by Neva Bodin
I’m exhausted and energized. One week of nursing assistant classes done—making up tests, determining the schedule, covering chapters, providing practice labs and lecturing all day to nine amazing students ages 18-60. Two more weeks to go….
But in the middle of the week I took most of the day off to attend a luncheon at a writer’s retreat while my teaching partner took the class. And I am re-energized to get back to writing.
The Willow Creek Ranch near Kaycee, WY put on a writer’s retreat/workshop that was a week long. Writers came from far way: New Hampshire, Michigan, Washington DC, and others.
The rustic remote setting ( found after miles of winding gravel/dirt, hilly road) surrounded by red buttes and cliffs, the fresh air punctuated by the cries of orphan lambs, the bucolic scene with horses, cattle and sheep wandering through it, spoke to my country yearning heart. The speaker for the unusually delicious lunch the day I was there spoke to my creative soul. We ate under the trees in the yard, and the food was served on the back board of a chuck wagon.
The speaker was New York Times Best Selling Author Craig Johnson, a WY rancher from Ucross, who is now a well-known author and creator of the Walt Longmire TV series that played on A & E in the past and is now on Netflix. He is a very nice guy.
I first met him when he critiqued a manuscript of mine several years ago at a writer’s conference in Jackson, WY. My husband went along on the trip (about 245 miles from our home) and we camped in a beautiful valley full of buffalo, which I had to slowly slither my car through every morning as they owned and occupied the road.
Craig was very gracious even though my script needed lots of work. (Another author there delivered his critique with a rather sneering attitude. I am working on forgiveness…) Craig said this week, when I thanked him for his past critique, that he always wants to “fan the flame” of an aspiring writer.
Craig told of his search for an agent in New York and the doors that didn’t open until finally one did, and then his success. He told of his slow start—he interviewed a real-life sheriff in his county, (fictional Walt Longmire is a Wyoming sheriff) and then concentrated on building his ranch for ten years. When he rekindled his interest in his book, and re-interviewed the sheriff, the sheriff ticked him off by remembering his visit, and saying his book had a slow start, and this gave him the inspiration to get it done. I think he said he has written 13 books now, all big sellers, his TV show is a success, and I bought his latest novella: The Highwayman.
He recommended Stegner’s book on writing, I didn’t write a title, but I just ordered ON Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner. I hope that’s the one!
He said the voices of the characters in a book should be so strong, you can eliminate the “he said/she said” from the dialogue. He outlines. He feels there is no such thing as writer’s block and outlining will show you where to go next. He says to “listen to the voices” in your head, but to always remember the writer is in the driver’s seat directing those voices. I was so busy listening, I forgot to take more notes than that. But I felt inspired.
And I sadly (for me) left a friend and the other writers who still had two more days to learn and write in that idyllic setting—a rustic, sun-drenched and generationally owned ranch, in the middle of Wyoming.