Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 1: Write What You Know.

You hear it all the time at writer’s workshops: write what you know.
I don’t believe a word of it. Writing about what you know about seems to me a recipe for repetition and stagnation.
 Instead, write what you want to know. The best writers are inherently curious, always seeking—through reading or travel or whatever—to learn something new. You could call it research. And those new things, whether sought out deliberately or stumbled upon by serendipity, often find their way into a story, a song, a poem, or a book—usually after considerably more research and curiosity.
Now, this is not to say you shouldn’t develop some mastery of the subject—know it, in other words—before you write about it. For one thing, readers who do know can spot a phony from afar. For another, writers owe readers a heaping helping of honesty, truth, and reality along with entertainment. And that’s true whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, poetry or plays, essays or songs, movies or magazine articles.
Texas poet Larry D. Thomas would never have imagined The Goatherd had he not been curious about what life might have been like for a man who tended goats in long-ago Texas. Michael Zimmer would not have written the outstanding novel Beneath a Hunter’s Moon had he not wondered about the somewhat obscure M├ętis and their ways. We would not have South Pass had Will Bagley not set out to discover the finer points of exploration and emigrant travel over the Continental Divide’s easiest crossing. And so on.
Don’t let your writing be limited by the limits of your knowledge by believing the lie that you should write what you know. Learn something new. Then, you’ll come to know what you write—and so will your readers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Did you know?


The manuscript for The Lost Frontier: Momentous Moments in the Old West You May Have Missed just went out to the publisher (Two Dot/Globe Pequot). It will be on bookshelves sometime next year, and I will let you know when.
It’s a nonfiction book, each chapter of which addresses an incident or event or person or place that was important in the history and development of the Old West, but is largely forgotten today. And a lot of it flies in the face of what you learned in school. It was a fun book to research and write, and I learned a lot in the process. I hope readers will, too.
For example, did you know that Lewis and Clark were not the first to cross the North American continent?
Or that the United States and England almost went to war over a pig?
Did you know a Texan may have taken to the air long before the Wright brothers?
Or that America was once ruled by an emperor?
All these and many other stories are told in The Lost Frontier. I can’t wait to read it.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thinking about success in the rodeo arena.


Not long ago I wrote about a friend from my college rodeo days, Bruce Hunt, who recently retired after a long career as a rodeo coach at West Hills College. One of his success stories as a coach was his daughter Nora, whose accomplishments in high school, college, and professional rodeo are immense.
While she still ropes, Nora Hunt-Lee is married, raising two kids, and working as a clinical psychologist, therapist, and family counselor. Part of her practice is Sports Psychology, with an emphasis on helping rodeo athletes. You can read all about Nora—her accomplishments, her practice, and her philosophy of achievement—in the latest issue of Ranch & Reata magazine (www.ranchandreata.com).
It’s an interesting article, and it was a pleasure to work with Nora to put it together. And while this is a simplistic summary, it turns out that success in rodeo—like in a lot of life—is all in your head. I wish she had been around when I was crawling down into the chute….

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rawhide Robinson will ride again!


Just the other day I put the signed contract in the mail to Five Star Publishing for publication of my follow-up novel to Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range. This one is titled Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail, and recounts our ordinary hero’s quest to rid the mining boomtown of Tombstone of a pestilence of rats. The novel laughs its way from the streets and alleys of Chicago to the Santa Fe Trail to the Mexican border to the O.K. Corral. Like the first Rawhide Robinson novel, this one will be enjoyable for adults and younger readers as well.
The book will be released in hardcover shortly after the New Year, I suspect, but just when is yet to be determined. So, there is plenty of time to order copies of Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range for you and all your friends so you will be well acquainted with this ordinary cowboy who does extraordinary things before Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail hits the shelves.