Friday, July 19, 2019

A new dispatch.


The summer issue of Saddlebag Dispatches is online and off the presses. Included in its 162 colorful pages is my regular column, “Best of the West.”
Featured in the column are cowboy poet Andy Nelson and songster Brenn Hill, whose on-stage exchange of poetry and song are unrivaled in western entertainment. Andy and Brenn are both outstanding writers, which, to me, is what matters most.
But that isn’t where their talents end. Andy is a master of ceremonies, reciter, humorist, and commentator without equal. Brenn is a lyricist, composer, picker, and singer of the finest kind. Together, they blend poems and songs on similar subjects seamlessly, alternating stanza and verse to tell a bigger story than either song or poem tells on its own.
Link up with Saddlebag Dispatches, and enjoy all it has to offer in the way of magazine features, short stories, poems, photos, and more.
And don’t miss the “Best of the West.”





Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Saluting the flag.


This time of year, flags fly in abundance and are celebrated and saluted in many settings.
Every rodeo begins with a flag ceremony in conjunction with the traditional grand entry, with the stars and stripes flown from horseback in the arena. Men doff their hats, hold them over their hearts, and—for those so inclined—sing along with the Star Spangled Banner.
It’s different for those of us who practice(d) the bareback bronc riding trade. Here’s a poem I wrote about the experience from behind the bucking chutes.

LONG MAY IT WAVE

The Star Spangled Banner inspires all manner
Of feelings in folks when it plays—
Every bareback bronc veteran feels a rush of adrenaline
Long after his rodeo days.

The Anthem’s first sound brings the Chute Boss around
Yellin’ “Pull ’em down boys! Let’s rodeo!”
And you straddle the chute, ease down onto the brute,
Grab your riggin’ and stretch latigo.

Then the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Grow distant; seem to fade into dim.
Rosin squeaks in your handhold. The horse shivers as if cold.
And, for eight seconds, there’s just you and him.



Monday, July 1, 2019

On newsstands now.


Many of you are familiar with Cowboys & Indians magazine. It’s a slick, upscale periodical that covers entertainers, travel, food, shopping, and other people, places, and things around the Western states.
The current issue focuses on Texas, including a feature story on rodeo legend Ty Murray. Included in the feature is a sidebar I wrote about the Professional Bull Riders Ty Murray Top Hand Award, an award created to honor bull riding’s roots in rodeo, and recognize cowboys who are not bull riders and have made a significant contribution to the sport.
The handsome award itself, modeled on a pair of Ty Murray’s spurs, was designed and sculpted by my friend Jeff Wolf. As you see, it’s a real work of art. Recipients of the award will no doubt be honored to display it.
Get a copy of Cowboys & Indians and read all about it.





Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 50: Enroll today! You, too, can learn to be a writer!

There’s one thing that’s sorely lacking in my career as a writer: an education.
Beyond what they taught us all back in my day with those dreaded “Themes” in high school (and elementary school and junior high) I am unschooled in writing.
I confess a reasonably good grounding in journalistic-type scribbling, as I earned a degree in the subject in college (between rodeoing and activities best not mentioned).
Still, I can put together a passable assemblage of words now and then. Don’t ask me how or why. But it certainly didn’t come from attending one of those fancy creative writing programs where so many people who want to write enroll, lured by all manner of lofty promises. I know people who have done that, and they tend to hem and haw, fuss and fritter, plan and procrastinate, and talk about writing rather than write.
I read something some time ago about creative writing programs that might help explain that. It references poetry in particular, but I think it applies to creative writing in general. This quotation pretty much sums up what a fellow named Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker:
Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem.
Sounds about right to me. As I have opined before, you can learn more about good writing by reading the writing of good writers.
Pay attention. They know how to do it.





Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Really Stupid Words, Chapter 7


American English is a rich language. It changes and evolves, and words and usages come and go. Some clarify, improve, enhance, and enrich.
But some are just plain stupid, and ought to be replaced by more meaningful language. Or, left unsaid altogether.
“We control our own destiny,” for example.
You hear people spout this inane phrase all the time. It gets thrown around as if it actually means something, rather than positing the impossible.
Destiny, by its very nature, is something that cannot be controlled. It’s usually defined as something like, “the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events,” or “events that will necessarily happen.” Note the words “predetermined,” “inevitable,” “irresistible,” and “necessarily.” In other words, uncontrollable.
So, no matter how much you might like to think so, or how hard you try, you cannot control your own destiny.
(Assuming, that is, that “destiny” even exists. But that’s another story.)


Monday, June 3, 2019

Celebrating art.


From June 20 through 23, hundreds of artists of all kinds invade downtown Salt Lake City’s Library Square for the Utah Arts Festival. And tens of thousands of lovers of literature, music, visual arts, dance, and other artistic endeavors join the fun.
This year, cowboy poets and Western writers are on the program, including yours truly. I am honored to have been asked to present a workshop on Western writing and take the stage to read from my work.
Should you live in or find yourself in the Intermountain West while the celebration is in progress, join us. There’s something for everyone on the program—especially something you never expected.




Friday, May 24, 2019

And the envelope, please…

 

Western Fictioneers recently announced the Finalists for the annual Peacemaker Awards (named for Sam Colt’s famous revolver that some say won the West) for Western fiction published in 2018.
I am tickled pink to say that Father unto Many Sons is among the candidates for Best Novel, and Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero is on the list for Best Young Adult or Children’s Fiction. (This book, you may recall, will also be recognized as a Finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award.)
The winners will be announced mid-June. But, if neither novel tops the Western Fictioneer charts, it is still an honor to make the short list.
Sometimes you get lucky.