Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 8: Don’t Worry About Grammar and Spelling.

On more than a few occasions, I have heard people say before an audience of aspiring, and even accomplished, writers, “Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. The editors will fix that. Just tell your story. Get it out there.”
It could be that will work with some editors, sometimes. But I am more in keeping with Baxter Black’s view that an editor’s job is to keep you from getting published. And, to further that notion, the first thing editors look for when they pick up a manuscript is a reason to toss it in the trash and get on to the next submission.
It’s not that editors are mean. But they are busy and overworked and haven’t the time to wade through a lot of amateurish writing—whether it be poor spelling, bad grammar, awkward syntax, a lousy plot, awful characters, dumb dialogue, or whatever.
They haven’t the time to waste.
But writers do. And, in our case, that time isn’t wasted. We ought to be concerned enough about our work that we want to get it right. And getting the little things right is often an indication that the big things will fall into place as well. Not always. But often enough to make it worth the effort.
Sew, sea that you’re spelling and stuff is rite wen your righting.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rod Miller on COW radio.

Not long ago I had the privilege of talking with Andy Nelson. Anyone who knows Andy will know what an experience that is. He is, without a doubt, one of the funniest men in all of the Wild West. He’s a writer, a poet, a comedian, a master-of-ceremonies, and all manner of entertainer. And he swings a fine shoeing hammer.
Along with his brother, Jim, (that’s Andy on the left in the photo above, Jim on the right) he also hosts a weekly syndicated radio show, C.O.W. (Clear Out West) Radio that is broadcast on several stations in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon, as well as on the Internet. Cowboy music, poetry, interviews, features, and unfettered fun are always on the air when they roll tape on C.O.W. Radio.
Andy and I talked about my sorry cowboy skills as well as Western writing and my new book, Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems. My appearance is on Show #615, to be broadcast at various times and places during the week of November 17-23, and available for download.
Find out more about—and listen to—C.O.W. Radio here:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 7: Cowboy Poetry and Free Verse Don’t Mix.

I like poetry—I like reading it and I like writing it. Most of the poetry I write is about cowboys, and I carry some cowboy credentials. So, I guess I am a cowboy poet—or, at least, a poet cowboy.
For the record, some of the poems I write have rhyme or meter or both and some have neither. That’s obvious in my books Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems and Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems as well as my poems in periodicals and anthologies. Fooling around with words and fiddling around with sounds is fun—and hard work. And so is letting a poem find itself, whether it wants rhyme and meter or wants to run free.
The simple truth is, rhyme and meter are poetic tools, not requirements. And that holds true for any brand of poetry.
There are those—some friends among them—who believe that if it isn’t rhymed and metered (although most of them are a bit sketchy on what meter actually entails) it isn’t cowboy poetry. There’s even an organization I was once part of that claims poetry without rhyme and meter—free verse, to use the term that, for some reason, raises their ire—isn’t poetry at all, but prose.
To make such a claim is either arrogant or ignorant. Maybe both.
And it’s a claim that cannot be supported with any authority, whether you’re talking poetry by or about cowboys, or poetry in general.
You might as well claim that Western music isn’t Western music unless it is written in the key of G, in 3/4 time, with a waltz rhythm, at 82 beats a minute.
That, of course, would be absurd. But no more so than claiming that only poems with rhyme and meter are poems, and that free verse isn’t poetry.

To see if I practice what I preach, get a copy of my new collection of poems about cowboys and the West from Pen-L Publishing (

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hanging Out With Writers.

      During the past couple of months I have had the opportunity to hang out with writers.
      Late September found me in Idaho Falls for the Idaho Writers League annual conference. I was invited to present a couple of workshops there—a half day on researching and writing historical fiction, and an hour-long session on creative nonfiction.
      The conference drew a good group of writers from across and up and down the state. Both my sessions were well attended, and no one pelted me with wilted vegetables or otherwise expressed displeasure.

      The red rock country of southern Utah was home for a few days in late October. I sat with three other authors at Read Cat Bookstore in Kanab for a book signing, then spent an evening and day at the Kanab Writers Conference. It, too, attracted a bunch of writers, all of whom seemed to have a good time.
      Some of them sat through my presentation on how prose writers can improve their writing by using techniques poets use. Others attended my session on writing essays. And, again, a few people expressed appreciation and those who found it a waste of time were polite enough to not say so.
      All in all, some good times and good places to be.