Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cowboy Poetry at College, Second Go-Round?

The folks at the University of Utah Division of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning have scheduled “Introduction to Cowboy Poetry” for Summer Semester. Having been cancelled during Spring Semester for lack of enrollment, the course is on life support and may expire if it doesn’t thrive this time around.
For six Tuesday evenings starting May 12, the course will meet for laughs and learning at the Annex Building on the University of Utah’s main campus on Salt Lake City’s east bench. No grades. No credit. No pressure. Just useful information and good fun. We’ll study the works of master cowboy poets, living and dead, try our hands at composing a poem or two, and talk about recitation and presentation techniques. We’ll even address songwriting as it relates to poetry if the stars align properly, courtesy of Brenn Hill.
If you’re interested, or know someone who might be, information about enrollment is available at the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning website. Don’t put it off. If you do, it may be too late. For all of us.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pikes Peak or Bust!


      Those immortal words won’t be painted on the side of my conveyance as they were daubed on wagons in days gone by. And pursuit of gold (at least not directly) isn’t my reason for traveling to the shadow of that tall mountain named for an explorer of questionable quality and uncertain motives. (A peak, I might add, fashioned by Rawhide Robinson as recounted in Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range.)
      My journey across the Rockies will take me to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, where I will present workshops on writing short stories and historical fiction, and “7 Ways to Write Prose like a Poet.” This writers conference is ranked among the top ten in the nation, and the faculty includes a wide variety of authors, editors, publishers, and others. Aspiring and accomplished writers alike can attend workshops, critique sessions, meet with agents and editors, and more.
      All in all, it looks to be a good time and I am looking forward to the trip. Why not load up your wagon, hitch up your oxen and come along? Conference and registration information is available at

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 13: Self-published books are just as good as the other kind.

Let’s get this part out of the way first thing: I have read many, many “traditionally” published books that are nothing short of awful. And I have read many, many self-published books that are nothing short of wonderful.
In other words, there’s no guarantee of what you’re getting either way.
But, lacking any other information about a particular book or author, the odds are in the reader’s favor with a traditionally published book.
I say that at the risk of offending many writers of my acquaintance, but I’m not making it up. It’s based on years of experience reading more books than is healthy. Most of those books were not of my choosing. They were mine to read and review for a variety of magazines, or mine to read and evaluate as a judge in a variety of awards competitions.
In those assignments I read a few self-published books that were outstanding. And I read many that were well worth the time. But I also read a lot—a whole lot—that were terrible by any measure. Typographical errors. Poor punctuation. Bad grammar. Inept spelling. Incompetent attempts at dialect. Dialogue the like of which you’ve never heard. Unbelievable incidents. Plots twisted beyond the breaking point. Cardboard characters. Stereotypical situations. Ignorance about culture, times, places, people, animals, equipment….
And, again, typographical errors, poor punctuation, bad grammar, inept spelling.
Finally, let me emphasize the fact that many self-published books are marvelous. And there are many terrible traditionally published books.
But if you’re a writer, there just might be a reason traditional publishers aren’t interested in your book.
And if you’re a reader, buying a book is like placing a bet—so unless you’re willing to lose your money, it just might be best to play the odds.