Enterprise author earns WILLA Award

Paul Wahl

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on September 20, 2017 9:22AM

Wallowa County Chieftain

When Eileen Thiel published her book “Seasons Silently Waiting” in 2016, winning an award was the furthest thing from her mind.

She learned recently that her work is to receive a Women Writing the West, 2017 WILLA Award for nonfiction.

The organization is a group of writers who set their work in the West, based in Colorado. The nonprofit supports authors and other professionals in promoting the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West.

The book is a memoir of Thiel’s first 10 years of marriage in rural Idaho.

“I was raised in California, so the move to the farm was culture shock,” Thiel said. “The book includes some of the more unusual incidents from that time and the things I had to learn.”

She originally intended her writing as a legacy for her family, but it became a book of discovery.

“It was my way of understanding why I did what I did,” she said.

Thiel, of Enterprise, had volunteered with Firstrap for a number of years and learned how to write by attending classes there.

“We’re so excited for Eileen and happy that she was recognized by WILLA for “Seasons Silently Waiting,” an honor she very much deserves,” said Shannon McNerney, executive director of Fishtrap. “Eileen has been a part of the Fishtrap community for many years as a featured Fireside reader and a past recipient of a Summer Fishtrap Fellowship.”

Thiel has shared her love for writing with her granddaughters. One of them, Jai Soots, served as technical coordinator for Thiel’s self-publishing effort. She designed the cover and helped format the pages.

“I’m so proud of her,” Soots said of her grandmother.

It’s rare for a self-published book to win a WILLA liteary award, according to Doris Baker, 2017 awards chair.

“‘Seasons Silently Waiting’ was judged against books from established publishing houses and was name one of two finalists,” Baker said. “Although her book is not the only self-published book to win a WILLA Award, she and her work are to be celebrated for this high achievement.”

Part of the self-publishing process is promoting and selling the product. Thiel said sales have been going well. The book is in its fourth printing for a total of roughly 500 copies. Shortly she expects to begin a sales push into La Grande and Union County.

The WILLA Award will be presented at the Women Writing the West Conference in Tuscon, Ariz., in late October. Thiel will also have the opportunity to read from her book for those gathered for the conference.


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