October 9, 2012

Author Spotlight - Phyllis Humphrey

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Hi Phyllis, thanks so much for joining us today! Now that we've got you in the Spotlight, we'll get right to the questions.

Well, thank you for having me - Fire away!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

I don't remember ever wanting to be anything but a writer when I grew up.

When was that point in your life that you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?

When I sold my first short story in 1975.

Do you have any ‘rituals’ you go through before you write?

No rituals. I just do what I have to do.

Tell us how you came to write The Green Bough.

The Green Bough is the result of talking to my husband's Aunt Gladys. When she heard I had had a short story published, she told me I should write a story about her first year as a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913. I listened to her story and took notes, but when it came to writing it, I discovered it was too much for a story - it was a book.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) of The Green Bough to write and why?

My favorite part was the funeral because it was unintentionally funny.

How did you come up with the title?

The title came at a writers conference. I met a woman whose name was also Phyllis and she asked if I knew what the name meant. I didn't, and she said, "It means The Green Bough." It seemed appropriate for Aunt Gladys's book so I used it.

What would YOU like your readers to know about this book or you in general?

I like the idea that I told Aunt Gladys's story and so many people like it and pass it on to relatives to read. It makes her seem close again.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

My advice is to write every chance you get. Practice does make perfect and besides every hour involved in telling a story is one in which you inhabit a different world for a little while.

Do you have a favorite author?

I fell in love with Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca as a teenager, and since then I've loved all romantic suspense novels - the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Sandra Brown, and straight mystery, Lawrence Block, John D. McDonald, Dick Francis.

What genre of books do you read for pleasure?

Romantic suspense and mystery.

What’s the most amusing thing that’s every happened to you?

In one of my blog posts (link to that post is here), I tell about meeting a man who called himself the "Acting President of the United States of North America." Seriously.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to act in plays and sing in amateur musicals. I think it's important for writers to get out and interact with other people.

Thanks for joining us today at the Cafe, Phyllis! 

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Green Bough.

The Green Bough
Barnes & Noble

165 pages
Publisher: Criterion House (10-04-11)

Language: English
ISBN-10: 1884162126

ISBN-13: 978-1884162121


In 1913, the year after the Titanic sank and Oregon women got the vote, Gladys Humphrey, daughter of a Portland, Oregon physician, was hired to teach nine children in a one-room schoolhouse at a loggers' camp in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. But as a city girl and fresh out of school herself, she found this experience to be much more than she had bargained for.

First, there was the farm woman with whom she lived, who insisted she clean her room and churn butter in addition to paying for her room and board. Then there was the school clerk who considered her incompetent; the two children, notorious for getting into trouble, who liked to play with dynamite; and a farm hand who attacked her after a New Year's Eve party. Add to that a mysterious "witch" who often hid in the woods and scared everyone, and Gladys found herself putting every ounce of her ingenuity to work.

It was a year of challenges but Gladys met them with pluck, independence and humor, qualities that shaped her performance and reputation even in the big city schools at which she taught later in her career.


The Green Bough is a lovely, true story set in the early 1900's as told to author Phyllis Humphrey by Gladys Humphrey.

Gladys Humphrey is a modern, intelligent, headstrong young girl who has consented to become a teacher, for one year, at the worst elementary school in Oregon. When she'd agreed to become a "schoolmarm" she'd waited too long to make a decision on where she was going to teach, and by the time she was ready to decide, all the "good" schools were taken. But Gladys is determined to prove to her parents that she's a capable adult, so she accepts a position at a logging camp in the foothills of the Cascades. 

Gladys sets out on her grand adventure, leaving her concerned parents behind to travel by passenger train, logging train, then logging wagon to her new school, and the journey is fraught with mishaps and danger.

During the next year, Gladys meets challenges and tragedy with humor, patience, determination and bravery. It's a hard road, but she makes it through the experience gaining a new view on the world. 

This book reminds me very much of Christy by Catherine Marshall, which was one of my favorite books when I was a girl. I enjoyed The Green Bough tremendously. It's a well written, wonderfully descriptive story, and I'm going to give The Green Bough a five-cup review!

 Excellent (A Must Read!)



  1. That is so cool that you wrote a story about your Aunt Gladys. What a lovely tribute. And by reading the blurb, I would never think it was non-fiction. Also, I love the title. It reminds me of the Forest Gump movie where he lived in Greenbow (or Greenbough, I don't know), Alabama, and said it numerous times throughout the film.
    Very nice interview, by the way. Congratulations on the review!

    1. Patti
      Thanks for the comment. Aunt Gladys lived to 101 and was just as sharp as ever.

  2. Great interview! I remember reading the John D. MacDonald books many years ago-it was the Travis McGee series. I thought they were fascinating.

    1. Sonya:

      I, too, loved Travis McGee. Now I read Sue grafton and Patricia Smiley. Thanks.

  3. Hey, Phyllis. How nice of you to pay tribute to your aunt this way. And to all those early teachers who lived in difficult situations coping with stuff we can't immagine. Certainly teachers now days have it rough, but I don't think any of them have to church the butter. :)

    1. Teachers are the unsung heroes of society in my opinion. It's a difficult job which cannot be easily taught, since every student is different. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Congratulations on the five cup review! I bet Aunt Gladys would be very proud of you. Sounds like a delightful book. Can't wait to read it.

    1. Although Aunt Gladys lived to 101, she didn't know about the five-up review. I'm always thrilled when readers like it.

  5. It was really a wonderful story, and I enjoyed the pictures of Gladys and her students, which were included with the book!

    1. Thanks. I'm so glad you liked it. The cover picture is a painting ,made from a snapshot of the school taken by Gladys herself.

  6. Congratulations on your review. The story sounds delightful and I look forward to reading it. My mother was a teacher in a one room school house in the early 1920's even though she had only gone through the 8th grade. In her area, there wasn't a high school so she just kept attending the 8th grade over and over until she took the teacher's exam and passed. She said teachers were expected to clean the school rooms, carry in firewood for the woodburning stove and just about everything in addition to teaching. She taught in a community in rural Arkansas and had to live with a family in that area. She always said she loved teaching but I noted that she didn't teach very long before she married and raised 6 children--of whom I was the tail end.

    1. Shirley Ann:

      Your mother's experience is so much like Aunt Gladys's, except the 8th grade attendance. Gladys taught school for a ong time. fter Huollt, he returned to Portland, took the Normal course and taught in high schools. She did marry but had no children.

    2. Hello and Congratulations to commenter Shirley Ann. Shirley, you've won the copy of The Green Bough! Please contact me at AuthorsCafe@gmail.com so I can get your information. Thank you everyone for commenting and participating in the giveaway!!!


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