Sunday, October 3, 2010

Women Writing the West

Howdy!  I can use that greeting again--even though I'm not in Wyoming--because I am officially now a member of WOMEN WRITING THE WEST.  I may not live in The West (yet!), but I live west of the Mississippi, which will have to do for now.  As their welcome letter states, "Women Writing the West is a dynamic group of individuals who write, edit, publish, and produce the western women's experience is an association with which to be reckoned."  This is an organization I found out about back in May from Kaye Roll, one of the ladies I met at the Literature & Landscape of the Horse Retreat in Wyoming. 

Over the summer I browsed through their website a few times, and somehow stumbled onto a website for Moonlight Mesa Associates, a small publisher in Arizona that happened to be sponsoring a short story contest.  It was their 2nd annual "Cowboy Up Contest!" and the criteria included: 
  • western theme,
  • 3,000 words max,
  • must involve a cowboy or two--or other western character(s). 
My first thought was, "Hmm, I don't really write in the western genre...what kind of a story could I possibly come up with for this contest?" 

Two seconds later I turned back to my desk and spied the list of article ideas from Paul LaRoche for the RFD-TV Magazine.  Starting this spring, the editor of RFD-TV had asked Paul to submit a short article for each issue.  Since Paul's talents are primarily in music, he asked for a little help.  He sent me a list of ideas and I write the articles.  I had just finished, "Lost Letters", a short piece about Paul's adoption papers being lost in his mother's writing desk for years.  And then the light bulb went off...

Duh!  Take the title of any one of these articles and write a completely fictionalized story to match!

So that's exactly what I did...I started a brand new version of "Lost Letters."  I wrote the first draft and took it with me to the Black Hills for our annual camping trip.  We stayed in a different campground this year, one surrounded by a forest of tall Ponderosa pines.  Each morning I heard the wind whisper through pine needles.  The beauty of the dark green needles contrasted against the bold blue sky stunned me each day.  Slowly I started putting the pieces of my story together, defining my characters.  Throughout the week the setting all around contributed to my story in scattered moments.  Pink patches of clover, granite spires, sunlight casting lace patterns on the ground below, distinct scents of clover and pine.  I scribbled down notes, thoughts, images. 

After we returned home I finished my story and sent it off to the contest, not really sure if it met the style of the western genre but deciding either way it was good writing practice.  Then last week I received word that "Lost Letters" is a Finalist (how 'bout a yahoo!) in the contest and Moonlight Mesa Associates announced plans to publish an anthology in 2011 titled "Award-Winning Western Tales" with selected stories from the contest.   I'll find out next week if "Lost Letters" is one of the top three winners, but right now I'm just tickled it placed as a Finalist.

In my eyes, Women Writing the West opens a window to a whole new world of writing possibilities!

To learn more about Women Writing the West, go to

And to learn more about Moonlight Mesa Associates, go to

Blessings to writers, western and otherwise!

1 comment:

Becky said...

Way to go, Barb!!!