Former Santa Barbara Writers Conference short story winner Marcy Luikart knew she was going to need to conduct some serious research about rowing when she devised the plot for her newly published historical novel River Braids (Sea Hill Press 2013).
“My book was about the 1904 Olympics rowing team, and I needed to know what I was talking about,” Luikart said.
Luikart called Mike Homes, coach of UCSB’s women’s varsity rowing team, and asked if she could come out and row with them.
“If you’re going to write about rowing, you better know what you’re doing,” Luikart said.
Homes offered Luikart a place in a boat during training and, from there, Luikart “took to the oars.”
At 2 p.m. Sunday at Granada Books at 1224 State St., UCSB women’s crew members Morgan Bachus and McKenna Lux and eight others will be on hand with Luikart to explain the sport of rowing and the novel River Braids. Young adults, teens and adults with an interest in rowing and team sports are encouraged to attend.
Rowing is valued as a true team sport because eight people are in a boat and expected to row hard and to their best, with no intervention from a coach during races. During the 2012-13 school year, the UCSB women’s rowing team excelled, so much so that they made it to the nationals.
Luikart’s novel River Braids is a five-star reviewed “Huck Finn like” tale inspired by a trip Luikart, her husband and brother-in-law took on a homemade raft down the Mississippi River.
“Along the way, we stopped at a bar that used to be an old rowing boat club. When I came home, I wanted to write a story about it. The only old rowing photos I could find were from the 1904 Olympics or what was then called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair)," Luikart said. "When I started researching, I discovered that American Indians were not allowed to participate in the Olympics. My novel came from that discovery.”
River Braids weaves together the riveting tale of contemporary Sonny Barton’s search for the truth behind his grandfather, Joe Barton’s, once-promising career as a 1904 Olympic rower and Joe Barton’s life as an Olympic-hopeful rower of Native American descent. Sparked by an altered photograph, Sonny’s search reminds readers that a “captured” moment in time rarely tells the whole story.
Luikart’s creative pursuits extend beyond the written word. She’s also an oil painter and a fiddler.
“I walked into Folk Mote Music one day and bought a student fiddle," she said. "Then, I went off to a music festival and my fiddling has gone on from there.”
In addition to her novel, Luikart’s short stories have been published in literary magazines throughout the nation, including The Iconoclast, Bellowing Ark, Pangolin Papers, Beginnings, QWF and the Connecticut Review.
Luikart is the owner of the local Monarch Office Services and lives with her husband, Ralph, and miniature poodle, Casey, in Santa Barbara.
— Nancy Shobe is a publicist representing Marcy Luikart.