Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Discovering Wyoming: Karen & Andrea's Excellent Adventure (Part II)

Karen, excited to be in Wyoming.
An email correspondence, Skype calls and a few days at the WWW conference—can a friendship be based on such a tenuous beginning?  I figured if that feisty little Texan was going to drive me nuts, I had my aerie (read upstairs bedroom) to which I could withdraw.  I needn’t have worried.

Church of the Transfiguration, Teton Range in the background
I have a long-standing love affair with Wyoming but unlike most lovers, I’m willing to share—at least with the right person.  It’s true that since I started coming here back in the ‘80s, the Jackson Hole area, and the town of Jackson itself, have changed somewhat in an attempt to deal with the numbers of people who tramp through every summer.  I eschew the high summer now; the Wyoming I wanted Karen to know was not one of long lines, traffic and crowded, sweaty cafes.  My Wyoming brings the peace of the mountains, the bounty of a varied wildlife, and the beauty of a landscape whose contours were formed by successive ice ages, volcanoes and earthquakes--so diverse, it’s a wonder it could all get crammed into this one small corner of the world.

The Cunningham Cabin, Jackson Hole
 And then there are the historic sites.  At The Church of the Transfiguration, Karen and I were totally in awe of those who have the opportunity to worship in such inspiring surroundings.  At Cunningham Cabin, we both had a huge dose of jealousy for those who, despite their hardships, could wake up every morning to views such as these.  

Menor's Landing, Jackson Hole
Menor’s Landing still has the cables that pulled the pontoon ferry across the river, as well as the furnished homestead and shop that served the tiny community.  History is ever-present in this landscape formed eight million years ago.

But we had less serious moments, too.  On the scenic boat ride around Jenny Lake a woman asked if the guide had said the mountains were formed EIGHT HUNDRED years ago.  I sat there thinking that, back in England, Canterbury Cathedral was finished with its lovely stained glass windows, yet here in Wyoming the earth could still be ravaging itself, trying to find a semblance of lasting shape.  At the first night of Rodeo for the season, a couple of broncos seem to have forgotten what, exactly, they were meant to do.  I invent a children’s story, “The Little Bronco Who Wanted to be Tame.”  The cowboys also seem to have forgotten their roping skills.  I tell Karen they’re probably bankers…

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park
And at the Stagecoach Bar and Grill, known to locals simply as The Coach, we dance the night away…or as much of the night as our somewhat elderly partners can stand.  One old cowboy grips me round the waist and pulls me in close to whisper gently in my ear.  I stiffen somewhat as he murmurs, “I have a confession.”  My eyes seek Karen to get help but she is dancing happily with another old codger and my partner continues in his soft tones, “I’m from Idaho…and I’m a Democrat.”

Heartfelt thanks to KCF for joining me in Wyoming.  While Poe’s Raven quoth “Nevermore” my raven says, “Encore, encore!” 

Andrea Downing returned to live in the USA from Britain in 2008 and now divides her time between New York and Wyoming.  Her first novel, Loveland, is a finalist for Best American Historical in the forthcoming RONE Awards.

Blog Coordinator's note: Visit the authors' blogs for the full story of Karen & Andrea's Wyoming Adventure: Andrea Downing and Karen Casey Fitzjerrell

Friday, June 21, 2013

Discovering Wyoming: Karen & Andrea's Excellent Adventure (Part I)

When WWW member, fiction writer and western history aficionado, Andrea Downing, invited me to spend a week with her in Wyoming, I got excited. Very excited. Wyoming had long been at the top of my travel wish list.

Oxbow Bend on the Snake River, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Since Andrea and I had only met face-to-face one time at the Women Writing the West conference last year, we discussed some of the critical points of sharing a living space for a week. Her favorite breakfast is cereal and fruit...mine is a quick scrambled egg. She sips tea while I gulp coffee. She’s a night owl. I’m the early to bed, early to rise type. Andrea is from New York City (via England). I’m from South Central Texas (via the Gulf Coast.)

However, we soon discovered our shared love of western history and landscapes made us boon companions on a quest to learn about Wyoming’s past and geographical beauty. We wanted to learn “the lay of the land.”

The serenity of Wyoming’s Teton Mountain Range often left me awestruck. We followed the Snake River north from Jackson to places foreign to me. Menor’s Ferry, Death Canyon, Gros Ventre, Slide Lake. We crossed Antelope Flats where buffalo truly roam. (Who knew?)

At OxBow Bend we stood for long moments absorbing the splendid grace of the region, the clean line where unaltered nature butted against human footprint.

"Cowboy" Raven who has secrets to tell.
When it came time to leave Oxbow Bend, a Raven, black as pitch, stood at Andrea’s car door and would not move even as she tried to back out of the parking area. I suggested that the bird might be an omen. He had a message for us, maybe, and we needed to be very still in order to learn what it was.

At Yellowstone National Park our last full day of exploring, it rained. But our spirits were not dampened.

Yellowstone Lake at Geyser Basin
We photographed Old Faithful then drove to Geyser Basin where the dark and damp sky seemed oddly appropriate for the otherworldly bubbling mud and smelly steam wafting all around us.

Wyoming did not disappoint. I hiked around hidden lakes, gazed across broad valleys, breathed deep the scent of thick pine forests which, thankfully, has stayed with me.

I am just as inspired by the fact that two women from vastly different backgrounds and lifestyles easily found common ground through travel and historical study. It helped, of course, that both of us enjoy a good belly laugh.

That old black Raven might end up in my next tome - like the fairy tale toad who is turned into a prince. “Raven” will be a young black headed cowboy who gallops down one of the Teton Mountain passes on his way to the Stagecoach Bar and Grill to look for his favorite two-stepping gal from New York City.

Thanks for the memories, Andrea!

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell's novel The Dividing Season, won the 2013 EPIC Award for Best Historical fiction.

(Blog Coordinator's note: Check back next week for Andrea's side of the story....)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

WWW News for mid-June

Due to a special event that will take place in late June, the June Member News is out early this month. Click over to the WWW News page for the latest on what's happening with our members, including awards, new releases, and a museum event that brings the past alive in a unique way!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Awards and New Releases

Click on over to the WWW News page to see the award and new release announcements from our talented writer-members, including first place awards at the National Indie Excellence Awards and the International Latino Book Awards, plus a new mystery, two new books on the Oregon State Hospital (remember the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?), and the first book in a new romance series. (Below are covers of the award-winning and new books.) Congratulations all!