Writing for My Life

    The Second Sex, by Simone De Beauvoir got me thinking about women’s roles in society. I wasn't burning my bra in the streets, but questioned whether I wanted marriage and children.
    As Isabella Bird so famously said, If" you want to be a vine around a tree, then marry.”
    When I turned 18 I returned to California to attend college in Los Angeles. Once again, I didn’t fit in. The drug -culture was in full swing, and I found getting stoned boring. I put myself through college selling real estate. I earned a degree in English Literature and graduated exhausted and disillusioned with the materialistic society I was living in. I dropped out of society and landed on the North Shore of Kauai to think about it all and test my writing ability.
    It was here that I met the heroine of my first novel, Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai’i. Ka’ahumanu, the favorite wife (out of 32) of Kamehameha the Great, is a controversial character in Hawaiian history. She was a childless bride who became his confident and companion. When he died he bestowed upon her the power to rule with his son. She was a magnificent athlete, brave, passionate, and caring, dubbed the “Mother of the People”. She embodied the empowered, self-actualized woman that I so admired and wanted to become. 
    Publishing Wai-nani was a monumental step forward in my writing life. I had to be brave like Ka’ahumanu and lift the dragon’s tail of fear from my path. It meant taking the risk of failure and possible rebuke from Hawaiian scholars. It moved me towards personal liberation and believing in myself as a writer. It required taking responsibility for having a voice and becoming part of the “Long Conversation”.
    I returned to California where I supported my eating habit by selling real estate. I took up horseback riding and ended up hook line and sinker into the sport. My mare was my best friend. We rode the hills and dales around our barn entered jumping events and became a team. One day while riding her I felt a tingle in my lower back. The next day I was down for the count with a herniated disk. I was forced to give up my Gingersnap and the riding world. 
    The nerve pain was mind-bending, but the thought of losing my mare and the horse world I was so invested in was devastating. I couldn’t sit for any length of time, so I stood at my breakfast bar to write The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Being engaged in writing the story took my attention away from the nagging sciatic pain in my legs.
    My protagonist does everything I ever wanted to do on a horse. She even rides solo on the Pacific Crest Trail which was a dream of mine. There she meets a lone cowboy who is a fire lookout. Rugged, yet sophisticated, caring, and a good cook he is my fantasy guy. There is also an environmental message about not disturbing the natural world that became important to me when I was growing up in Alaska. So, writing this story helped me let go of Ginger and allowed me to give voice to things I care about.
    Eventually, I healed. I put the love of horseback riding, writing, and travel into play as a travel writer. For the past couple of decades, I have enjoyed traveling around the globe hosted by various outfitters. My writing has taken me where I needed to go.
    When the pandemic set in for the kill my travel wings were clipped. At first, I was angry about not being able to continue the life I loved, but once again my writing saved my life. Isabella Bird was an intrepid, Victorian Age explorer who ventured to parts of the world where they had never seen a white woman. I had long admired her pluck and writing skills. I determined to fictionalize her life and times in Hawai’i and Colorado. The result, Embrace of the Wild, was featured on the BBC docuseries, "Trailblazers" that aired in the U.K. in 2022. Writing this book got me through two years of isolation, and brought wonderful new exposure to my work.
    In retrospect, I see how my writing has been my coping mechanism, a means of fulfillment, and a form of self-actualization.  Lost Angel Unleashed, the third book in my Lost Angel Travel Trilogy, released in 2023 is a travel memoir. I share my lonesome beginnings with humor along with some of my favorite travel memories. I think it is a wrap, but you never know, I may need to write one more book to stay alive.
   I live in the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California where I enjoy the tranquility and the beauty of nature all around me. I believe that nature can be out salvation.

Linda Ballou was honored to be selected to be the” Isabella Bird Expert” in the BBC docuseries Trailblazers. She was interviewed in Estes Park by Emily Atack, Ruby Wax, and Melanie (Spice Girl) Brown the actresses re-enacting Isabella's adventures in Colorado in 1873. The interview took place at the Bird & Jim Restaurant in Estes Park named after Ms. Bird and her romantic interest Rocky Mountain Jim.

My writing is not just a rewarding creative expression that some would consider an indulgence. It was my way of sorting out who I was, a healing mechanism and a way to cope with the challenges that came my way. At the tender age of thirteen, I was rudely uprooted and transplanted in Haines, Alaska, a tiny town at the top of the Inside Passage. I remember our excitement at seeing a Mama Moose with a calf clomping across the road that runs through the Chilkat River Valley when we arrived at our new home. The river valley teeming with wildlife remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on the planet.
    Still, I was the new girl in town and plainly out of step with my peers. I turned to books in my isolation. I began to journal to help me deal with my loneliness. Reading,