Miss Lewis County 2012 Contestants

2012 Miss Lewis County Pageant contestants dance with Miss Lewis County 2011 Kara Morris during the opening of the Miss Lewis County Scholarship Pageant in 2012. 

Don’t be surprised if you switch on American Idol one day to find a familiar face on the screen — Miss Lewis County 2011, Kara Jo (Morris) Crane, formerly of Onalaska.

Kara Jo, 26, who lives in Hurley, Mississippi, with her husband and three children, recently auditioned for Gulf Coast Idol and landed among the top 10. The winner received a silver ticket to audition for American Idol producers.

During the first leg of the competition, she auditioned acapella singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” As one of the top 10 finalists, she competed in an American Idol style show and sang two full songs with her husband’s aunt, “a phenomenal pianist,” playing for her.

“I wanted to choose songs that showed off my voice but also that meant something to me,” she said, “and ‘How Great Thou Art’ was the perfect pick for that. I thought that if nothing else, maybe I would be able to share Jesus with someone in that room.”

Kara Jo’s father, Bill Morris, has been lead pastor at Jackson Prairie Church in Chehalis since 2007. He joined the church in 1994, served as youth pastor until 2000, and became ministry support pastor in 2003. He and his wife, Sandy, have four daughters: Katie Ulmer, Kassie Brooks, Kara Jo, and Karsen Morris.

As Miss Lewis County, Kara Jo competed in the 2011 Miss Washington Pageant, where she finished third. She also wore the banner of Miss Puget Sound and competed in the 2012 Miss Washington Pageant. She attended Centralia College and married Brian Skyler Crane of Moss Point, Miss., in 2012.

“For my next song I chose ‘Never Enough’ from ‘The Greatest Showman.’ I always dreamed of performing it, but I never thought I would have the chance,” she said of the Gulf Coast competition.

Social media kept her supporters in Lewis County informed of her progress during the competition.

“I didn’t win the silver ticket, but it was an honor just to make the top 10,” she said.

Her sister, Kassie Brooks, wrote on Facebook how proud she was of Kara Jo.

“She was true to herself and who she is,” Kassie said. “She represented Jesus and her faith with grace and confidence. She was a beautiful example to her children that, no matter what, you can always chase your dreams.”

She added, “It is still my prayer that this will be just the start of greater things to come!”

Kara Jo’s husband and children are encouraging her to compete this month when American Idol comes to Mobile, Ala., a 30-minute drive from her home. She may do it — and we may yet see her audition on the national program.


Southwest Washington

Writers Conference

If you haven’t done so yet, consider registering for the Sixth Annual Southwest Washington Writers Conference Sept. 7 at Centralia College with keynoter Hallie Ephron, a New York Times bestselling author of 11 suspense novels who has been a finalist five times for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Ephron, who lives in Boston, is also author of “Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel” published by Writers Digest Books, which was an Edgar Award finalist. Ephron will also teach workshops and participate in a panel at the conference.

“I took a class from her years ago at the Willamette Writers Conference,” said Jennifer Vandenberg of Napavine, a member of the Lewis County Writers Guild, which sponsors the Centralia conference. “It was one of the best writing classes I ever attended.”

When I staffed the Northwest Editors Guild’s table at this year’s Willamette Writers Conference in July, a participant raved about Ephron’s class, saying she was now changing the genre of her novel to suspense.

I’m excited to learn from Ephron, who is also teaching a master class on character-driven plots Sept. 6, but unfortunately it has already sold out.

But Ephron will be presenting all day at the conference Saturday, Sept. 7. Other workshops will be presented on marketing, book launches, humorous storytelling, dialogue, writing for self-discovery, creating a sense of place, memoir writing, and writing for newsletters. This year’s workshop presenters include marketing guru Veronika Noize, sci fi and fantasy writer Jill Williamson, mystery writer Traci Hilton, freelance writer and publisher Andrea Culletto, and creative writing instructors and literary writers Midge Raymond and Jordan Hartt, who runs the Port Townsend Writers Conference. I’ll be teaching a session on “Writing for Newspapers.” Newcomer Tiffany Pitts, a freelance writer and author, will teach on using humor to enhance storytelling.

All proceeds from the conference benefit scholarships awarded by the Centralia College Foundation. To register, visit www.southwestwashingtonwriters.com.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian at Toledo, may be reached at chaptersoflife1999@gmail.com.

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