Since 2004, Ted Olinger, his wife, Beth Porter, and their son have made their home on the Key Peninsula.
For several of those years, Olinger wrote for the Key Peninsula News, reporting on everything from sports to a local horse whisperer, to a family who has raised foster kids for three decades.
He also wrote for outdoor magazines.
Most recently, Olinger has focused his talents on writing “The Woodpecker Menace,” a book of short stories. Fellow KP resident Tweed Meyer illustrated the cover of the book.
Olinger said his stories are a fictional record of the people, critters and activities he’s come to know in his years of living here –– observances of life in what he calls “the accidentally unseparated island nation that is the Key Peninsula.”
The title story is about a young family who moves to the Key Peninsula and whose home is invaded by a woodpecker.
“They cannot get rid of it,” he said. “After multiple attempts to dislodge him and after getting permission from the government to kill him, they instead decide to surrender and welcome him into their home.”
Many of the stories are based on his experiences when he was working for KP News.
“I started to get to know people around here and see how they interact with the Peninsula and how the Peninsula acts on them and changes the trajectory of their lives,” Olinger said.
He was meeting many people and hearing a lot of things that were not necessarily newsworthy. “I was getting the flavor of the different types of life that exist out here. And that sort of got the burner going. That’s what really inspired putting this book together,” he said.
Olinger tells the story of “an anarchist logger who makes his living by selling logs out of the back of his truck.” “You see that all over the place. He’s also a poet, a political activist and somebody who I think a lot of the people on the Peninsula recognize as someone who is an archetype out here. The stories all have that kind of a flavor,” he said.
He also writes about lives that were uprooted when the housing bubble collapsed in 2006 and 2007.
“A number of people we knew and that my boy grew up with just disappeared because they lost their homes,” he recalled. “Families were split, and somebody who had lived out here for years had to leave or divide their family because they just couldn’t afford to live here.
“For some reason, that idea inspired me to join this with other news items about bees dying off, which is a pretty well-known thing. And that produced a story about what we need to do to conserve the people in our community as well as our nature –– human nature and animal nature.”
According to Olinger, some of the stories are humorous, some are more serious.
“They stand alone, but they also build on one another, so someone who reads the book from beginning to end is going to get a different perspective than someone who reads just one or two,” he said.
Olinger hopes that readers will come away with “more of an appreciation for what is happening around them –– whether they relate to what’s going on here or not.”
“That no one is as isolated as they think they are and everybody has an impact. Everybody has an effect whether they are aware of that or not. Hopefully it will make readers realize that they have a role to play whether they are aware of it or not. We’re all satellite nations out here; we are all interconnected,” he said.
“The Woodpecker Menace” is available at Mostly Books and Bayside Books in downtown Gig Harbor. It also can be purchased online at plicatapress.com.