
"It's inspiring here," says Hallinan. "The whole area is an incredible environment for doing what I do.
"It is very peaceful; as a writer, I need that. I can sit in my office and look out on the Colestin Valley, appreciate the breathtaking beauty," he says.
"Squirting Ringworm Taco" is the title of a poem crafted by K. Silem Mohammad, professor of English and writing at Southern Oregon University. Mohammad experiments with revolutionary poetry forms such as flarf, which is composed of words plucked from random Internet search results. Author of several poetry collections, including "Deer Head Nation" and "The Front," Mohammad says he is delighted by the talented students he's encountered at SOU as well the people who support poetry.
"I'm proud of the small but steady local community of writers who keep new writing alive throughout the valley," he says.
Nature writer and illustrator Irene Brady has lived in the woods near Wagner Creek for nearly 40 years. The creator of dozens of books on wildlife and ecology, including "America's Horses and Ponies" and "Illustrating Nature," Brady says she can't imagine living anywhere else.
"This lovely area, with its forests and rivers and decent climate, definitely does inspire me. I'm here for the long haul, and not planning to leave this delightful area," she says.
Dori Appel is the author of 18 full-length plays, including "Hot Flashes," "Girl Talk" and "Hat Tricks," all published by Samuel French, as well as several shorts and monologues. She was a recipient of the Oregon Book Award in Drama in 1998, 1999 and 2001, as well as a number of other national and regional awards. She moved from Boston to Ashland in 1979 and credits the support of the literary and creative community with some of her success.
"What has happened to me here as a writer would not have happened in Boston," she says. "There were lots of small theaters here, and people were very welcoming."
Vella Munn has written more than 20 romance novels and works of historical fiction such as "Soul of the Sacred Earth" and "Touch a Wild Heart." Many of her novels have outdoor adventure themes and reflect the rugged beauty of the Rogue Valley.
"The majority of my stories have country or small-town settings," she says. "I'm more comfortable in the mountains than in town and my characters reflect that.
"I've lived in the valley for 45-plus years," she adds. "Being close to the mountains and rivers feeds my soul."
Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.