"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

ARTISTS UPDATE: 4 who keep on creating

By on December 28, 2017 in Arts with 0 Comments

The Sleeping Lady Wildflowers — 23 inches high and 33 inches wide — was painted in the field between March and August 2015 while Heather Murphy followed the wildflower bloom from the valley floor to the high country. Copyright Heather A. Wallis Murphy 2015

By Susan Lagsdin

Each new year we like to look into past issues for few local artists who’ve been introduced to you, just to see what’s been going on.

This year we hit a treasure trove. A LOT has been happening in their lives.

Take a look at this update on creative naturalist Heather Wallis Murphy, the very theatrical Maussers (John and his daughter Tiffany) and recently-published author Matthew Sullivan.


…and always there are the birds

It’s been four years since we interviewed artist Heather Murphy Wallis at her home in Leavenworth.

The initial The Good Life article tried to capture her passion for the natural world and her inimitable skill in sharing it on the page.

Heather painting the wildflowers. Photo by Heidi Paul

Back then we wrote:

It started very simply in 1997 with cardstock copies from her desk printer of a double page of flowers. She sent that remembrance to a friend with a very good eye for art, as well as ties to the Sleeping Lady gift shop, and success there led to Heather’s regular and far-reaching card business.

Years of the small spiral-bound notebooks, her life’s journals jampacked with sketches and notes, are displayed in her home studio high above East Leavenworth Road.

She’s gathered together early “coffee break” sketches from her work years, and scenes from hundreds of hikes and walks catching the essence of high mountain lakes, blossoms, and brambles, Scottish scenes (from three visits over 15 years) that honor her parents’ ancestry and myriad views large and small: a Cascade horizon at sunset, a vast river valley, a pine twig, a seedpod, three iris…

What’s new? Plenty.

First, let’s look at the numbers: Since 2013 Heather has created 17 Wildtales Journals (140 pages each of paintings, sketches, field notes and writings.)

Her company, Walleye Cards, published 1,000 each of four different designs of Birder’s/Botanist’s Pocket-sized Journals, a total of 4,000 journals. (Then she personally filled 18 of them with birding data and field sketches of birds or plants).

Heather has also kept volunteering for non-profits. She monitors birds in the Fish Lake, Lake Wenatchee, Meadow Creek and White River areas and with her husband leads birding trips.

In 2013 she accepted a group award in Washington D.C. from Environment for the Americas on behalf of a grass-roots consortium of conservation organizations, and she works every month with Last Tuesday’s Artists through Icicle Creek Center for the Arts.

And, always in the interest of observing and recording the lives and habitats of birds, in the last four years she’s traveled in this country: (Stehekin, Mount Rainier, the San Juans, Idaho, Lake Erie, Hawaii. And she has gone afar, to Mexico, Costa Rica, Ireland, Austria. (This year her personal eight-week challenge after a broken wrist was learning to write and draw with her left hand, which, of course she did very well.)

What’s next?

She is considering publishing a left-handed birder’s journal, will lead a birding trip in Ireland, and is working hard on improving her writing in preparation for a full-length book.

Heather Murphy Wallis is unlikely to run out of steam, or creative choices, as long as there are birds and paper.

New directions, and a new stage of life

In 2015, The Good Life interviewed John and Tiffany Mausser, the dynamic duo of community theater, a long-time father and daughter directing team.

John Mausser and his daughter, smiling here at Tiffany’s wedding last summer, are heading in new directions personally but hope to direct and act in many more shows together.

We wrote:

“It’s great to have two directors,” John said, “One of us can be working with a small scene in the foyer while the other is blocking a crowd scene on stage.” “Or,” added Tiffany, “I can choreograph while he’s doing scene work.”

Or, any way you look at it (even if you hear it in stereo) two minds and bodies working with a large cast are better than one. Or, teamwork saves time.

