“Women had a tremendous impact in founding the West, but you don’t hear about that.”
Leadville, Colorado is the highest town in America and Leadville’s Delaware Hotel, where I stayed recently, is the highest hotel in America. Not surprisingly, there was a copy of TrueWest in my room, a magazine dedicated to “Preserving the American West.” Lucky me! This issue featured a great article about a group of women writers who’ve banded together to champion the stories of female pioneers. Called “Women Writing the West” (WomenWritingTheWest.org), this bold brigade is now 250 strong.
“It’s like finding your tribe” — that’s how Jane Kirkpatrick, an award-winning Western author, describes discovering the group. Not only do members come together annually and offer emotional support, they also share valuable information collectively gathered over years of research. One member has even put together a thesaurus about when particular words came into use in the West and members can email questions that crop up during their writing projects. And here’s something I love: each year, the group — which now includes publishers, editors, and agents with a Western focus — sponsors the WILLA Awards (named for one of my all-time favorite authors, Willa Cather).
Jane Kirkpatrick received a wonderful letter from a man who said he “never read women’s books,” until his wife gave him A Name of Her Own, a story that Kirkpatrick penned based on her own grandmother’s colorful life. Kirkpatrick noted that the letter writer went on to say that her book “made him see how much his wife did every day to shape the lives of their children. He said that by reading the book, he felt he had become a better father, a better husband, and a better man. I still get chills over that letter.” Who wouldn’t? What music to a writer’s ears! Write on, Jane!