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Loving history: Local author writes fiction about area's storied past

Glenna Loving holds her new book
Glenna Loving, of Strasburg, holds her new book, "White Wolf of the Wolf Clan & Shenandoah of the Blue Clan." The cover shows the abbreviated title and a painting of the fictional Shenandoah over a photograph Loving took in the area. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A page from Loving's book
A page from Loving's book shows Shenandoah sitting near the Blue Mountains. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Loving's collage art
Loving's collage art depicts Young Wolf's teacher, who guides him in the ways of living among the wolves. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

"White Wolf of the Wolf Clan"
Glenna Loving's latest book "White Wolf of the Wolf Clan". Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Josette Keelor - jkeelor@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG - They lived in the Shenandoah Valley more than 12,000 years ago. They climbed the Blue Ridge Mountains and used the Shenandoah River, and they traveled throughout Fort Valley. Scholars know they were here because they left behind artifacts, but no one knows their name or what happened to them.

After reading about the characters of Glenna Loving's new book, "White Wolf of The Wolf Clan & Shenandoah of The Blue Clan," residents of the valley might gain some more knowledge about the lives of their predecessors -- the American Indians of the Shenandoah Valley.

Teaching others about the Indian clans of the Paleo era is Loving's main goal in writing her book. Having long enjoyed learning about the history of the area and its native people, Loving, a former reading instructional aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg and a board member at the Strasburg Museum, seems the perfect storyteller of American Indian history.

"I wanted to make the stories human," she says, explaining how her pupils often would show an interest in learning about American Indians but found history books laborious in their facts and language.

"When it's fiction it becomes your imagination," says Loving, whose home in Strasburg reflects her passion for southwestern culture.

"There are so many things that they can investigate and experiences they can have," she says of children.

When Loving retired from Shenandoah County Public Schools in 1997, she had no idea she would become an author. She had intended to pursue her artwork, which she describes as collage art -- combining painting with many other materials, such as leather, leaves, tissue paper and even photographs.

A friend encouraged her to write a children's book using her artwork, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Loving self-published her first book, "Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars," in 2004 and used the picture-book format in order to appeal to children. It worked.

"We're on the third printing for this book," she says.

The new book, also self-published through Cherokee Publications, contains a two-part story of White Wolf and of Shenandoah, from the first book, and how the two characters meet. Loving hopes it will appeal to all ages, not just children.

"The Indians, once you study them, you find out that they had a lot going on for them," she says.

For one thing, she has noticed differences among the arrowheads she finds around the area.

"That was another way that you could identify the period or the ... tribe," she says.

Of course, the arrowheads could also have been carried in from other places, she adds, which only adds to the mystery of Virginia's past.

Though she does not know which tribes lived in the area, or if they even lived in tribes of the same name, she is certain of their existence and their affluent history in the valley.

"I don't think they really lived as tribes. I think they lived as different language groups," she says.

The clans described in her new book are Cherokee clans, she says, but she explains that the Cherokee did not likely inhabit the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

"I chose to use the names of two of the clans in this book because of my respect for the Cherokee people," she writes in the dedication of the book.

"[There are] believed to have been 30 or more generations in the valley," she says of the native people. It's difficult to determine whether or not any American Indians still live in Virginia now because for so long the census did not recognize them, Loving says.

In contrast to the book's story, which is historical fiction, the places mentioned throughout the book and depicted in the artwork reflect the valley with the turn of every page. The Blue Ridge Mountains, which the Indians would have called the Blue Mountains, decorate the background of many of the collages Loving later scanned into her computer to use in the book. Photographs of Cedar Creek Battlefield in Middletown and even the moon in the night sky melt into cutouts of illustrated wolves and leaves that Loving collected along the way.

Panther Cave, at Cedar Creek, makes its appearance in the story of The Wolf Clan as the home of a family of wolf cubs. The cave is a historic site and was likely used by the native Indians, Loving says.

"That's why I wanted to use it in the book," she says. "I've always been interested in Native Americans."

"White Wolf of the Wolf Clan & Shenandoah of the Blue Clan,"by Glenna Loving, is available for purchase at stores around the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester, Royal Oak Bookshop in Front Royal, Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes in Woodstock, the Gingham Cottage in New Market, the Old Time Mill in Edinburg and Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown.



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