Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Award-Winning Tales" Released!

It's always a joy to receive a new book in the mail...especially when said book contains one of my stories!  I received that kind of "joy" today when I opened a thick bubble-envelope and pulled out two complimentary copies of Award-Winning Tales, a western anthology complied by R. L. (Becky) Coffield. My story Lost Letters was a Finalist in the short story contest sponsored by Moonlight Mesa Associates.  Following the contest Becky was so pleased with all the stories that she decided to publish a book with selected stories from the 2009 and 2010 contest entries. 

Lost Letters is a fictional story I took from the title of one of my articles I wrote as a regular contributor for the Hidden Heritage feature page in RFD-TV The Magazine.  In Lost Letters the article, I shared the story of Paul LaRoche's adoption papers being lost in the back of his adoptive mother's writing desk for years, thus hiding Paul's true American Indian heritage.  When thinking "what on earth can I write about for a western contest?!", I looked at the two simple words, Lost Letters...and the ideas began to emerge. 

I placed the story in western Minnesota and South Dakota, settings familiar to me, and told the story through the eyes of Marsha, a young college student who always knew she'd been adopted, and Josephine, a woman who had given up her baby girl for adoption...and why.  Becky said the story brought tears to her eyes when she read it, which to me means it touched her heart, and as a writer that is what matters. 

Here's the review Becky received from Shirley Johnson, Senior Reviewer with the MidWest Book Review:
I was not quite sure what I would find on the pages of this book, but I knew it would be good. Looking upon the read I had a hard decision to make. Should I start the read from the beginning or just pick a tale? It was not easy because some of the titles seemed to be calling my name. That is one of the pluses of a book filled with different tales, and one that I truly enjoy. You can read it in one sitting, or read a full story when it fits your fancy.

As I began the read I was taken into the magical words of the authors that stirred many an emotion within me. Not something I expected to happen from this book. I usually only experience this when reading a full novel where I have become totally immersed in a longer storyline. It was a pleasant surprise. The stories were down front and personal. In other words, they were so well written I felt I was part of each story, knew the characters, faced the challenges, and felt the emotions of every story I read. Unbelievable but true.

However, the styles of each tale changed like rapid water, always keeping the Western flare, yet cascading me into the rapids of the moment that the author touched upon. Each story showcased that particular author's ability and talent. The fiber that each author wove into his/her story was like a burst of fresh air as I anticipated what was to be unfolded. I was never disappointed, as each story introduced new characters and new locale, like a fresh new picture being painted while I watched. Each story was different and could stand alone, yet they merged under the western skies as one. It may be a tale of romance, murder, competition, struggles, joy or sadness, each brings just the right dish that fills a banquet table before you. Let the feast begin.

This is an outstanding read. Very well written by authors who truly know how to spin a tale that will grab you and not let go. Highly recommended.

If you are interested in reading Lost Letters or any of the stories in Award-Winning Tales, please visit the website for Moonlight Mesa Associates at  I haven't had a chance to read the stories yet, so guess you know what I'll be doing this evening! 


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

5th Annual Winter Writers Retreat

Every Martin Luther King weekend my good friend, author Julie Saffrin, hosts a writers retreat at her cabin in northwestern Minnesota on Dead Lake.  This year four hearty writers made the drive "up north" to work on projects in a variety of genres:

Jannelle Huston - humor writer
Sheri Jacobs - playwright
Julie Saffrin - nonfiction
myself - memoir
Julie's dog, Mick - author in waiting

My focus was to keep working on Michigan & Rookie...Guardians of the Night, the story of Officer Joaquin Guerrero and his K9 Rookie.  Joaquin's intentions in sharing Rookie's story is to bring honor and recognition to all K9 handlers and their partners.  And since Rookie is really the "star" of the book, the idea came to me that I should tell by story by alternating POVs between Joaquin and Rookie.  It sounded like a good idea anyway. 

The first time I sat down to write out a scene in Rookie's POV I managed to come up with three weak sentences and that was it.  Hmmm...  How does a dog think?  What would a dog say?  Maybe I should rethink this grand idea. 

Then again, I shouldn't give up that easy.  After all, we writers are hearty souls that never give up, right?  So I dragged a dozen library books on dogs up to Julie's cabin and took a few notes:

-its estimated dogs can use their noses a thousand to ten thousand times better than humans
-dogs can distinguish between scents to an extraordinary degree
-German shepherds have a high degree of intelligence, if not the highest,
-German shepherds love to work and be active

I studied Rookie's pictures for awhile, talked to Mick for awhile, stared out my window awhile, and tried it again.  Suddenly my 'dog mind' clicked, and away I went, typing out a bunch of scenes from Rookie's POV.  Witty and clever scenes, even.  So maybe, just maybe, this whole dog POV will work after all. 

What do you think, Mick?

That's fine...just don't touch my pillow!

I made some good progress on the manuscript each day.  My favorite part of writing up at Julie's cabin is the fact I can push my work table up against the south windows that face the lake.  It's a great way to spend the day.    

Morning sun out my window

Evening sun out my window.
Julie and Mick out my window

   Of course there are certain requirements for every writers retreat:  coffee, great food, and a little wine to close out the day. I'm just saying.

Sheri's fabulous French salad!

 Julie and I have dueling coffee pots: she likes her coffee strong and dark; I like mine weak, flavored, and equal parts coffee and Half & Half. 

Morning and nighttime necessities
  We had some good laughs (Janelle could be a stand-up comedian, seriously..."off with the foot!"--what a story!), shared some "cries of the heart" with each other, and bonded in that special way that women and writers do.  Proud Mom, Sheri's son Kyle Jacobs, a songwriter in Nashville, just married the love of his life, Miss Kellie Pickler, on New Year's Day in Antigua and the couple is featured in this week's People magazine. Once again, our time was blessed. 


Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Nation - Craftsman Award

The Tournament of Roses Parade went off without a hitch...once again a beautiful and colorful display of imagination and creative thinking.  "One Nation", sponsored by RFD-TV won the Craftsman Award.  The float was 75 feet in length and 35 feet tall, and represented a Lakota Fancy Dancer, patterned after Garan Coons, one of the Fancy Dancers for Brule'. 

Photo of One Nation, by Getty Images
January 1, 2011
Courtesy of Daylife
 I haven't had a chance to speak with Paul LaRoche since the parade to hear all the details.  He did say in an interview with the Worthington Globe, "It's a pretty exciting occasion for a kid from Worthington!"  Brule' performed in the front of the float for the full parade route, while other tribal representatives walked alongside. 

Pretty exciting stuff, indeed!