New essay on

Gearing up for my Powell’s event on Oct. 23. They’ve posted my essay going into more depth on the backstory for the book, with many links to authors. Read it here.

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More on Edge in the Oregonian

Read a short bit about how I discovered the Fine Arts at Waldport, published in the Portland Oregonian.

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Here on the Edge featured in Bob Welch’s Sunday Register-Guard column

Read some background about Here on the Edge from Eugene Register-Guard columnist Bob Welch.


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Buy this book from your local independent bookseller

When you go to buy Here on the Edge, think a moment about why you’re buying it. Is it because you’re interested in the Fine Arts at Waldport? Their influence on the San Francisco scene of the 1950s and 1960s? Their work in fine printing? Their contributions to the role of art and creation in social protest? 

All of these topics and more should be reason enough to go directly to your local independent bookstore and order the book. You don’t pay shipping charges, and you support your local economy. You also carry on the tradition of the independent, entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of the Fine Arts at Waldport story.  

Sure, you can buy it on Amazon for $19.86, which is $5.09 cheaper than the publisher’s retail price of $24.95. But you will also pay $3.99 in shipping, which comes to a total of $23.85 — saving you exactly one dollar and ten cents from the purchase price at your local independent bookstore. One dollar and ten cents.

I have nothing against Amazon — I have used their services many times over the years. But in this case especially, here is an opportunity to ensure that your thoughts and actions are in agreement. Here is a chance to honor the cooperative spirit and sense of community which made the Fine Arts at Waldport so influential and effective. 

So hurry down to your local independent bookstore, place your order, and sleep well knowing that you have done a good deed for art and peace!

Not sure where your nearest indie bookstore is? Try this finding aid from IndieBound.

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Events calendar updated, official publication date October 1

Official publication date is Oct. 1. Be sure to order a copy from your local independent bookseller. For a beginning list, click on the Resources tab.

Book launch in Portland at Powell’s on Oct. 23, and in Eugene at the UO Knight Library on Nov. 6. Check the Events tab for details.

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Here on the Edge by Steve McQuiddy: slated for release in October 2013

Here on the Edge is the long-awaited story of how a World War II conscientious objectors camp on the Oregon Coast plowed the ground for the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. It will be published by Oregon State University Press in October 2013.


Twenty years in the making and packed with original research and more than eighty photographs, this book answers the growing interest in a long-neglected element of World War II history: the role of pacifism and conscientious objection in what is often called “The Good War.” It focuses on one camp situated on the rain-soaked Oregon coast, Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camp #56. As home to the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, the camp became a center of activity for artists and writers from across the country who chose to take a condition of penance (compulsive labor for refusing to serve in the military) and put it to constructive ends. Their focus was not so much on the current war, but on what kind of society might be possible when the shooting finally stopped. “Here on the edge,” they wrote, “we can only watch . . . and bide on the time when what we are, and that for which we have taken this stand, can be tangent again to the world.”

In the daylight hours, they worked six days a week—planting trees, crushing rock, building roads, chopping wood and fighting forest fires—for no pay, just room and board. At night, they published books, pamphlets, periodicals, and broadsides under the imprint of the Untide Press. They produced plays, art, and music—all during their limited non-work hours, with little money and resources.

Perhaps most remarkable is the amount of sheer talent gathered in this tiny group, a number of whom went on to significant achievement in their fields: poet William Everson, who became Brother Antoninus the “Beat Friar”; Broadus Erle, violinist and founder of the New Music Quartet; Adrian Wilson, fine arts printer and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant”; Kermit Sheets, founder of Centaur Press and San Francisco’s Interplayers theater group; architect Kemper Nomland, Jr.; William Eshelman, president of the Scarecrow Press, and internationally renowned sculptor Clayton James.

Other notables published by or involved with the Fine Arts Group include artist Morris Graves, poet William Stafford, fiery antiwar poet Kenneth Patchen, and iconoclastic author Henry Miller.

After the war, camp members went on to participate in the San Francisco “Poetry Renaissance” of the 1950s, which heavily influenced the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—who in turn inspired the likes of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the 1960s radical upheavals epitomized by San Francisco’s “Summer of Love.”

An even deeper current runs here. Not only were members of the Fine Arts Group and Camp #56 carving an unpopular path during the dark days of the 1940s, they were showing the way for the next generation, when a new set of young people, facing a war of their own in Vietnam, would populate the massive peace movements of the 1960s.

Here on the Edge places Camp #56 and the Fine Arts Group in the context of conscientious objection in America, the World War II era, and the influence camp members had on the decades that followed. It serves as an introduction, an exploration, a narrative, a history, and, ultimately, a human story. And it brings together, finally under one cover, the record of the fascinating members of Camp #56 and the Fine Arts Group, and how their legacy of art and peace resonated far beyond the borders of an isolated work camp in the far corner of the country.

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