Dyin’ or Revivin’?

  • 8 Comments

Last week I received an email by the good folks running the literary competitions at my local county fair. After notifying me that my story won a prize, they invited me to come out to the fair next weekend to read my story aloud on stage as part of their literary event.

Well I was just pleased as punch to say yes. What a wonderful opportunity.

This past Saturday, I had some time on my hands while I sat in a chair waiting for my hair to turn that color that only my hairdresser knows how to make.

I started thinking about this event next weekend and planning. I need to spend some time practicing reading my story aloud. Practice is everything in a public speaking situation.

I wondered if I’d be asked any questions about the story. I thought I should try to think up what I might be asked so I could be ready with good answers.

One of the first questions I thought of was, “what was your inspiration for this story?”

I had to spend some time thinking that through. It’s a story that’s been rambling around in my mind for a while, and I’ve taken several stabs and getting it out, to both greater and lesser success.

Mainly, I was inspired by the fact that upon reading the guidelines for the competition, I noted that there was a “Western” genre available to compete under. This is not something I often see, so that really got my creative juices rolling.

My absolute author-hero is Larry McMurtry. I adore his way with description and dialogue, and his western novels are a cut above.

I have a collection of short stories that McMurtry edited. It’s western stories written only by writers raised in the west.

When I saw that my county fair offered a Western category, I knew there was no doubt that I had to write a western story.

That said, what I wrote isn’t truly a classical western. Technically, the western genre implies a story set in the 1800’s, the so called “Old West.”

If you read any of the literally thousands of short stories that Louis L’Amour wrote, you’ll find within his formula a common theme. The great conflict in his stories is of man against nature which includes cattle grazing the land, the weather and water. In fact, water rights always seem to play a big role in L’Amour’s short stories.

I guess that the western genre has declined so much because these concepts seem hopelessly old fashioned.

But are they?

Until his untimely death last year, my dear friend who farmed cotton and chile on his family’s farm in La Mesa was fighting with the state of New Mexico over water rights. This problem was such a vital aspect of his life that it was mentioned in his eulogy.

Yesterday I watched a televised show where renowned French chef Eric Ripert spoke passionately about the “farm to table” movement, and visited a Virginia farm where the owner was doing something revolutionary.

He was not overgrazing his land.

He spends time calculating how many head of cattle his land can bear and then actively rotates pastures to be sure that his cattle never overgraze. His land flourishes, his cattle are healthy and he’s seen as an innovator.

This is not innovation. Louis L’Amour wrote stories about this very idea over 70 years ago. This concept is also something they taught me in my collegiate FFA organization**. It’s called “being a good steward of the land.”

And so, to bring this back to my point…

I wanted to write a western story because although I keep hearing that the western fiction genre is dying, I’m seeing that the topics driving most true western stories are still essential and vital to today’s world.

And so maybe Westerns aren’t dying. Maybe, much like the land, if tended to and nourished, the genre can continue to flourish with a modern sensibility.

Writing a western story set in modern times that won an award at my local county fair is so deeply satisfying to me. It’s my affirmation that the Western genre is alive and well inside at least one little girl who was born and raised in the west.

_______________________


Further proof: The Western genre gets back in the saddle





**”I believe in the future of farming…”


Craft Catatonia

  • 4 Comments

Hoo boy….I am beat down to a nub. I have been arts and crafting my ass off in preparation for the upcoming local county fair.

While the term “county fair” may imply something small and hick-ish, my local fair is anything but. It’s a huge event

Back in February, I visited with my godkids in Las Cruces, and they were all fired up about their own county fair coming up in September.

My niƱos are all about 4H and have decided to raise pigs this year to show at the fair. Their excitement was contagious, so I came back to Northern California fired up and ready to participate in my own fair.

In fact, I was so excited that when the guidebook arrived, I decided to sign up for four events. Four. Which means I’m either stupid or sadistic. I, uh, have a full time job.

Since the fair kicks off June 11, my four entries are due, oh, NOW.

The events I’m doing are: short story, photography, visual art, and baking.

Yes. I said baking.

The short story had to be turned in over a month ago so the judges had plenty of time to read and evaluate the stories. Last week I got the smoking hot news that my story won my genre category, which was Western.

Whoo hoo! The fair hasn’t even started and I’m liking this already!

The story will be published in an anthology of stories put out by the Fair and sold to benefit charity.

