Sunday, January 25, 2015

Road Work.

Last year my workshop schedule wrapped up with a couple of good ones—the Idaho Writers League annual conference and the Kanab Writers Conference. Both those places have had me on the roster more than once, and it has always been a pleasure to participate.
This year’s calendar is so fresh you wouldn’t want to step in it, but there are already a couple of entries. 

In March, I’ll be in southern Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books. This extravaganza draws more than 100,000 book lovers and is supposed to be good fun. I am looking forward to being there and presenting a session titled “More than L’Amour: Writing the West in the 21st Century.”

A month later, it’s Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, where I’ve been asked to present three workshops to the writers who will assemble there. It, too, is a large gathering with a good reputation—rated among the top ten writers conferences by a leading magazine—so I hope I don’t spoil it.
More invitations may arrive, resulting in more workshops and other events on my calendar. I hope so. Going on the road and hanging out with writers and readers is always enjoyable.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough…

…A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou.”
Those immortal words from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám capture the eternal place of poetry in love affairs. And for all you cowboys and cowgirls out there, that’s something worth thinking about. So stretch your hatband a little and consider a book of verses for a Valentine’s Day gift—it’s coming sooner than you think.
May I suggest Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems.
Granted, they’re not exactly love poems. But what cowgirl or cowboy doesn’t love horses. And cows. And rodeo. Branding. Outlaws. Cowboy hats and boots. And all kinds of other Western things we all know—and love.
Right now, for a limited time, for all you pixel-peepers who read on those battery-powered gadgets, Pen-L Publishing has marked down the Kindle edition of Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems to just 99 cents. Less than a dollar. A mere pittance.
This lower-than-low price for a book of verses will probably leave enough jingle in your jeans to buy a jug of wine and a loaf of bread to go with it.
(But it may be best not to let on how little you paid.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 10: Getting Published Should Not Be Your Goal.

Some people will tell you—in writing workshops, classes, conferences—that getting published should not be your goal. That you should write for the love of it, and not worry if what you’ve written is ever read by anyone else.
There may be some merit in that point of view if what you’re writing is a personal or family history meant only to be left as a legacy. Other than that, I don’t buy it. Why would you write if not to be read? That seems to me to be the whole point. If you’re not read, are you even a writer? I don’t think so.
There are those who say the sheer act of writing makes you a writer. How so? Compare it to, say, an interest in plumbing. Sure, you can play around with pipes and wrenches and fittings all you want. You can even take a course and get a certificate in plumbing. You can buy all the tools and equipment. And you can take a lot of enjoyment and personal satisfaction from it all. But until someone hires you, and pays you, to pound on their pipes you are not a plumber. Not really.
I don’t see writing as all that different. Putting words on paper is the beginning of being a writer, not the end. Because if those words aren’t published, aren’t made available to other eyes, they might as well not exist.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

“Old Rivet” goes barefoot.

Cowboy Poetry recently lost one of its guiding lights with the death of Don Kennington. Don was a fine writer, a fine reciter, and a fine cowboy. And a fine human being by any measure.
Don and his brother Phil were sources of inspiration and information when I first thought to write poems, and were unfailing in the kindness and assistance they offered me. I suspect others feel the same.
While Don penned a passel of outstanding poems, I would venture to guess his most popular is “Shoeing Old Rivet.” I saw Don recite it many, many times—usually at the request of the audience—and it never failed to bring tears to the eyes of most in attendance, because the poem is so darn funny you laugh till you cry.
Unlike the rhyming punch-line jokes so many reciters try to pass off as poetry, “Shoeing Old Rivet” is an ongoing stream of humor, wit, wordplay, and clever turns of phrase embedded in a story with real depth and meaning hiding behind all the funny.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing “Shoeing Old Rivet” recited by others in days and years to come. But as far as I’m concerned, Old Rivet will go barefoot from now on, as no one else will be able to tack shoes on that horse the way Don did.

Friday, January 2, 2015

More stuff hot of the press.

The new issue of Ranch & Reata magazine just landed in my mailbox. If you haven’t seen the publication, it’s well worth a look. It’s big, it’s colorful, it’s beautifully designed and, being a print publication (with an online version as well), it really is hot off the press.
Among the offerings in this issue is a story I wrote about photographer Kevin Martini-Fuller. For 30 years he has made portraits of cowboy poets at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, and several of those portraits accompany the article—including the faces of my friends Doris Daley, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Paul Zarzyski, and Gail Steiger.
The story also covers Kevin’s cowboy poetry exhibit all the way across the sea in France.
And, of course, there’s a lot more to enjoy in the new issue of Ranch & Reata, including an article by Hal Cannon about the multi-talented songwriter, poet, writer, and man-of-many-hats Andy Wilkinson. Andy has long been on my short list of people I would like to know.
Find out more about the magazine here: