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Local teacher pens detective novel

Kelly Running brings to life the sassy Lizzie O'Malley

Kelly RunningA Lakeridge Junior High teacher last month introduced to the world the fast-paced, adventure-packed life of mystery-solver Lizzie O’Malley.

On her own, language arts and advanced writing teacher Kelly Running published “Medicine Wheel,” the first installment in the O’Malley mysteries. Now, the book is available on Amazon.com and at the Lake Oswego Public Library.

The idea of penning a mystery popped into Running’s head on the drive back from a writer’s conference in Cannon Beach, and it took her a couple of years to polish off her grown-up Nancy Drew-esque tale.

“There are some mild adult scenes … so it’s not meant for teenage readers,” said Running, adding that mature elements center around relationships.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lakeridge Junior High teacher Kelly Running recently published Medicine Wheel, a mystery.

Her novel sat on a shelf for a year. Meanwhile, she focused on poetry, publishing an article and three poems in the literary journal “VoiceCatcher.” In the poems “Saturday Visitation” and “Jailhouse Call,” Running, 56, details her experiences visiting and calling one of her four sons, who was incarcerated and struggles with addiction. With those pieces of poetry, she hopes to reach others with similar experiences.

“If I can find words for people who are really at a loss for words, and it makes them feel better, then it’s worth sharing the pain,” she said.

Gaining recognition for her poetry spurred her to revisit her book. She also got encouragement from other writers at a memoir class in Maui this summer with Alice Walker’s daughter, Rebecca Walker, author of “Black, White and Jewish.”

“They said, ‘You know, Kelly, you really light up when you’re talking about your mystery,’” Running said.

A teacher for 19 years, Running is in her 12th year at Lakeridge Junior High, and she has a journalism background and helped her ex-husband with his law practice. She remained vague to keep from giving away plot points but said that legal knowledge has helped O’Malley with her sleuthing in “Medicine Wheel.”

Running’s “Celtic Ties,” another installment in the O’Malley chronicles, is slated for completion in November 2014. The first O’Malley book originally was to be set in Ireland, but a trip to Sedona, Ariz., inspired Running to set her story there. Immersing herself in Native American culture, her experiences became a part of the book.

“I came back (from the trip) and I knew I just had to start writing,” Running said.

About seven or eight years ago, Running formed a writer’s group with two other teachers, Liz Danek of Central Catholic High School in Portland and Kendal Doebler of Lakeridge Junior High. Doebler said she has loved watching Running’s book develop.

“I greatly admire her drive to really move through a plot,” Doebler said. “Her main character is kind of sassy. (Running) comes up with really interesting similes.”

Danek said she loves Running’s characters and her dry sense of humor.

“The book is a fun story; it’s a good detective romp,” Danek said.

Running’s boyfriend, Michael Field of Portland, said in the last 2 ½ years they’ve been dating, he’s learned a good deal about publishing.

“It’s not like you write the story and take it to someone, and they print it,” Field said. “There’s many stages involved. ... I think it’s terrific that she stuck with it, and, at the same time, she’s maintaining her regular existence and work — and she’s a mom. I respect that.”

Learn more

For more information about Kelly Running or to buy her book, visit kellyrunningmysteries.com.

Jillian Daley can be reached at jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.


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