Pretty damn excited, I can tell you that!

The photography entry has gone fairly well, too. I knew which photo I wanted to use and it was a matter of getting a good print made (harder than it sounds) and then cutting the mat and framing the piece. I got that done mid-last week. Boom!

The visual art piece is a Dia de los Muertos inspired craft. Oh, how this work has vexed me. I had a *very* ambitious idea and have spent the last couple months constructing tons and tons of tiny details and figures and touches. The work, just finished this morning, doesn’t include all of the aspects I’d hoped to accomplish, but I have to say, I’m very proud. This project really pushed the bounds of my abilities as both crafter and storyteller.

Yesterday evening I slumped back in my chair, catatonic. I had nothing left. I had glue and paint all over my hands, sweat on my brow and an ache in my lower back that defies superlatives.

But yet I was still compelled to keep going and finish this piece on deadline, for no other reason than the pure satisfaction of having completed something so very boundary testing.

I did it. I DID it. I’ll be damned…I actually did it. Whoa.

Today I’ll turn in the framed photo and the art work and then I’ll do a little “I made it by the deadline” dance.

Then I’ll collapse.

But wait, there’s more! The deadline for the fourth event comes up next week. I entered the “ethnic desserts” category and I’ll be whipping up a batch of Biscochitos.

New Mexico! Representin’!

And then I will eat my fill of anise seed treats, slip into a sugar coma, and sleep for a very long time…or at least until The Muse taps me on the psyche again.





Lucky Page 13

  • 9 Comments

The June issue of New Mexico Magazine is on newsstands now! I got my copy in the mail this week and found a few more copies at my local Borders.

Yippee!!

Here’s the cover, in case you’re looking for it. I’m on page 13!





I’ve Got A Secret

  • 15 Comments

In one of those weird things that sticks with you over the years…

I remember that some dear friends of our family always subscribed to New Mexico Magazine. We’d go visit their beautiful adobe home in the Valley, and when the adult conversation would bore me, I’d pick up that magazine and flip through the pages.

New Mexico Magazine gave me a view on my home state that was much different than what I knew. I’d stare and stare at those amazing full color photographs of Native American jewelry, or locations around the state, or blue sky and clouds.

It was like my New Mexico, only better. I used to devour that magazine cover to cover.

When I became an adult, I started subscribing to New Mexico Magazine for myself. After my move to California, the magazine helped me get through pangs of homesickness. I’d dog ear pages of photos and articles that made me happy.

New Mexico Magazine has been a fixture in my life as long as I can remember. Today, I know something that the kid sitting on the floor in a beautiful adobe home in the Valley didn’t know.

I’ve been keeping a secret. I didn’t want to say too much in case it didn’t work out.

Now the secret can be told. I have permission to share my Very Big News:

I wrote three articles that have been accepted for publication in New Mexico Magazine.

Let me just pause here before I pass out.

Ok, I’m back.

The first article is slated for the June issue. Due out soon!

The other two are planned for the September/October timeframe. Since the magazine is undergoing some changes to the editorial staff, it’s a bit up in the air. I hope to know more soon.

All gratitude to Associate Editor Ashley Biggers (@ambiggers on Twitter) for opening the conversation and working with me through this process. She has a talent for developing writers, and I’m grateful for her patience.

I’m already working on a couple more ideas for upcoming articles. There is so much to know and explore about New Mexico that I’m excited to share.

This is a pretty big honor for a little girl from New Mexico.

Join me now in an epic rendition of the Happy Dance!






To properly celebrate, I wore my Fat Babies to work today. New Mexico in da hoouuuse!


Image from Yippee Farms


My Favorite Wayback Machine Line of the Day

  • 2 Comments

“No matter where I am in the world, in such disparate places as Sunset Boulevard, the canyons of Manhattan, an old mine tunnel in the Black Range above Hillsboro in southwestern New Mexico, or the limitless sagebrush desert norths beyond the Rio Grande gorge of Taos, I think of the land and some incident that happened on the malpais rocks and soil of Hi-Lo.

Like the gravity filled land, the thoughts and inspiration are perpetual.”

— Max Evans, in his book Hi Lo Country: Under the One-Eyed Sky


Just re-reading my February issue of New Mexico Magazine…the “Best Ever Books Issue”. It’s a dandy.

If you aren’t reading New Mexico Magazine, you oughta be.




AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf