Farnbach says she wrote her prize-winning poem in about 10 minutes.
Sometimes inspiration works that way.
She was at a Pechanga Powwow in July 2008
when she and her husband, Darell, came across an elderly woman resting
between dances. They started talking and, for about 15 minutes,
the woman told how she had to abandon her American Indian heritage
as a child.
"I had sunglasses on and she couldn't
see the tears streaming down my face," Farnbach said. Her husband
also had tears.
The woman, who they know only as Louisa,
returned to dancing and Farnbach took some pictures. She hasn't
seen her since.
Farnbach is a lifelong writer who has
authored local history books. Yet few things have moved her as much
as this American Indian woman's tale.
"I couldn't wait to get home to put
it on paper," she said. "It was working in my head so
hard that I was literally shaking."
So she produced "Dancing Louisa,"
a poem about a woman who grew up in a time when American Indian
children could be whisked away from families and sent to schools
far away by authorities who thought they were doing the right thing.
woman's grandfather wanted nothing of that. So the family walked
-- yes, walked -- from Arizona over the tall mountains into Colorado
in the cold of winter. The family hid its American Indian heritage
by pretending to be Mexican.
That's how Louisa grew up.
Louisa's mother wanted her to preserve
her roots and took her to places where American Indians, as Farnbach
powerfully stated in her poem, "danced with prayers in their
"Your mother cried at the edge of
Saying someday you would understand,"
A half-century later, Louisa still dances
at different events. Farnbach has gone to other Pechanga powwows
but has never again seen Louisa. What a story she has to share,
given that the poem has won three awards, including one from Writer's
Farnbach, 59, grew up in a small Iowa
town. At 17, she had a story published in Seventeen magazine about
an arts program for kids that she started at the local YMCA.
She put writing mostly on hold as she
raised two kids, including her son Andy Marshall, who owns Black
Market Brewing Co. in Temecula. She got serious again and wrote
a novel set in India, a work she hopes to soon get published.
Farnbach moved to Temecula in 1988 and
became fascinated with local history. Her works on the past in the
Arcadia Image of America series include "Temecula," "The
Wine Country," "Murrieta," "Murrieta Hot Springs"
and "Fallbrook." All were co-written with other locals.
Farnbach said Louisa's story resonates
because of the woman's quest to find her true roots.
Yet few of us have such a powerful story
to share -- and inspire.