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Writer explores interests from dogs to religion to tarot

Eastern philosophy book nets author a trip to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch

Eastern philosophy book nets author a trip to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch

October 17, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

PINESBURG - Local author Diane Morgan's work covers topics as diverse as basset hounds and Buddhism. She's written plays about prisoners, books about poodles, beagles, dachshunds and huskies, a gardening guide, a horse nutritional manual and a book about Tao and tarot.

Critics have lauded her work. She's making a decent living doing what she loves. And one of her books earned her an invitation to filmmaker George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in July.

Morgan, 57, of Pinesburg, reluctantly accepted.

A producer from JAK Films - a division of Lucasfilm, at www.lucas

film.com on the Web - called Morgan in late June after reading her 2001 book, "The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion." He invited the author to Skywalker Ranch to be interviewed on film for a George Lucas Educational Foundation documentary for young people about eastern religions, for which the producers needed more cultural background, Morgan said.

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"I turned 'em down," said Morgan, who doesn't like to fly. She's not a big fan of Lucas' biggest hit, "Star Wars," either.

The producer called back the following week, this time trying to change Morgan's mind with a promise that actor-director Clint Eastwood also would be at the ranch.

"That didn't impress me one bit," Morgan said. "Then they promised me redwood trees, so I went."

She and friend John Warner spent three days on Lucas' sprawling 10,000-acre ranch in Marin County, north of San Francisco. They stayed in a suite decorated in honor of late writer and director Federico Fellini, Morgan said. Lucas both works and lives at the ranch - but he keeps a low profile. The more than 100 ranch employees aren't allowed to speak to the filmmaker when he comes downstairs from his upstairs living quarters, which are off-limits to visitors, Morgan said.

"I didn't even see him," she said. "The place is guarded like the Pentagon. People stand outside the gates, taking pictures of the rocks."

Nonetheless, she enjoyed the scenery and her three-hour interview, some of which will likely be included in the documentary. Mind-body medicine guru Deepak Chopra also was interviewed for the piece - but Morgan didn't meet him, either.

Books and bassets


"The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion" (Renaissance Books) is one of 13 books that Morgan - who also teaches

philosophy, religion and several other classes at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa. - has written since 1992. She's worked with a variety of publishers, including St. Martins Press and Half Halt Press of Boonsboro.

Morgan said she most enjoys writing books about philosophy and religion because she finds those topics intellectually stimulating.

"I like to write books that I think will somehow help people, give them more knowledge," she said.

A founding member of Basset Rescue of Old Dominion - a nonprofit organization that works to find homes for basset hounds in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, at www.brood-va.org on the Web - Morgan has written about a half-dozen books about dogs. She's got four more in the works. Yet the subject continues to interest her and spark the creation of original works.

"Every breed is different. It's writing the history of the breed that's so exciting," Morgan said. "I love writing dog books."

Though writing for a living requires tenacity, self-discipline, self-direction and the ability to accept criticism, Morgan said, she relishes her career.

"I laugh a lot. I have a good time. It's such a pleasure," she said. "You're working for yourself. You're being creative."

In addition to fulfilling her contract for books about bulldogs, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and "hypo-allergenic dogs," Morgan said in the near future she'd like to focus on production of her comical play about Buddhist monks. Her newest book, "Buddhism in America," will be published in November.

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