Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday, where each week I spotlight a writing tip from authors, both those published and those on the journey to publication. Today, I’m happy to feature good friend V. L. Gregory (Virginia Pohlenz) who writes immaculately researched young adult books about the West. She also writes Western poetry.
Virginia spent three years as Book Talk Representative for the Gateway Region of Scholastic and uses that experience to inform her ‘written’ storytelling. An avid fan of Dr. Suess she says, “My greatest writing thrill was winning Random House’s “Ham It Up” Contest. The $100 gift certificate and $50 Seuss library were worth the effort. However, my pride and joy is the original Green Eggs and Ham serigraph that I won from the estate of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).”
Your first book, as well as your WIP, is set in the 1800s American West. What draws you to this era? Overall, I love the era because it exploded with technological advances that changed the face of what America was. Cattle trails, railroads, and steamboats were expanding at a pace comparable to our electronic boom—only with more excitement. Fashions, music, art, and a host of other living habits were changing with every flood of new immigrants—it was a colorful mixture of new ideas and trends.
Women were emerging from docile “ownership” by men into an independent realm of their own. Conflict abounded, and—let’s face it—conflict causes dangers that stir the imagination. As authors, we aware of the need for conflict to “hook” our readers. I think I’m a “tad” on the sassy side. I relate to the struggles of a country AND women who find themselves in the throes of difficult growing pains.
My first book Saddlesores and Prairie Biscuits, currently out on submission, is about a young girl whose family is dead from cholera and who faces an uncertain future. She disguises herself as a boy and sets out on a cattle drive, hoping to find her long lost aunt. Along the way the observations she records reveal a surprising picture of the real ‘Old West.’
She finds the Western Trail from Mesquite Mesa, Texas, to Nebraska is besieged by adversities: river crossings, Nor'easters, prairie fires, and incredible loneliness. But in her struggle to survive, she discovers strength and courage she never dreamed she possessed.
What’s your next project? My WIP is Pistol Packin' Pencil Pushers. Here’s the blurb: Whispers and clandestine meetings in the wee morning hours take place without the conspirators realizing how close they are to Rebecca's sleeping niche aboard the paddle wheeler heading upstream. The "accidental" drowning of the Montana Territorial Governor seems suspiciously connected to these middle-of-the-night gatherings, but as long as no one knows she’s overheard, Rebecca is safe.
Then unexplained accidents begin to occur, and she fears she’s been discovered. Is she destined to "fall" overboard and add to the secrets that travel the churning currents of the Big Muddy?
Travis, a gifted artist, makes strikingly accurate renderings of the men from her descriptions. Now has their alliance put his life in jeopardy? Indian raids, shallow crossings, and over-heated boilers give ample opportunity for even more accidents during the three month journey, and Rebecca begins to doubt that she will ever arrive in Fort Benton.
I’m also working on a collection of Western poems. I want to complete about 12-14 diverse poetry styles (including one ballad) that are all Western thematic.
What one tip would you offer writers?
Any advice that I’d give would be preaching to the choir. To myself I’d say “Keep focused and minimize distractions.”
No kidding. I need to hang that on my wall. Thanks, again, for joining us today Virginia.
Thank you for inviting me. I was delighted to be here. I hope readers will drop by my website: www.vlgregory-circa1800.vpweb.com. I’d especially appreciate comments and suggestions on my blog. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. I also check my Facebook regularly—“friend me.”