Days of Future Past


Mont Chumbley with Eastern Airlines Chair, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Let the countdown begin! Eighteen days until the release of “River of January: Figure Eight.” Watch for book talks in your area! Visit

The River Runs in November


My friends, book two, “River of January: Figure Eight,” is on it’s way. The book will officially launch November 1st, with public presentations in Idaho and Washington.

Catch “Figure Eight”in the following locations . . .

November 2, 2016: The McCall Library in McCall, Idaho, 218 E Park St, McCall, ID · (208) 634-5522 at 7pm

November 3, 2016: Aunties Book Store, 402 W. Main Ave. Spokane, WA 99201. (509)838-0206, 7pm

November 13, 2016: Garden Valley Library, 85 Old Crouch Rd. Garden Valley, ID 83622  (208)462-3317, 3:30pm

November 15, 2016: Eagle Public Library, 100 N Stierman Way, Eagle, Idaho 8361 (208) 939-6814, 7pm

Get ready to complete the saga of Helen and Chum in “River of January: Figure Eight.”



Gail Chumbley is the author of the two volume, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight,” out in November.

Volume one is available at and on Kindle

The Last Flight


Chum returned to uniform by August 1941. Luckily he had worked for Eastern Air Lines exactly one year, vesting his employment, ensuring a job when he returned from the war. But that raises an interesting question, what war? There was no American war. Six more months transpired until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The answer to this intriguing question reads something like this; President Roosevelt instituted the preparations he could–Cash and Carry,The Destroyer Deal, quickly followed by the Lend Lease Act in 1941. America’s first peacetime draft had already been activated the year before, in 1940. Everybody knew what was coming, except for the bulk of the American population. They found out the hard way, later, across the Pacific, on a mild Hawaiian Sabbath.

Gail Chumbley is the author of the memoir, River of January, and the forthcoming sequel, River of January: The Figure Eight.

River of January is also available on Kindle.

River of January, Boise Library Edition


Thursday, May 12th River of January meets the Boise Public Library.

Join Gail for a lively, multimedia look at the archive that became the memoir,

River of January

The program begins at 7pm in the third floor’s Marion Bingham Room.

“This history could be lost” had she not known the story. Janet Juroch~The Idaho World

The Laundry Room


Initially this post was supposed to discuss what a slob I’ve become since I began writing. I planned on stressing how my story, told in River of January has consumed my days and has trumped any other daily concern–in particular bothering to cook meals or even getting dressed each morning. Then I happened to catch Tina Fey in an interview on Inside the Actors Studio. I like Tina Fey. She reveals her honest opinions with no airs or pretense, openly laughing at her own shortcomings. This particular episode was clearly a rerun, with James Lipton discussing and sharing a clip from her newest film “Admission,” released back in 2013.

This taped exchange between Lipton and Fey eventually transitioned from her many successes on the big and small screens to authoring her first book, Miss Bossy Pants. She confessed that the writing process was surprisingly more difficult and caused her more discomfort than any screen play. Fey shared that she found time to work on the book during breaks on 30 Rock, and in spare moments on various movie sets. While at home, her husband tended their children while she hid in her laundry room to continue her manuscript. And Fey further admitted that publishing Bossy Pants left her profoundly vulnerable and solitary. She said, and I quote, “You really put yourself out there.”

This accomplished, brilliant writer-comedian used her laundry room for writing, and felt vulnerable about her work! Now, I certainly don’t pretend that I anything near her immense talent, but I, too, wrote a lot of River of January in my laundry room! Tina Fey and I both wrote books in our laundry rooms! In my case I busted out my laptop on that cluttered floor because our washer’s timing mechanism was on the fritz. I had to keep a constant vigil so the machine would finish a full cycle. Easily I passed a good two to three hours a session, leaning against the litter box, as the churning rotation of the washer and dryer rendered that little space the best spot in the house to concentrate.

Writing a book is hard, and has frequently forced me to reassess my value as a person. I believed real writers, like Tina Fey, sat behind elegant desks; keyboards illuminated by brass halogen lamps, genteel mugs of hot tea within reach, assistants scurrying in and out of the room conveying edited sheets of type to publishers. That scenario bears no resemblance to this middle aged woman, clad in flannel shirts and sweat pants, continually switching off the pause button on a faulty washing machine.

The most reassuring part of that TV interview was how anxious Fey felt over her book’s public reception, saying something to the effect of how she girded herself for literary failure. Again, another bingo. I’d like to count my writing meltdowns, and vows to never write again, but I only have so many toes and fingers. Any remarks readers have written or spoken regarding my book, River, is indelibly carved into my psyche–forever.

So the truth remains that my writing is mine alone. The words generated, the story those words tell, are between me and my computer. Still, aside from that solitary angle, plus the risk and intimidation in publishing River, I somehow feel less alone. Oh, that washing machine is now working fine.

Gail Chumbley is the author of River of January, available on Kindle.



What I Heard


Ken Burns has done it again–hit another historical piece of film over the wall. I’ve enjoyed Burns work for decades, beginning with “The Civil War,” through “Baseball,” to “Jazz.” He has consistently combined solid historical research with the subtle beauty of an artist. But in his new “Mark Twain” biography I made a discovery I once believed impossible. I watched the film without any historical analysis or comment.

For the first time since publishing “River of January,” I watched simply from a writer’s perspective. In the film, scholars discussed how Clemens didn’t find his unique American voice until well after “The Innocence Abroad,” and “The Prince and the Pauper” were published. Twain’s masterpiece, “Huckleberry Finn,” came after years of hesitation until that singular voice could no longer be kept tethered.  The author reached deeply from his childhood–a bigoted world of ignorance, poor grammar, and slang with a twang. He defaulted to what he knew best, his inner core and colorful life.

That resonated with me in my own struggle for voice. I have come to realize that a personal truth has to come off the page to remain in the manuscript. If the story line, or flow of dialog doesn’t resonate, it has to go. There must be a truth to tell. The obstruction of a badly worded sentence, or contrived  idea hangs uneasily in my psyche. I have to write what I know to be authentic. It’s a weird dynamic too, and takes concentration to pull off. I put myself in the scene–whether it’s a cockpit, or a dressing room. From that bit of time travel I can survey the setting, describing it both physically and emotionally. I understand the importance of familiarity.

In another tidbit from the documentary, Ken Burns examined Clemens daily writing regimen.

At his home in Hartford (I’ve been there, it’s so cool) Twain worked in an upstairs room, away from everyone, committing his tales to paper. Each evening Clemens gathered his family and friends to listen to  his day’s bounty. I found that intriguing–not as a historian, but as a writer. (Twain had many notables among his friends, President Ulysses Grant for one.)

Samuel Clemens made writing his day-job, and used his household as an audience. Something I find I am unable to follow. However, my ears were carefully adhering to that writing schedule revelation, contemplating his patterns.

I too, need quiet and solitude, but don’t produce the same way. My engine needs to rev up before any writing session. I think and think and think (like Winne the Pooh) then inspired fire up the old laptop. The historic record can spark my thought processes, and the Chumbley archives also can prompt a productive writing session. All in all, a “fits and starts” style best describes my method. Both “River of January” and the new one “Figure Eight,” have come to life through my haphazard style.

Mark Twain can stand alone as a historic figure, apart from his brilliance as a man of letters. He belonged to a political group known as the “Anti Imperialist League,” opposing unrestrained immigration, especially from China and the Philippines. He disapproved of  John D. Rockefeller and other greedy Robber Barons, making no friends among the elite. All that I all ready know, and taught for years. The astounding thing is I watched the program hearing only the literary journey of an American lion.