Jul 30, 2013

Hermit Fest & Creative Energy

While I'm busy writing stories and homeschooling, my husband Greg works full-time as a project manager and pursues his love of music through reviewing albums, hosting a folk music blog and radio show on Radio Boise, and helping to organize events like Hermit Music Festival.

The kids continue their homeschooling the way we do in the summers: camping, exploring, volunteering, traveling, going to festivals and workshops, participating in summer reading programs, practicing math---and then running.

They run everywhere, in any heat, through dirt and grass, with shoes and without, through 5ks and sprinklers. Apparently running is the perfect warm-up for any activity, the perfect break from difficult school work, and the perfect way to end every day.  So, yeah, there's running.  Also. . .

Our 15yo analyzes her SAT scores, works on advanced math with a vengeance, and volunteers for a half a dozen different organizations (the public library, a natural science museum, ACLU---and more). She's also learning to drive and she's started writing a new novel.

Our 11yo's energy never wavers. He's discovered a new passion for geocaching, continues to experiment with film-making, and yesterday spent the day designing and redesigning windmills. After watching me plan my latest book, he also started one of his own.  (He's now on chapter three while I'm still working on my set-up.)

Our 8yo possesses a great talent for sewing (just like her grandma), she sits patiently with our new kittens, and she's writing a book about the presidents (complete with quirky details, smart illustrations and perfect, tiny handwriting).

Our family reads together all the time.  Oldest averages a book every couple days and she now recommends titles for me as well as for her siblings. The younger two have been reading Angie Sage's Magyk series together, racing to the end, creating their own games to go along with the story. Greg reads intriguing titles about nature and conservation and I read anything my kids wave in front of my face (and when I don't, they read their selections aloud to me).  I also devour my colleague's treasures (both published and in progress) and I'm on a mythology kick at the moment---craving odd bits from books with library envelopes still glued to inside covers.  I'm working on a YA series, revising a YA stand-alone, waiting for word on a MG novel I have out to a publisher, and researching an obscure bit of family history that won't let me rest.

The amazing thing for me is how this environment contributes to my overall feeling of well-being and my overall energy level.  Several years ago I wrote a post about energy, in which I encouraged everyone to focus on those things that make us want to get up every morning.  Dreaming and moving forward with dreams not only makes our lives better, but also inspires others.

During Hermit Fest, I spent all my time around talented musicians. Despite the fact that I don't make music myself, I came home full of ideas and energy for writing stories. Oldest found a new approach for tackling tough math problems. Middle kiddo started designing windmills. Youngest tore apart a cereal box and created a house for her own world of characters.

A friend asked me how we find the time to do all the creative extra things in our life.  It took me a second to answer because creative activities are not extra things.  They're the foundation for everything.

Hermit Fest, Friday night

The festival was held at Indian Creek Winery.  This video features James Coberly Smith and Le Ann Towne, Possum Livin, Huck Notari and The River, Water Tower, and Charlie Parr:

Hermit Fest, Saturday afternoon

Featuring Johnny Shoes and The Rhythm Rangers, Tracy Morrison and  Bill Parsons, Crystal City, Jonathan Warren and The Billy Goats, High Desert Band, and Country Club:

Hermit Fest, Saturday night:

Featuring Hillfolk Noir, The Cactus Blossoms, Petunia and The Vipers, and Wayne "The Train" Hancock:

Jul 16, 2013

The World Needs Writers

The world needs writers.

This simple, powerful message changed my heart at Summer Fishtrap.

No one ever says the words---and the absence of those words echoes loudly---like a teacher who never says, "good job," or a parent who never says, "I love you."

I've heard plenty of people preach the opposite:

"The world has enough writers."

"The last thing we need is some two-bit hack thinking he can pick up a pen and be as good as the rest of us."

"You're not a writer.  You're a content-provider.  The rest of us are in sales."

"You're going to have to toughen up if you want to compete in this publishing market."

"Don't pay attention to reviews. Focus on units sold.  Readers don't matter, just downloads." 

