Well, ah declayuh! Island belle writes a book

Keen-eyed observer of island life, Sally Robison’s columns are an island memoir. Sally Robison is the island’s Southern belle about town. For eight years, she has been the “Permanent Guest” on the pages of the Bainbridge Island Review, sharing her views on local comings and goings with a keen eye and affable wit. She has attained status as a well-known permanent fixture on the island.

  • Wednesday, October 5, 2005 8:00pm
  • News

Sally Robison and dog about town Drake in the author’s Winslow home office.

Keen-eyed observer of island life, Sally Robison’s columns are an island memoir.

Sally Robison is the island’s Southern belle about town.

For eight years, she has been the “Permanent Guest” on the pages of the Bainbridge Island Review, sharing her views on local comings and goings with a keen eye and affable wit.

She has attained status as a well-known permanent fixture on the island.

“I’m always surprised when people say they read my column,” said Robison, a native of Mississippi. “I think the reason people say that is because they’re accustomed to having sort of a gossip column (in their newspaper).”

Robison has bundled new and old columns into a pair of books titled “A Permanent Guest’s Illustrated Guide to Bainbridge Island.” Book one covers winter and spring, while book two embraces summer and fall. They are replete with Robison’s drawings, which capture the essence of the individual columns.

Some of Robison’s art will be for sale at her publication party, which will be held on Friday at the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery.

Readers enjoy Robison’s folksy blend of memoir and Bainbridge affairs. They look forward to more stories about Great Aunt Bessie, Great-Grandmother Hattie Griffin and the celebrations and other recollections of Robison’s youth, which punctuate her musings on everything from napping on the ferry – what her mother referred to as “falling across the bed for a few minutes” – to the importance of front porches in new housing developments.

Some essays deal with humorous issues – fruitcakes, gardens, dogs and such – while others are bittersweet, such as the tributes to friends who have died.

“I just walk around and observe and talk to people,” she said. “There’s a lot of child in me.”

The fact that she writes about everyday life makes Robison easy to relate to, which is her goal. She delights in sharing stories about her husband, Merrill, and is not averse to sharing her own trials and tribulations, such as dealing with “floral wars,” being a “pore speller” and suffering Thanksgiving anxiety.

Former Review editor Jack Swanson is responsible for bringing Robison into the limelight, telling her to write a weekly column.

“She has a very Southern patrician wit that shows through in her writing. (It’s) the kind that you read in Faulkner and other Southern writers,” Swanson said.

“She conveys that with very graphic word pictures of her early life in the South and applies those lessons to contemporary issues on Bainbridge Island.”

“There’s nothing like fanning the embers of a writer,” Robison said. “After a year, they started paying me – not much. I was on a mission to explain what was happening (around us).”

She has made a lot of people mad more than once. In one column she mulled: “Why don’t developers have an ear for things that mean something? Instead of (naming a street) ‘Deer Run,’ it should be ‘Run Deer Run.’”

Swanson is impressed by Robison’s lively discourse.

“She touches a note in all us Bainbridge Islanders,” he said. “We are a melting pot.”

Robison concurs, explaining she is a magnet for the people who have come to Bainbridge from other places.

“All these stories…wonderful stories of where they are from and what they bring here,” she said. “They come and they’re happy and they want to get involved.”

Before moving to Washington, Robison published two juvenile novels and short stories.

“I married Merrill – it was a whirlwind. We traveled a lot and I kept writing,” she said.

The Robisons moved to Bainbridge from Seattle in 1979. Merrill Robison, a retired executive, was a City Council member in Winslow, “so we immediately got involved with things,” Sally Robison said. “I was so involved in Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, but nobody seemed to care about the art.”

Once Robison started writing her column, she was “blasted out” for her opinions about local government.

“When the City Council was really bad, I loved tweaking them, but I don’t have much to work with now,” she said. “I think there’s really hope (for Bainbridge). I’m open to new ideas. I see what good planning can do and I’m supporting that.”

Robison never sits idle. She paints, plays bridge, has a writing group and enjoys her passel of grandchildren. Computer graphics is another of her passions, as is living on Bainbridge.

“I have a farm in northern Mississippi that’s been left to me – soybeans and cotton. I have a lot of old friends and relatives….(but) politically, I could never live there,” she said, adding that folks tell her she lives in Eden.

Robison doesn’t argue that point. She has grown fond of the island and feels more permanent than guest.

“I love to have things to think about and write about,” she said. “I always have material.”

* * * * *

Guest speaker

The “publication party, glorious celebration and kissing, hugging book-signing” for Sally Robison’s latest books, “A Permanent Guest’s Illustrated Guide to Bainbridge Island,” Book One and Book Two will be held from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 7 at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery.

The books include articles that have appeared in the Bainbridge Island Review, as well as new pieces and drawings. Some of Robinson’s illustrations will be for sale. To order copies of the books, email sallymerrill@comcast.net.

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