Sally the House

Last week, my guest on Tuesday was Bodie Parkhurst, author of the it-just-gets-better-every-chapter GOOD ON PAPER. I send her some interview questions based on her biography, and her answers were so satisfyingly complete I decided to post them separately.

Here is her biography again:

Bodie Parkhurst is a writer, artist, and designer. She lives in a Craftsman worker’s cottage named Betty in the empty half of Oregon with the House Leroy, her son Patrick, two formerly-feral Hawaiian cats, and a ghost named Jesús. She has a Master’s degree in English with a minor in Art, got through college by driving a truck and working in a dairy, and believes that no experience in life should be wasted.If nothing else, it provides plot material. She provides cover design typesetting, and print coordination services to various small presses, and self-publishers.

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1. I’m fascinated with Storybook Style architecture, which came out of the Craftsman Style. Did you choose the house because of its architecture? Why did you name it? Why Betty?

Did I choose the house because of its architecture? No. In fact, when I saw it in the real estate listings it made so little impression I didn’t even put it on the list of houses I wanted to see. I had just lost about everything in the Great Mold Incident, and had to move, and move fast. I made plans to spend one day house hunting. I took along an old friend who has built many, many houses. His job was to play devil’s advocate, since I tend to fall in love with every house I see.

When we drove up my friend said, “This one has possibilities.” The porch looked flimsy to me, but there was just something about it. I got up to the front door and, as I waited for the realtor to open it, I had the strongest feeling that I was coming home. My friend proved his worth by looking at things like the heating and air conditioning, the foundation, the wiring and plumbing, and things like that. Then he said, “Of all the houses we’ve seen, I think this one would serve you best.” It wasn’t the one I “liked” best. It wasn’t even the prettiest house. But at the time my major concern was that I have a solid, reliable, dry house. I took his advice, and I’ve never regretted it. The charm of the house has only really become evident as we’ve been able to strip away the modifications of years and find the house’s good bones again.

The house named herself. In our first year, my son put dish soap rather than dishwasher detergent into the dishwasher, and ended up flooding the kitchen. We pulled up flooring that dated back to the original burlap/oilcloth/tarred-down floor covering. Under all that mess (there were about two inches of layered flooring) was the original hardwood floor. The House Leroy stripped it down and refinished it and it was lovely. A month later a pipe broke under the house. I was bemoaning the moistness of my foundations to a friend when she told me, “You seem to have a lot of water disasters. Have you considered talking to your house, telling it that you’re fixing it up as fast as you can, and asking it to just be a bit patient?

I decided I’d give it a try. So I’m sitting in my living room, thinking warm and loving thoughts about how my house has done its job well for nearly 100 years, and how grateful I am to have it, when I think, “What’s your name?” I’m not even quite sure where it came from.

“Betty,” came the answer.

“Betty? Are you sure?” I asked. “I’ve never really liked that name.” I swear, there was this stiff, offended silence. I know when I”m beaten. “Okay, you’re Betty. That’s a nice name,” I said.

And Betty my house was, and is. True story: since that conversation there hasn’t been another water disaster.

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From Bodie Parkhurst’s wonderful blog, where she shares news about her writing, her life, her projects, her printing house (Magic Dog Press) and her family recipes:

Good On PaperGood on Paper

by Bodie Parkhurst
EAN 9781449586478
Publication date: May 2010
Book reviews

Review copy

Buy a book today
Available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions

Published by Magic Dog Press at CreateSpace

WRITING PROMPT: Name your main character’s dwelling.


p.s. I’m posting as always on Tuesdays, at Fatal Foodies today and, as always on the 21st of the month, at The Write Type.


I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Sally the House

  1. Bodie P

    December 21, 2010 at 11:42am

    I saw my house in your post and realized all over again how pretty Betty is. Now she’ll all covered with Christmas lights and snow, and looking very festive.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 21, 2010 at 12:28pm

      BETTY? And here I’ve been telling everybody her name was Sally! Sally must be my house.

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  2. Bodie P

    December 21, 2010 at 7:05pm

    Well, maybe Sally’s her nickname–unless your house wants to be Sally.

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  3. Pat Marinelli

    December 22, 2010 at 11:49am

    This makes perfect sense to me. I knew the minute we walked into this house it was our home. We’ve been here 41 years.

    I think I will try talking to it now that I’ve read about Betty.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 22, 2010 at 12:45pm

      Pat, I’ve known that to happen to people. We built the house we live in now, but I have to say I knew when we walked the land that THIS was where I wanted us to build. 🙂

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  4. Bodie P

    December 22, 2010 at 5:02pm

    You should, Pat–it’s amazing how it changes one’s perspective. Our houses do an amazing thing for us, and by and large most of them do it pretty well, with remarkably little return. I came away from that conversation feeling less like an “owner” and more like a “caretaker.” It’s my responsibility to take care of Betty so that when our time together is over she can go to a new family at her bright and shining best.

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  5. Bodie P

    December 24, 2010 at 12:32am

    And all around the world that day before Christmas Eve, houses revealed their true names to their inhabitants. It was either an early Christmas miracle or a late Solstice miracle, but everyone agreed it was pretty cool. And to all a good night.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 24, 2010 at 9:08am

      Lucky for me, Sally is a lot more easy-going than Betty. I’m like, “Do you want me to vacuum and dust today?” and she’s all like, “Whatevs.” No wonder I love her!

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  6. Bodie P

    December 24, 2010 at 3:07pm

    That’s funny. Sally sounds like a charmer. Betty gets her knickers in a twist if things start to head too far south around here. But we lurrrrve her for it. And let’s face it–when you get to a certain age keeping yourself up becomes what beauty was in your youth. Sally’s still a young thing; she can get away with grunge. Betty needs the girdle, and the lipstick, and the stockings, and the pearl earrings.

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