Writing the West in Albuquerque

I just returned from the 18th annual Women Writing the West conference, held this year in Albuquerque, NM. This is always the highlight of my writing year, traveling to a new state each year, catching up with old friends and making new ones.

WWW is a great support group, a non-profit association of women and men writing and promoting the Women’s West. As our website states: “Our stories are set in the Western United States — past and present — but our organization considers the “West” as more than a geographic location. The West represents a way of thinking, a sense of adventure, a willingness to cross into a new frontier.”

Our organization gives the WILLA Literary Award in several categories, one that I’m proud to say I won last year in Young Adult fiction. If you’ve published a book featuring a woman or girl set in the west in 2012, you are eligible to enter this prestigious contest.

As I left home last week to catch a plane to NM, I was greeted by the most beautiful sunrise. Unfortunately, I was driving on the freeway and wasn’t able to stop to take a picture. As the sun painted the horizon with burnt-orange brush strokes, a low-lying sea of fog hung over the water, indigo trees and mountains rising from it. It was a good omen for a good conference weekend.

I landed in Albuquerque to an equally spectacular sunset, which I was able to capture through the plane window.

At the conference, I heard a moving, inspirational keynote presentation by Susan Tweit on “Writing from the Heart” and met Anne Hillerman, daughter of novelist Tony Hillerman, and best-selling author Sandra Dallas (a WILLA Award winner). I also did a practice interview in front of the camera with Laureen Pepersack, which turned out not as terrifying as I thought it might!

After the conference, I had enough time to browse Old Town Albuquerque.

Our conference location, the Hotel Albuquerque:

A lovely weekend, filled with sunshine, friendship, information and support! We’re already planning next year’s event in Kansas City, MO!

A Montana Book and Research Tour

I recently returned to my native state of Montana for a mini book and research tour–another enjoyable “Thelma and Louise” trip with my sister-in-law. I always love traveling through Big Sky Country.Hittin’ the open road.

Flathead Lake at Lakeside, MT.

One day it was 73 degrees and the next… Only in Montana!

My research led me to a stop in Ovando, MT at Trixi’s Antler Saloon and at a museum dedicated to the 1940s world-renowned trick rider.

Not only did she do tricks on horseback…

But when the stage was too small, she twirled her ropes while riding a unicycle!

Another stop took me to a museum dedicated to World Champion Bronc Rider Fannie Sperry Steele.

Fannie’s “dress” chaps, made of calfskin and still in pristine condition.

Fannie Sperry Steele’s house on the ranch at Gates of the Mountains near Helena, MT

My tour ended in Missoula at the Montana Festival of the Book, where I helped work the Women Writing the West table with Beth Hodder and Pam Tartaglio.

What a fun trip. And now I’m off to Albuquerque, NM for the WWW conference!

The right words don’t always come easily. For those who want to bless others with words that go beyond cliches, A Perfect Word for Every Occasion by Liz Duckworth offers examples and guidelines for things to say, lines to write, and Scripture verses to share. Readers will find words to use anywhere: Facebook messages, emails, cards, receiving lines, birthdays, anniversaries, texting, graduations, emotional occasions, and more. They’ll even discover what not to say.

Congratulations on your newest book, Liz. How did this book come about?

Because I’ve worked in publishing, I have a lot of friends who are book editors. One of them, from Bethany House, suggested my editor ask me about writing a book for them, based on an outline they had created. My kids are off to college, and though I have a full-time job, I don’t have much else to keep me from saying “no” when an opportunity like this comes up! Also I thought, “Sure, writing about writing. Easy, right?” In the end, it was difficult, but I’m pleased with the results. It’s never as easy as you think, or you wouldn’t want to take on a book-length project. Denial is a wonderful friend.

How did you get started in the inspirational book field? For more than 20 years I was a book editor for Victor Books, David C. Cook and other publishing houses, and also freelanced as an editor for a time. The first book I wrote, Wildflower Living, was published by WaterBrook Press, where I had spent two years as publicist. By that time I was freelancing and wanted to do a book about nurturing inner strength after personal loss, based on my own experiences and those of people in my circle.

Tell us a little about your children’s book, Ragtail Remembers and how you came to write it.

A friend I’d worked with when I was editing children’s picture books had been asked by a hospice organization if he could create and illustrate a book about the stages of grief for very young children. I wrote a manuscript for him, but by then, he was on to other projects. I found out about Centering Corporation from a friend in my writers’ critique group who helped evaluate the book. I submitted it 3 years in a row (Centering Corp. only accepted new projects once a year), and made changes suggested by the acquiring editor. The third year I sent it in, my letter was dated September 10, 2011. They accepted the manuscript and, on my recommendation, hired another friend to illustrate it. Many of their grief and loss books were donated to families in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I know this simple little picture book has helped young children understand their emotions after a loss.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor (or a favorite author)? My dear friend, Jane Kirkpatrick. I first met her when I was publicist at WaterBrook Press, and later she wrote the foreword for Wildflower Living. She amazes me with her talent and generous spirit! Also, my mom, Jane Morton, and I attended Linda Hasselstrom’s retreat at Windbreak House. Linda was an incredible help in getting my first book into shape. I love her writing in so many ways; it’s so true, honest, clear and beautiful.

What book are you reading now? I just finished The Life of Pi. I wanted to read it before the film comes out in November. It is a mind-bogglingly fantastic work of fiction! So many levels to it…I highly recommend it.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Just writing itself. I’m of the “I don’t enjoy writing, I enjoy having written” school of writing. But I want to pursue fiction and hope I can turn it from effort and chore into play and passion.

What is your professional background? I worked in Christian book publishing for many years as an editor before I became a freelance writer. Now I’m back working in marketing for Compassion International, heading a small team of writers and editors for the in-house agency. But I’ve also been a radio news reporter and a teacher, so I’ve got war stories there in the background (it hasn’t all been Bible studies and picture books)! Ultimately, I have to say, the world of book publishing has given me wonderful professional relationships and friendships to last a lifetime. And it was a great training ground.

What is Liz Duckworth Publishing Services? That just a name to put on my business card and stationery during the 8 years I was full-time freelancing. I felt it covered my (failed) efforts as an agent as well as (successful) editing and copy-writing I did at the time. It works for so many scenarios…feel free, anybody, to use it by inserting your own name in place of mine!

Are you working on a new project? I should be! My plan was to have a terrific fiction proposal to shop around at the Women Writing the West conference. Probably won’t happen, Heidi. Fiction is soooo hard!

Liz Duckworth is committed to helping others overcome their losses and learn to pursue their dreams again. In addition to numerous magazine articles, Liz has published two picture books, God’s Great Creation and Ragtail Remembers, the latter to help young children understand grief and the feelings that follow loss. With almost twenty years of experience in the Christian publishing field, Liz heads up Liz Duckworth Publishing Services.

Liz’s books can be found at Amazon and possibly Christian bookstores. But Wildflower Living and Bloom Before You’re Planted are both out of print. (They can be found in cartons in my basement.)

Website: LizDuckworth.net (currently under construction.)

Social media connections: Facebook: LizMortonDuckworth and Twitter: LizDuckworth (I seldom tweet, but may try a tweet-a-day again like I did last year in November. Called it “Tweet-vember.”) I have a great Youtube connection: my kid! Jon’s site, simplyspoons, has 91,000 subscribers. He’s 22. In my whole life, I’ve never come close to that many readers. The world has gone upside-down. Maybe I need to start making parody music videos?

%d bloggers like this: