Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fun Art of Failure

by Judith Grout

Has anyone else noticed that only successful writers boast about failure? Once they become wealthy, famous, and on every best-seller list, they go on and on about how enriching it was to have their former writing efforts fall flat.

From where I sit, I think success in the book publishing arena needs a healthy dash of old-fashioned luck – and I don’t mean a little luck – a boatload of it. Successful writers are risky people with important connections who got lucky - so you hear about them. But the ones who went flopped? They’re forgotten.

Writing should be easy – especially the fictional element. But no matter how accomplished you are, putting your personal inner thoughts, misspellings, punctuation goofs, etc., out there is a humbling experience. Messing up in full view of others causes no small amount of angst. Even the simple format of a Facebook statement is part of history once you hit that unforgiving “enter” key. After that, it’s too late to retrieve and fix.

In other professions, science and math for instance, where things should be concrete, most of that is guesswork too. Those guys guess about all sorts of stuff. They put a theory out there and are jubilant if they are even half right.

So let’s hear it for mistakes: they are mess-up-do-overs that are frequent, easily overlooked or forgiven, and necessary to move to the next level. They are the Rubik Cube stuck in hopeless disarray; the one step in the Rube Goldberg chain-reaction that was an “oops.” So you take another chance. You don’t find that elusive agent. You can’t convince that stubborn publisher of your talents. Still, you put your stuff out there and have your own private dance party for yourself. Persistence in writing is what gets you up in the morning, gives you a reason to dispense with the vagaries of life to get on to the creative part, and keeps what is magical inside alive.

BIO: During my formative career years, my left brain launched me into the fun and fact-filled science of healthcare. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science. I wallowed in assorted body fluids using analytical methods such as chemistry, hematology, microbiology (my fav), among others in assorted locations across this great land. The paychecks were regular (although at times Spartan.) But I stuck to the professional grind for 40+ years, accumulated my nest egg, and retired.

Now I’ve started my second career using a liberated right brain, writing, running the gamut from freelancing to fiction. I published my debut novel, Chasing the Strawberry Moon, Hitchhiking (for girls) in February of 2014. Reading it will scratch that itch you’ve had yearning to know more about 1939, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and a looming World War II. Hope to see you in the pages.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July Member News


Arletta Dawdy, Rose of Sharon. Orphaned, lost and in need of family, Rose of Sharon finds hope only to lose it again with the mental illness of her new mother, attempted murder, an inter-racial love affair and abandonment; Rose’s paranormal and writing gifts set her apart.

Roni McFadden, second edition of The Longest Trail with additional text, and full-color photos. “Ride along with young Roni as she discovers the lessons of the ancient spirits of mountains, deserts and horses – a wonderful coming-of-age tale in a magnificent setting.” 

Deanna Dickinson McCall, Rough Patches, a new collection of short fiction centered on women in the historical and contemporary American West. Shaped by challenging circumstances as well as the equally demanding landscapes they inhabit, her characters exhibit a brand of strength instantly recognizable to readers fortunate enough to know true "women of the West." Against long odds, McCall's protagonists courageously stare down adversity - sexism, illness and the unimaginable dangers of both the frontier era and modern-day ranch country. 

Evelyn Searle Hess, Building a Better Nest tracks the building of our first house after sixteen years of modified camping, as it explores ways to live lightly, to honor wildlife habitat, and to connect with and respect the local and world community. I probe the lives of my ancestors, and lessons of history, economics and Buddhist thought for clues of how best to live in a time of economic inequality and environmental crises. Released June 1, Building a Better Nest can be ordered online or by mail from Chicago Distribution Center, 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago ILL, 60628 / FAX: 800-621-8476 or in person from your favorite independent book seller.


Several of our members have been nominated as finalists in the Will Rogers Medallion Award, which recognizes excellence in Western literature and media.  The awards ceremony will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, on October 24.

B.J. Scott, The Rail Queen, is a finalist in the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Awards. Montana, 1884. Seventeen-year old schoolgirl Ryka Sundstrom dreams of doing what no girl ever has—build a railroad. The Rail Queen weaves through the awakening of the American railroad as it knits together the strands of empire from Atlantic to Pacific—even as every mile of new track speeds the vanishing of the American frontier, and of the brief age when anything was possible—even for a young schoolgirl with an extraordinary dream. The Rail Queen is the fifth in the Tales of Strong Women series of historical novels by B J Scott.  

Alethea Williams, Wallsfor the Wind was nominated for the Will Rogers Medallion for (Western) romance. Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? Kit Calhoun leaves New York City with a train car full of foundlings from the Immigrant Children’s Home. Her assignment is to sever ties, so she has no idea of the tangled threads of connection that await her in Dakota Territory. First is what to do with the leftover children who simply refuse placement. Second is handsome Patrick Kelley, continually managing to distract Kit from her task. Third is the demented gambler who fastens deadly attention on Kit and keeps turning up everywhere from Julesburg to Cheyenne.
Forced to leave behind everything familiar, is it possible for a company of New York City castoffs to learn to fight for their hopes in the raw new American West?

Cynthia Leal Massey, author of Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier, is a finalist for the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Nonfiction. A story of the murder of Texas Ranger John Green by Cesario Menchaca, one of three Rangers of Mexican descent under Green’s command. Immediately word spread that the killing may have been the botched outcome of a contract taken out on Menchaca’s life by the notorious Gabriel Marnoch, a local naturalist who had run up against the law himself. But was it?

Nancy Oswald, Trouble on the Tracks (Filter Press), a partner book to Rescue at Poverty Gulch, a Ruby and Maude Adventure set in Cripple Creek in 1896.  In this book, Ruby and Maude come face to face with the notorious, Jake Hawker. Miss Sternum is arrested and Trouble, a cat with an attitude, endears itself to Ruby and Maude. Ruby learns more than she ever wants to know about Pinkertons, outlaws, disguises, and train rides, and her life is held in a balance as Pa reconsiders his courtship of Miss Sternum in order to give Ruby a “proper” upbringing. Also available on Amazon.   

EDITOR'S NOTE: Any WWW member with a new book release or an award is welcome to feature your book here in our monthly Member News blog (usually published on a Wednesday mid-month). email with a short (2-3 sentence) blurb, a jpeg of the cover by attachment, and your buy-link. Thanks and congratulations to our fabulous authors this month!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Female Storm in Redmond

by Shanna Hatfield FemaleStorm_Front 

Each year, Women Writing the West conference attendees have the opportunity to bring home some unique, lovely items from the annual raffle. This year, we’re thrilled to include Female Storm, a wonderful blanket donated to our raffle by the Pendleton Woolen Mills. The blanket, designed by Gilmore Scott, is described as follows:  

Clouds of cool blues and purples hover in the sky. A calm, steady rain waters the ground and feeds the lands. Plants, four-legged insects and the Dine' beings are nurtured and their thirsts are quenched. Dine' (Navajo) artist Gilmore Scott captures the beauty of a female summer rainstorm in this original design for the Pendleton Legendary Collection. Unlike spring's male storms that bring downpours, flash floods and thunderstorms, this gentle summer storm is soft and nurturing. Scott's use of colors is strong and bold, echoing the quiet power of Nature and the brilliant high desert landscape. The artist's philosophy that "beauty is simple design and the harmony of color" is evident in the unique blanket. 

 In keeping with the theme of the blanket, we’re so hoping to see a storm of Women Writing the West members converge on Redmond for the 21st annual conference. We’d love to see a flood of you at the airport, in the shops in town, and most definitely at the Eagle Crest Resort where the conference sessions will take place. We have members already signed up to attend from all over the United States - and even as far away as Australia! Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience the Distinctions of the West taking place this October in Redmond. If you haven’t yet decided if you want to attend, consider these words of wisdom from Jane Kirkpatrick: 

 “You should attend because it's a wider version of your writing tribe who inspire, "get" your kind of writing, offer craft development and a warm reception for a weekend respite well earned. Also, it's cheaper than therapy.” 

Register now at Also, for those of you interested in donating goods or services to the raffle, please contact Jane Kirkpatrick or Shanna Hatfield. We are accepting donations and grateful for those interested in contributing to the cause! If you haven’t yet, like the Women Writing the West 2015 Conference page on Facebook to get the latest conference news. For questions about the conference, contact Jane Kirkpatrick or Shanna Hatfield or visit the website at  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jumping into the Limelight

By Gail L. Jenner  
Getting to appear on national TV is not something I ever thought I’d do. The fact that I’ve now appeared four times on major television shows is pretty incredible. I have done a few Youtube videos and several radio interviews, including NPR’s “West Coast Live,” but nothing bigger than that – until....

The first time I was approached about appearing on a TV show was in 2011, for History Channel’s “How the States Got Their Shapes.” The producer had apparently “googled” about the State of Jefferson and because I’ve coauthored four regional books (three with Arcadia Publishing, one with Old American Publishing) on the history of the region, my name jumped up. It was really only a short blip on the show; sadly, the weather turned bad and Brian Unger had to return to the hotel because he had a cold and laryngitis! But it was still interesting, and the production crew fun was work to with, in spite of the rain.

My second foray into the limelight was on Oregon’s PBS series, “Oregon Experience,” produced by Kami Horton (who will be attending our WWW conference in October!). She, too, had come across my name in regards to the State of Jefferson – both the history of the area and the so-called “1941 rebellion.” She called and we had a great visit, then she and her crew came to the ranch. They taped me in a 2-hour interview and the film crew took some candid shots around the ranch; in addition, I was able to give them more locations and individuals who might be helpful. The program aired in November 2014 and, recently, it won a WWA Spur Award for the Best Documentary! I will be in Lubbock, TX, and will be accepting the award for Kami since she can’t attend this year’s WWA conference.

In December, I was also contacted by our Siskiyou County Museum director/curator. New to the area, when “Mysteries at the Museum” called up about coming to Yreka to view the State of Jefferson state symbol – a gold pan – she called and asked if I would appear, that she felt she couldn’t do the show. So, for the 3rd time, I was asked to speak about the history of the State of Jefferson and the 1941 movement. This time the interview was well over 2 hours. Again, it was a young and energetic film crew that had flown in to do the show. This show aired in March, and it’s been replayed several times now.

Lastly, I was flown to Montana in January to be interviewed about Charles E. Boles, aka Black Bart, the Poet Bandit, for a new series called “Legends & Lies,” produced by Bill O’Reilly and aired on Fox News as one of ten episodes about unique western figures. The researchers for this show also apparently found me via the internet. In 2008, I coauthored the first and only fictionalized biography of California’s most successful stage bandit, so my name apparently rose to the top of the search engine—which goes to show the impact of the internet!

The production company, Warm Springs, is located in Missoula and what a delightful crew. I was provided a wonderful suite for two nights; my flight was paid for and I was given a rental car plus a stipend. I was taken out to dinner one night with two of the crew members. The interview took place in a small “log cabin” outside of town; its windows were taped and darkened, and I sat in a small living room space after going over what would be expected of me. My contact person, Erin, had sent me a list of questions a week or two earlier that they had for me. I found the questions interesting, although we went well beyond those questions during the taped interview. It all went well, but lasted almost 4 hours. Afterwards I was exhausted. The show aired in May and has already been run three times.

All in all, whether these particular shows impact the sales of my books or not, this series of adventures has opened my eyes to the far-reaching power of our stories as well as the importance of marketing and building a platform that can lead to new opportunities. 

Gail L. Jenner is a Past President of Women Writing the West.  She has written four volumes about the State of Jefferson and two novels, Across the Sweet Grass Hills and Black Bart, the Poet Bandit. She is the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher and lives on the family's historic farmstead.