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Writing the West

Western Writers of America held their annual convention in Lubbock. As a first-time attendee and new member, I was surprised to meet such a diverse group. Songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, multi-published authors and newbie writers with only ideas; all sharing a love for the people, history, and wide open spaces of the West. western writers The keynote was given by historian Robert M. Utley, a.k.a. The Old Bison, who talked almost a solid hour on the history of the Texas Rangers. I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker!

While enjoying a heaping plate of Texas Bar-B-Que, I shared a table with the daughter  and two granddaughters of Don Coldsmith. They shared how he made the decision to leave a successful medical career as a family practice physician to write stories about the West. His first book came from the discovery of what turned out to be a very valuable bit he found in a junk store in Oklahoma. He paid a dollar. I forgot to ask if he ever used it to ride a horse. During his career, Coldsmith published 40 novels which involved a series covering centuries of history. His daughter told us about his writing process and about how he never missed a WWA convention.

Bayer Museum of Agriculture, WWA 2015 Field Trip

Bayer Museum of Agriculture, WWA 2015 Field Trip

Here’s what I realized:

The 600+ members of WWA don’t worry about the WHY. They endlessly research the subjects, and write about the people and places they love. My guess is they’d pen these stories, songs and poems whether anyone read them or not.

I was reminded that, as writers, we have no choice but to go where the WORDS take us.

Below is a list of the best quotes from WWA 2015 that will definitely have an impact on my writing:

  1. Don’t judge the 18th century people by 21st century standards. You’ll go crazy. Think about them as they were in their time period. ROD TIMANUS, author of numerous books about the Alamo.
  2. Deadlines are important. It’s not a figment of an editor’s imagination. JOHNNY D. BOGGS, author and editor, WWA’s RoundUp Magazine.
  3. The search within yourself is very important in your writing process. Search within your own soul. WIN BLEVINS, Owen Wister Award Winner.
  4. For years, these women assembled on this panel, have bounced around in a pickup in pockets of the country where at one time nothing seemed to grow but clouds.  They possess a special understanding of the important contributions women have made to ranching in the West. The notion that ranches were settled only by men is just not true. CHRIS ENSS, New York Time Bestselling Author, and moderator, Frontier Ranch Women panel.
  5. If you know enough to write an outline, you can write the story. Just write the story. KIRK ELLIS, Emmy and Spur award winning screenwriter.
  6. A set schedule works best for my writer’s brain. Same thing day-after-day-after day. ANNE HILLERMAN, winner of the Spur and Arizona Book Awards.
  7. Find the motivation of your character. Put yourself in your characters head. Their motivation may change from scene to scene. JOHNNY D. BOGGS
  8. When you collect local stories, care should be taken in what you can use and publish. Everyone has their version. GAIL JENNER, award winning author and cattle rancher.
  9. You’ve got the rest of your life to make the pages you wrote yesterday better. Stay on task and get the damn story done. WIN BLEVINS
  10. People are photogenic and “see” your characters. Don’t waste words on a lot of description. Leave it to the readers. DUSTY RICHARDS, Spur award winning author.
American Windpower Center, Lubbock, one of the field trips we enjoyed while attending the WWA Convetion.

American Windpower Center, Lubbock, one of the field trips we enjoyed while attending the WWA Convetion.


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