I'm sure you could add to this list of mandates, this list of things we are told we have to do to get in (or stay in) "the publishing game."  Everyone talks about money and market, the right price for ebooks, the deals made and not made, which authors are getting into (and not getting into) Barnes and Noble.  And truly, yes, we all need to make our way in the world, but there are easier ways to put a meal on the table than being a writer---or a content-provider---or whatever the hell we're calling it today.

Last year at Fishtrap, I revised a novel based on suggestions compiled from an assortment of editors at various big publishing houses. My agent asked me to address all concerns before she sent the manuscript out again and I was willing to give it a go.  It's publishing, right? You do the dance. You toughen up. You take out this bit for one editor.  You drop a few minor characters for another.  You explain actions so they are rational decisions rather than quirky impulse.  You take away the side kick's point of view. You take away another character, another quirky scene.  Streamlining---simplifying---narrowing---boiling the book down to the simplest common denominator.

At the end of the process, I read back through the manuscript feeling gutted. If writing were medicine, I'd killed my patient.

I didn't send it.  Probably my agent would have seen how terrible it was, but I was even more afraid she'd sell it.  My name would be there on the cover and I'd be so ashamed of what I'd done to this friendly, happy manuscript.

I tried to shake the feeling of doom.

Probably it was me. My mother had been part of our immediate family for six years, and over that last year, she'd been dying of cancer. (At the time, ever hopeful, we called it living with cancer.) Anyway, I was caring for her, so yeah, I thought probably it was me.

Still, I couldn't do it.  I was already losing my mom.  I couldn't lose my writing voice too.

So what did I do?  I bolted in the opposite direction.  I wrote something literary and heart-rending---something powerful enough to turn my quirky manuscript into a back-from-the-dead Frankenstein's monster---something no one wanted to read, but something I desperately needed to write---probably the manuscript that saved my life.

Sometimes art is messy.

I didn't realize how far into my mind I'd retreated until I saw the worried looks of friends.  And then, yes, I set it aside.

Probably it was just me.  Just the grief talking. Simple, uncomplicated grief.  Minimize it.  Play it down.  Shove it down.

Skip forward several months.

Mom died while I held her hand.

Skip forward.


Talk to a friend.

Talk to another friend.

She looked into my eyes, considered carefully before clearing her throat.  "You know, you really should entertain the possibility that things aren't working out with your agent."

I laughed.  Maybe too much.  Maybe too long.  Maybe too nervously.

I decided to send my agent something else---something that hadn't been hacked and resurrected---something good in its simplicity.

My agent said she loved it.

And then she showed me how to take it apart and turn it into something more marketable.

I said no. Not this time. Not again. I asked for my freedom.

And there I was at Fishtrap, agentless, open-hearted, prone to tears, off-balance, and giddy with possibilities.

I kept hearing the same message from different people.  The world needs writers.  We need people who will speak honestly about their lives and their experiences, people who make us think and tell us hard-won truths.  We need truth in all forms.  We need essays and letters. We need poetry and music. We need stories that open up to bigger questions and realities.

During an afternoon panel discussion, Scott Russell Sanders told us, "We need writing that serves the greater understanding and not just the writer's career.  We need writers who understand that personal stories are always enmeshed in larger stories.  Those larger stories, what Rachel Carson called the great realities, matter most."

In discussing the label, "nature writing," Sanders suggested that work severed from the environment be labeled, "Urban Dysfunctional Literature."  Everything else would just be writing.

A previous panel discussion opened to the possibility of a grand idea:  the embracing of regional literature and regional writers.  Rather than looking for the biggest possible audience, why not look for the most engaged audience?

In her keynote address, Cheryl Strayed told us, "Find that hot burning core of you and give yourself up to it."  She told us to write our deepest story and then go deeper.  Don't just talk about death. Explore how to live with loss.  "Begin with what's true. End with what's truer."

In order to do this, we have to be vulnerable and being vulnerable is frightening.  Strayed's advice?  "Always write terrified."

You hear the same refrain, right?  Stories opening up to bigger stories, bigger truths?

In a digital storytelling workshop, Kim Stafford suggested gently asking why we need to tell the stories we're telling.  In answering those questions, we find the bigger story.  The story surrounding our personal narrative is always more important.

Luis Urrea tells us to write what matters and then it will be easier to keep pushing for publication.  "Wear the bastards down," he says.  "It's not a career move.  It's a spiritual triumph."

One publisher shrugged when asked about agents.  "You need one," he answered, "but most writers don't like their agents."

Urrea jumped in enthusiastically, "but having a good agent is like having your own ninja assassin!"

The publisher nodded, reminding Urrea that he hadn't felt the same way about his first agent.  Another writer in attendance had fired five agents, getting a new one each time she'd successfully pitched her own book to an editor.

That was the point when I started feeling---very oddly---better.  

Not coincidentally, that was also the point when I saw my own story inside a larger context of other writers.  And that story opened up to the experience of artists, living in communities of people dependent on each other, living with an understanding of what Rachel Carson called, "the great realities."

Strayed points out that publishing is itself a shallow goal.  "When it happens, some people will read your book and, among those who do read, most will be indifferent."  We have to be more ambitious, "wildly ambitious," she says, "but don't be ambitious about publishing or selling.  Be ambitious about your ideas and your writing."

Sanders reminds us that the literature we need is both tough (asking the tough questions about life) and vulnerable (always telling the truth).

Urrea brings it all together. Instead of telling writers they have to toughen up, he says, "You have to believe enough to endure the rejection."

Being a content-provider will not fill our souls with that kind of passion.

Perhaps in the larger context, we'll be able to see how talent is another of our environmental resources, pulled from the mammalian dreamers and thinkers who populate this suffering planet. If this is the case, what do you think? Are we mining our talent in a disposable way, draining one writer---tossing her away---draining another---or are we using our limited resources in a sustainable, life-affirming way?

The world needs writers.

How will you use your talent?

Jul 5, 2013

Independence Day

Independence Day in small town America.

We drove out toward Melba, Idaho and parked alongside a country road to watch the fireworks.  All around us, families spilled out over the tailgates of pickups Open windows brought fragments of conversation through the night air. Gossip from family barbecues---someone who said someone will surely have an interesting sunburn---giggles---fragments of patriotic music from radios tuned to different channels---sparklers. Children sat on the doorframes of cars. One mom's voice sounded shrill above others: "Stay off the windshield!" And a deep voice close to hers replied, "It's gone to crap anyway. Let em go. It's the fourth of July."

As the fireworks began, one nearby dad kept us entertained with excited cries of "FIREBALL! Look at that, kids!" and "Whoa!" followed by, "Hey! It pulls out all my hair when you do that!"

Everyone cheered at the finale and not one person honked as traffic snaked slowly along roads unaccustomed to so many cars.  Why worry about it? Let it go. It's the fourth of July.

May 31, 2013

Baxter the House Lamb

Anyone remember Baxter the house lamb? He was born with a selenium deficiency and couldn't walk. His brother and sister both died within days of birth. We brought Baxter inside to make him comfortable for as long as he would live. At six months, he was still following us around the barnyard and sleeping on the rug on our front porch. He still doesn't quite understand why we put him out with the sheep. He's two years old now and he'll rest his chin on the fence like this until we pet him.

After our ram was struck by lightning (true story), we decided maybe we weren't meant to raise sheep, but we still have six. They earn their keep by munching weeds and being cute. We also play with the wool.

May 30, 2013

Retelling Fairytales

 Bored Villains workshop, I talked with middle grade students about a writer's voice.  Some variation of every story idea already exists, but individual storytellers breathe new life into old narratives.
During a recent

One way to approach the writing of stories is through plot.  A great example? The retelling of fairytales, an idea still popular among contemporary authors. For the workshop, I brought an armload of books based on this idea, but here I'll refer you to lists compiled on other sites:

For short stories, I highly recommend A Wolf at The Door and Swan Sister, two books of retold fairytales.  The short form allows students to explore a variety of stories, getting a sense for the many ways a story can be retold and how much the voice of the author impacts the story itself.

From A Wolf At The Door,  Neil Gaiman's, "Instructions," provides a playful list of directions for navigating the fairytale world.  This is a beautiful example of writing in second person.

We also discussed Garth Nix's "Hansel's Eyes" (written in third person) for a good example of a retelling of Hansel & Gretel with contemporary references.  Video games rather than a candy house?  Why not?

To see the way a strong voice can impact the feel of a fairytale, we looked at the beginning of "Lupe" by Kathe Koja .  This story from Swan Sister is a first-person retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.  Koja's sensory details draw the reader fully into the story and even a short look at her approach is helpful to students.

Keeping all this in mind, I asked my Bored Villains to retell fairytales in 1st person, each group member writing from the perspective of a different character in the story, passing the story baton from one character to the next.  This was our final workshop of the day.  Short on time, we moved from initial discussion to final story in just 45 minutes, including recording of video.

In editing, some of the students' beautiful words were lost, but I tried to keep the final videos close to 90 second each.

Cinderella: A Retelling

by two evil stepsisters, a fairy godmother, a prince, and Cinderella

Litte Red Riding Hood: A Retelling

by Little Red, Little Red's best friend, Little Red's grandmother, a wolf, and a woodsman

Jack and The Beanstalk: A Retelling

by Jack's dad, a swindler, Jack, the giant, and a woodsman

My heartfelt thanks go out to the kids who spent the day with me and to their wonderful teacher for inviting me.  I had a great time with you all.

- - -

Illustraiton credit:  Audrey Beardsley "The Slippers of Cinderella" published in Le courrier Francais, February 10, 1895

May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

This morning I wished everyone on Twitter a happy Memorial Day and one person wrote back that "happy" and "Memorial Day" shouldn't go together.


That was a new thought for me.  I know that Happy Mother's Day is often an oxymoron.  Too many people spend the day feeling like they're pressing their noses against the windows of other people's happiness.  Same with Christmas.  Same with Thanksgiving.  But Memorial Day?

This has always been a holiday of deep happiness for me, remembering those who have passed in the way they'd want to be remembered--through stories and laughter.  When possible, we do get together with family.  For many years, we camped with my husband's extended family and I learned so much family lore sitting around those campfires.

After a childhood of camping trips, the last time I went camping with my dad was over Memorial Day in 2007. He died the next September. It's the only time my kids remember going camping with him.

My husband and I both visited cemeteries as kids and we still visit them, leaving thanks and memories.  I remember going when my grandmother was strong enough to carry a huge bucket in each arm.  Both were filled with purple and lavender iris from her garden at home.  She'd arrange flowers and send us kids running back to the car for reused milk jugs filled with water.

Years later, I'd drive to her house and pick her up.  We'd walk through her garden and she'd tell me which flowers to pick---a single stem for each of the most important people in her life.  "We can't pick flowers for everyone," she said.  "I know more people who are dead than alive now."

At the cemetery, I'd hold her by the elbow, steadying her as her feet wobbled on uneven ground.  We'd go straight to the markers of her husband and parents and siblings and then I'd leave her to her thoughts while I ran back to retrieve our offerings.

On our last visit there, we stood in front of my great grandfather's grave and she took one of my hands in both of hers.  Those hands that once held firm to mine to keep me safe were now small and dry and rough, age spots lined up alongside calluses.

"The last time I was here with my dad. . ." She paused and I wondered if she'd lost track of her thoughts.  Then she took in a deep breath and continued.  "He said, 'Sis, who's going to come here after the two of us are gone?'"  The words caught in her throat and she looked up at me through tears.  My grandmother wasn't much of a hugger, but I hugged her that day and she held on to me for long enough I realized our roles had reversed. I now kept her safe in my strong arms.  Then, quick as the emotional storm arrived, it passed. She wiped her tears and patted my hands more firmly.  "You're a good girl," she said.

A few years later, in my grandmother's last lucid days, she again patted my hand, repeating the words:  "You're a good girl."

My grandmother passed her sense of responsibility to me:  the keeping and retelling of family stories, the ritual of walking through cemeteries, the uttering of names again and again until they feel like poetry in the minds of our children.

Is this a happy day?  Yes.  Definitely yes.  For me, it is a day of profound happiness.

So when I wish you a happy Memorial Day, know that I am wishing the same things for you---a day of remembering who you are, a day of remembering the sacrifices made on your behalf, a day of remembering the stories that belong to you and yours.  I even wish you happy camping trips and cookouts, because these are the places where we often share our stories and create new ones.  No matter how you celebrate the day, I wish you a sense of belonging. I wish you love and peace and, yes, happiness.

May 26, 2013

Very Big and Very Small Schools

While doing some research this week, I found a fascinating 2010 study by Barbara J. James:  "School Size and Student Academic Achievement in Idaho High Schools."

In her research, James looks at many of the acknowledged pros and cons of small and big schools.  In small schools, students get individualized attention.  In large schools with better funding, students have newer resources and more specialized courses available to them.  The arguments sound familiar.

The surprise for me? The results.

James divides schools by student population, from 1-5.  One represents the smallest schools.  Five represents the largest.  James' chart here is based on standardized test scores of average students:

Average students in the biggest schools outperform average students in the smallest schools by 5%, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Economically disadvantaged students perform 5% better in the smallest schools when compared to the biggest.

Special education students test 35% better in the smallest schools than those in the largest.

Still, those statistics don't grab me as much as the pronounced U-curve.

Could it be that we've been asking the wrong questions?  While we've been debating the virtues of big and small schools, the students falling through the cracks seem to be mostly in the middle.  They don't have the benefits of the bigger, wealthy school districts and they also don't have the benefits of small classroom size and individualized attention.

We often discuss balance as a healthy thing.  We want the best of both worlds.  We want our districts big enough to offer some specialized classes and provide reasonably-current materials.  We also want small class sizes and individualized attention.

If the results here are any indication, this balance may not be such a good thing for our kids.

If we cannot pull together to provide superior funding and resources for average students, we're better off splitting into small, close-knit communities.  For students with special needs, nothing competes with individualized attention.

Test results for my homeschooled kids arrived a few weeks ago.  We live in size 4 town, in a district with serious financial troubles. The schools here need more money to provide even a minimum of needed services.  Still, in this size-4 place, our homeschooled kids are thriving.  James' study helps explain why.  For many Idahoans, homeschool is the new one-room schoolhouse.

- - -

Photo credit:  Library of Congress.  Jacknife School, Gem County, Idaho. Eleven pupils, two of them children of families belonging to Ola self-help sawmill co-op. October 1939.

May 24, 2013

Saying Yes

I hadn't planned to do any Bored Villains Workshops this spring. Chaos rules my life. I have a book hopefully going out on sub soon, revisions due on another, a short story deadline coming up---not to mention homeschooling, field trips, conferences, and boxes of my mother's belongings yet to sort.  When asked to put my name into a directory of speakers, I declined.

Then a request came from a friend of a friend.  Would I be willing to talk about writing with some students in a small, rural town?  The combined classroom of 4th and 5th graders consisted of only thirteen kids.  They'd love to have me spend the day with them.

I admit it's a dream of mine to someday do a book tour across all the counties of Idaho
, stopping at schools where kids attend kindergarten through high school in the same building.  Yes, it's true.  While some authors dream of stops in big cities, I'm dreaming of workshops in Bliss and Arbon and Rockland and Carey .  I can't help it. My heart leaps at the thought.

Still---bad timing, right?  I had to say no.

Then the teacher said the name of her town and it worked magic on my heart.

My husband and I have driven to that tiny place many times in our lives.  I remember dearly the first time we went to the cemetery together and Greg walked me through, introducing me to the lives represented by all those names carved on headstones.

"I'm related to just about everybody here."  He caught my eye for only a moment, making sure I understood what this meant to him.  Then he took my hand and told me story after story about couples and families---about the hardships and wonder that made up their lives.

Now we take our kids to that same place, walking them back through six generations of family in Idaho.

So yes, I did say yes to this small community, as I always have, and I'm so glad I did.

Those kids are creating great stories about unicorns and bull riding and hunting. One kid tells about a peanut planning to take over the world!  Another spins magic around a girl whose wishes come true. Oh!  And in another? You'll love this. All the buildings are held together with gum---and there's a terrible boy stealing all the gum.

Students shared narratives handed down to them, bits and pieces from their own lives, and jokes---so many jokes! Through it all, we discussed why it matters that they continue this tradition of telling tales, why it matters that they develop voices that could only be developed through their individual experiences.

At lunch, a quiet boy leaned across the table. In a low voice, he confided, "I'd have told you some of my family stories, but they're too long." He looked from side to side and leaned in farther.  "Everybody just goes on and on and on."

I couldn't hold back the grin.  "You know," I told him, lowering my voice to match his, "I think we might just be related."

And somehow, in that moment, my life felt slightly less chaotic.  Sometimes knowing who you are and where you belong is enough.  The pieces start falling together on their own.

- - -

I'll be adding some video created by the kids in the Bored Villains section of the website soon.

May 17, 2013

Bored Villains Presents: The Graveyard Book

A 90-second Newbery for The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, presented by Bored Villains.

When I do workshops with young adults and middle grade students, they go by the name of Bored Villains (credit for naming of the group goes to my daughter).  All comments will be moderated to assure that student names are not inadvertently revealed. 

May 16, 2013

Introducing Bored Villains

Bored Villains is the brainchild of my daughter, who created a role play with that name on a kids-only website.  She's growing up and can't stay on the site forever, so she's lending the name to the student workshops she's helping me lead.

Privacy issues are always a concern.  We love to showcase young talent and creativity, but we also want to keep participants safe.

With this in mind, all the kids and teens in my workshops become part of an elite, secret society known as Bored Villains. Our mission?  To love great books, to respond to stories through creative avenues, and to participate in the telling of our own narratives in our own voices.  Sometimes we'll even entertain you.

Our first online project will be a 90-second Newbery of Graveyard Book.  It will follow in a day or two. :)

Apr 18, 2013


Today Dav Pilkey arrives in Boise.

The kids have been starting and ending each day telling me how many days until Pilkey. They went to sleep last night reminding me (as if i could forget): "Tomorrow is Pilkey!" It's not even Pilkey Day. It's just Pilkey. Last night? Pilkey Eve.

They don't have any pre-Pilkey memories. All of them started laughing at the Big Dog and Little Dog board books before they could speak. (Going for a Walk was our favorite.) My oldest was reading the Silly Gooses books at the same time she was reading Cynthia Rylant's High Rise Private Eyes. She'd start giggling and try to explain and then giggle even more. Dumb Bunnies? More of the same.

Youngest's favorite Pilkey books are from the Dragon series.

But the boy? Yeah, he started on Big Dog and Little Dog. He went from there To Ricky Ricotta and he didn't just read those books, he destroyed them. He read them front to back, back to front, middle to front, middle to back and back to the middle---until those books were in shreds. I started buying good thrift store copies just to have spares when he destroyed another set.

Ricky will always be his favorite, but he jumped to the Captain Underpants books when his need for Pilkey could no longer be met by Ricky Ricotta. Meanwhile, youngest moved from Dragon to Dog Breath (The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis) and Dogzilla.

And then, a few years ago, the long silence arrived. No new Pilkey. Where was he? Had he forgotten about us? We drifted. The kids became addicted to Jeff Smith's Bone series.  I read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett aloud and that helped, but still they watched for Pilkey---especially my sweet boy.  He created his own Agent Frog series of books and I'd hear him sighing as he flipped more slowly through his favorite Ricky Ricottas.