You’ve probably seen Tiffany and John on stage — acting, singing, and dancing in Leavenworth Music Theater, Mission Creek Theater and Riverside Theater… The dynamic duo started early — when Tiffany was still high school in 2001, John, a math teacher who’d done some acting, took over directing drama at Cascade High School (where he staged Children of Eden and 15 other plays) and eventually asked his daughter to co-direct two plays with him…

It’s been three years since that story. Time has passed, lives have changed, and they still enjoy any opportunity to work together.

Tiffany became president of Music Theatre of Wenatchee in 2016 and John, also on the board, oversees the care and use of technical equipment and manages storage in general at Riverside Playhouse.

John directed Boeing Boeing and Rumors, and Tiffany acted in both of those, and they performed together for the first time in several years in the Apple Blossom musical Mary Poppins.

Summers have been equally busy, between taking roles in Hot August Nights productions at the PAC and working on different Leavenworth Summer Theater plays —Tiffany directing and John acting.

A first for the team will be co-directing the 2018 Apple Blossom Musical, Guys and Dolls at the Numerica PAC. Tiffany said they are thrilled because that’s always been a favorite show with “comedy, romance, dancing, catchy tunes, and classic Broadway style.”

Not enough responsibility? Here’s more: John will design and build the set (no small feat on the PAC stage), and Tiffany will choreograph the dance numbers.

Life for the Mausser clan isn’t all rehearsals and showtime. (Or is it?) John’s wife, Jan, will join him in retirement in January, and they hope to enjoy more time to travel and work on their home in Plain — in between plays.

This past September Tiffany was married to Wenatchee native David Belmont, who she met last year during the production Children of Eden. And, as ever, the father and daughter team looks forward every season to another opening of another show…

Bright ideas get even brighter

Matthew Sullivan was deep in throes of revising his about-to-be-published novel when — in 2015 — The Good Life caught up with him in between the first yes and the actual printing, a long and winding road.

Matthew Sullivan: Sharing his experience at a Write On The River event.

We wrote:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore had been sent around, set aside, rewritten, re-rewritten and finally picked up by Scribner eight years later. It is aimed at publication in 2016.

The big prize, the gold ring, his first published full-length novel to hit the shelves, is just within reach.

Now starts the hard work … He rewrites, re-envisions, reconfigures.

He said, “I’m whittling it, streamlining it; it’s more compact and fast-paced now. Sometimes my agent has to remind me ‘Matthew, it’s still your book.’”

The end result — the title on the shelf, possible film options, professional promotion and tours — he figures will take a full year from the date the manuscript is totally finished.

Not discouraged, he’s in for the long haul. Matthew’s a disciplined writer, he knows the marketplace, and at 45 he may just be hitting his stride.

Well, Matthew did indeed hit his stride.

The hardback book was published in June 2017 with good reviews, it’s on bookstore shelves, it’s been translated for the European market and — a coup for any contemporary writer — it comes out in paperback this month.

This past year, Matthew also learned first-hand the difference between “writer” and “author.”

“As a writer,” he said, “I tend to hole up and prowl around in solitude, but as an author I’ve had to be much more public… working with translators and writing blurbs.”

The solitude and struggle at the computer was lightened by traveling last summer to bookstores for promotional readings, which he and his family of four turned into vacation trips here and in England and Ireland.

The most meaningful part of all this has been the appreciation from not just friends and family, but also “old classmates, students and fellow staff members at Big Ben Community College, people in the grocery store and the post office.”

He said, “I’ve had a lot of strangers around the country (and a few around the world) email me with notes of encouragement.”

Matthew continues to share his love of writing at Write On the River events and with his BBCC students.

And he’s at it again — now he’s hard at work on another mystery about the murder of a young woman in a rural town in Central Washington.

Of course, he’s characteristically serious and intent upon its quality, but when asked about the plot of his newest novel he quipped, “No Country for Old Men meets Little House on the Prairie?”

About the Author

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