San Juan County Historical Society and Amy’s Bookcase celebrated Anne HIllerman’s newest book and the late Marilu Waybourn at a literary event Wednesday, May 3, at Farmington Civic Center.
A longtime San Juan County resident and member of the historical society since its formation in 1988, Waybourn authored and co-authored multiple books on the history of the county. In addition to her prolific writing, her passion for research led to the development of an extensive database of historical photos, documents and stories.
Waybourn's notable accomplishments also included being the first female broadcaster at KENN radio station, 14 years as a journalist with Farmington Daily Times and 12 years as a writer-editor and computer specialist for the Bureau of Land Management. She was inducted into the Farmington High School Hall of Fame in 2016.
Waybourn died May 30, 2022 at the age of 90.
After the tribute to Waybourn, Anne Hillerman provided the keynote address, speaking on the use of historical landscapes in fiction.
Hillerman said using the Southwest as a setting in her books “really recharges my batteries and gives me reason to keep working.”
Researching Southwest landscapes has broadened her knowledge of the tribes who have inhabited this region over time and their descendants, such as the Alamo Navajo Nation near Socorro. Her research into their history introduced her to the Very Large Array telescopes and a new setting which she included in her novel “Stargazer.”
Hillerman said continuing to learn about the Southwest and its people has often led her to new settings, characters and historical elements that she has been able to share with her readers, increasing their knowledge of and interest in the Southwest.
“People who write novels are lucky if they live in a place like New Mexico where there is so much interesting history that we can weave into our stories.”
“I think people who love history and people who love novels have a lot in common,” Hillerman said.
She drew parallels between history and fictional stories, saying both could be invigorating because of they connections they create with readers and history lovers.
Hillerman said the types of stories that stick with people, whether historical or fictional, are those that tell of “people facing adversity who come through it somehow or other, people who have challenges and they don’t give up, people who are loyal to their families and loyal to their friends, and have a little spark of creativity and can manage to do something in a different way and come out on top.”