November 20, 2011

Greetings from the “Other” Washington, the Evergreen State on the Pacific Coast and Heidi Thomas

When I moved from Montana to Mount Vernon in northwest Washington 15 years ago, I was amazed at the fact that lawns truly DO stay green all winter long and often the weeds continue to grow! We do pay a price for our green—yes, it rains a lot here, especially in the winter. But when the sun does shine, this is truly one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Geographically, Washington is two different states. The eastern part of the state, where Spokane is located, is more arid, gets more snow and cold in the winter and hotter temperatures in the summer. It is premier farming country. Across the Cascade mountains, on my side, the climate is milder all year round. If it gets into the teens during the winter, it’s considered very cold. We don’t always get snow here. Sometimes in the summer it will hit 90, but that’s rare, especially this year. We’ve experienced one of the coolest summers on record.
The Skagit (rhymes with gadget) Valley where I live is still primarily farm country, raising more than 90 crops, including berries, tulips, specialty potatoes, apples, vineyards, and vegetable seeds.
We are home to the annual month-long Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April, which draws an estimated 300,000 visitors from all over the world, and exports tulip bulbs world-wide, even to Holland. A funny story is that a woman ordered special tulip bulbs from Holland, waited and waited, and they didn’t come. She enlisted the help of a newspaper columnist who looked into consumer issues. He called the Dutch company who apologized profusely, explaining that they were waiting for their shipment from Skagit County, Washington!
The Skagit Valley has the best of two worlds: it is situated between the Puget Sound of the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Cascade Mountains. So visitors and residents can fish, whale-watch, kayak, and hike within a 25-mile drive in either direction. We are midway between Seattle and Vancouver, BC on the I-5 corridor.
Historically, western Washington’s industry was logging and lumber. It is home to native American tribes: Swinomish, Upper Skagit, and Samish Indian Nation.
The Skagit Valley is a big supporter of the arts, with many galleries, museums, arts festivals, book clubs and writers’ organizations. I belong to the Skagit Valley Writers League, which has been in continuous existence since 1958.
I have nurtured my writing here and often when I need to refresh my soul or work out a story problem, a walk in the woods or an afternoon sitting by the water is just the ticket.
I began my writing career in journalism, but later turned to fiction and have two novels published in my “Dare to Dream” series: Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream, both based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos during the 1920s and ’30s in Montana. Cowgirl Dreams is an EPIC (Electronic Publishing Internet Coalition) award winner and Follow the Dream has just received the national WILLA Literary Award from the Women Writing the West organization. Named for Pulitzer Prize winner, Willa Cather, the award was given in the Young Adult/Children’s Fiction and NonFiction category. My books are suitable for both adult and young adult readers.
In addition to writing, I am a freelance editor and belong to the Northwest Independent  Editors Guild, and I teach community classes in memoir and beginning fiction writing. My website is and I blog at
(Picture credits: of Heidi M. Thomas and


  1. Heidi, I've never been to Washington. The pictures helped a lot for me to visualize it. A place with rain instead of snow in the winter sounds like a great place to live. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, I thought I "knew" what Washington State was like, but I didn't at all. Lots of great info! Cool that you were able to use your grandmother's life in a book!

  3. I've flown over Washington, but never visited. You offer much incentive for a visit.

  4. I went to Washington for a brief visit but only along the coast. I enjoyed reading about the tulips. You truly can learn something new every day. Thanks so much for sharing.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  5. Heidi, a great description of Washington--and wonderful photographs too! Thanks for the treat of reading about the state where I spend time when I'm not in Idaho!

  6. Great post! Wish I could travel west more often.

  7. Washington is one of the more beautiful of our 50 states. Your descriptions only gave it more beauty. I didn't know about the tulips, funny story. Now I wonder if the ones I brought back from Holland many years ago, actually came from Washington. Congratulations on your awards and lots of luck with your writing.


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