Whidbey birder, naturalist debuts first novel

Frances Wood goes from feathers to fiction

Frances Wood

Frances Wood

Frances Wood usually deals in facts, though the names of birds she writes about may occasionally sound farfetched — bushtit, bufflehead, yellow-rumped warbler, to name a few.

Over the years, she’s written several historical books focusing on Langley, Bayview and her family’s summer cottage on South Whidbey.

The Langley resident is probably best known for “Brushed by Feathers: A Year of Birdwatching in the West,” that she wrote and illustrated nearly 15 years ago.

Wood is now giving talks about her first novel, “Becoming Beatrice.” She’ll appear 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Langley Library, 104 Second Street.

Dipping into fiction for the first time, Wood imagined an adventurous life for her great grandmother while penning the young adult historical story that she says all ages may enjoy.

“Although I never met her, I have always been intrigued with the family stories about my adventuresome and feisty great grandmother,” Wood said. “Years ago I wrote the known details of her life but I knew there must be a back story about her determination and spirit that could only be told in fiction.”

Wood’s novel tells the tale of 17-year-old Beatrice Blake leaving California and her mother and fiance in a quest for independence.

Beatrice finds it in the frontier mill town of Snohomish. where she becomes a school teacher. But being on one’s own in a strange town comes at a price, she soon discovers.

She proves unable to control her rowdy school children, the town people accuse her of triggering a lumberman’s death and of bringing smallpox. Her favorite dark cape prompts a rumor that she is a witch.

Of course, a new romance further complicates the young woman’s stressful life. Friendship, racism, multiculturalism, bullying and overcoming personal challenges are other themes in the novel.

Wood’s father and grandfather were both writers.

“I am following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who published several young adult historical fiction novels more than 50 years ago.”

The novel, “Becoming Beatrice,” is for sale at community book stores and online.

Wood will also be appearing at Coupeville and Clinton libraries in March.

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