Years passed before we caught sight of Pilkey again and by then my mom had been diagnosed with cancer. Our priorities shifted as we cared for her. My writing slowed to something just above non-productive. The kids' activities slipped into place around chemotherapy visits and they grew accustomed to short-term planning (it depends on how Grandma is doing).

Soon after Grandma's doctor told us the cancer had spread, that it was no longer responding to chemo, I read in an interview that Dav Pilkey took several years away from his writing to care for his terminally-ill dad.

Maybe that's when I first truly appreciated the magic that is Dav Pilkey.

He's been writing these amazing kids' books, telling them that they don't have to conform to expectations to be great kids. He's modeled creativity and humor as a means for not just coping, but enjoying life.  He's one of the most successful authors I can imagine and he took time to be with his father.

Just like all those scribbling kids who feel a little more okay with themselves because of Pilkey, I felt a little more okay too.  Maybe I wasn't failing as a parent because I couldn't get the kids to every activity.  Maybe I wasn't failing as a writer because I couldn't get my agent the revision she needed.


Today is Pilkey.

The kids will wake up screaming his name and they'll be jumping up and down when they wait to meet him.  For my part?  I just want to say thank you.

Apr 4, 2013

The talk about the crows

If you know me in person, I've probably already told you about this TED talk.  What good conversation doesn't come around to the freakish intelligence of crows?  But for those of you I haven't told (or for those of you believe me capable of slight exaggerations), I give you this embedded video:

Mar 4, 2013

Linda Hussa (The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering)

This video is from a session entitled, "Love Poems and Songs," held February 2, 2013 at Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Linda and her work at the 2011 Trailing of The Sheep Festival in Sun Valley.  It was great to see her again in Elko.

Her bio from the Cowboy Poetry Gathering program:  "Linda Hussa lives in Surprise Valley near the small town of Cedarville in northeastern California, where the western edge of the Great Basin begins.  she and her husband John, a third-generation rancher, raise cattle, sheep and horses, and the hay to feed them.  Linda's poetic voice speaks about teh isolated nature of ranching, the commitment to rural communities and to the natural community of the desert landscape. Linda has won many awards and is a past member of the Western Folklife Center's Board of Trustees."

More about Linda's books can be found on her website: http://www.hussaranch.com/books.htm.

Josh Baca (The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering)

On February 2, 2013, there was a session at The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering called, "Accordionistas."  Josh Baca plays with Los Texmaniacs, but here he goes it alone.  This guy has energy, talent, and a smile that fills the room.

Glenn Ohrlin (The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering)

I just posted another video from Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held January 28-Feb 2, 2013 in Elko, Nevada.

This one is from Glenn Ohrlin, telling a story in words and song, about Shoestring Annie.

I didn't link to a page for Glenn at the end of this video, because I couldn't find a Glenn Ohrlin home page. Here's his bio, as printed in the program:

"Glenn Ohrlin was born in Minneapolis in 1926 and has been a cowboy virtually all of his life. Glenn was 14 when his family moved to California. At age 16 he left home to become a rodeo bronc rider in Nevada. He worked as a ranch hand and rode the rodeo circuit for a number of years. Today he ranches and runs a cow outfit in the Ozark hills near Mountain View, Arkansas. Glenn is best known as a collector and performer of cowboy songs, range ballads, stories and poems. Named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in 1985, Glenn has a mesmerizing style that is understated, powerful and hilarious."

Here's the video:

Mar 3, 2013

Ed Peekeekoot (National Cowboy Poetry Gathering)

I'm starting to pull together some of my videos from Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held January 28-Feb 2, 2013 in Elko, Nevada. The days all ran together for me, so if I say January, it might have been February and vice versa.

I'll start with this one from Ed Peekeekoot. He is awesome and probably that's all you need to know, but his bio also says, "His performances include original songs, Chet Atkins and Travis-style guitar tunes, foot-stomping fiddle, and a good dose of Cree humor and philosophy."

All I really know is this video makes me happy every time I watch it.