Nona Hengen’s talents run on parallel tracks. As an artist, her interpretive canvases feature eastern Washington subject matters and scenery and are widely known through reproductions as posters and giclees. As a writer, Nona has been featured in Wheat Life magazine, a trade journal of the grain industry in the Pacific Northwest, since 1993 as a contributing editor and writes about controversial issues such as grass burning and loss of farm land to urban development, about concepts such as parity, and numerous articles about the history of the Pacific Northwest.
As a 10-year old, she wrote an uncle that she wanted someday to be an artist. That dream was shelved—there were no art schools in the region, so she followed her mother and uncle into a career in education. She taught school, as they had, and when sputnik shocked the nation into using television to win the race for space, she was hired by the Spokane School District to teach German because it was the language of science, and educators believed science would be the key to winning the race to put a man on the moon.
Nona later earned her Masters in history from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a PhD in education from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She participated in teaching summer workshops (University of Virginia at Charlottesville), worked in university administration (directing a media
center/library at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA), promoted Humane Society and animal welfare causes, ghost wrote or edited memoirs of three WWII veterans, and continues to take part in numerous art exhibits and to accept speaking engagements. Her final two years in academe were spent as an associate professor teaching in the graduate school at Indiana University, 1979-1980. After learning of her mother’s terminal cancer she resigned and returned to Washington State to care for her mother, and chose to remain on her ancestral farm after her mother’s death to begin a career in art and writing.
She is a popular lecturer and keynote speaker at events ranging from the Washington Association of Wheat Growers state convention to a variety of fund raising events for hospitals and civic organizations throughout eastern Washington.
Nona is a self-published author under “Palouse Press”, and has 16 titles to her name. Her most requested titles have been Now Choose Life, a five generation saga of her family—her father’s people to Spangle in 1888 before statehood, her mother’s people in 1910—and, Gateway to the Palouse, which is the story of
Union soldiers who brought their families West after the war and started a town. A recent title, Cats and Dogs, our Alter Egos, was a finalist in the 2008 Eric Hofer Book Award contest as one of the top “new works of outstanding literary value found outside the commercial publishing establishment, nominated by the writing community and public at large.”
Just out in hardcover is a second edition of her popular Shoebox Letters, a story about two branches of a family; the one that chose to come to America before the turn of the century, the other that chose to remain in Germany. Upon discovery of a half century correspondence, Hengen resumed writing after her grandmother’s death and eventually traveled into East Germany to meet “Cousin Dora,” the author.