The Creator of the Western Novel

Natalie Bright

 

Best known as the creator of western fiction, Own Wister was a “Pennsylvanian who sat down in South Carolina, and wrote a book about a Virginian who lived in Wyoming.” I happened upon a copy of his book, THE VIRGINIAN, in a used book store. The opening scene is fantastic, as we meet a rough, sometimes rude, man-of-few-words from Virginia. A “slim young giant” who earns a reputation as an accomplished horseman. The edgy descriptions and literary prose are different from what you might expect in a western, but an enjoyable read.

Born in Philedelphia, July 1860, Wister attended school in Europe, St. Paul’s School in Concord, and entered Harvard as a music student. He made many notable friends, the most famous being Theodore Roosevelt. They shared an enthusiasm for the West.

If was during the summer of 1885 that a doctor prescribed a trip out West for health reasons, both physically and psychologically. Between 1885-1900 Wister traveled 15 times to Wyoming. During that time he began his first of many journals, and also wrote hundreds of letters.

“I don’t wonder,” Wister wrote, “a man never comes back [East] after he has once been here for a few years.”

July 2, First Journal Entry.

In 1902 THE VIRGINIAN was published, dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt. Set in Wyoming between 1874 and 1890, Wister described it as “an expression of American faith” and stressed “rugged individualism”. By 1911 the First Edition had gone through thirty-four printings. In the era of paperbacks, sales reached millions. It has been adapted for the movie screen four times.

The Owen Wister papers are housed in the Library of Congress. The University of Wyoming has the Wister Journals, and Owen Wister letters can also be found in the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

 

Advertisements

Best Quotes from WWA


 

Best Quotes from WWA

Natalie Bright

The Western Writers of America meeting was held in Billings this year, and I had the chance to attend, as you might have noted from previous blog posts. Here are the best quotes from that four-day meeting.

 

“Write about your passion. Consider it lucky to follow that passion your whole life. Research is the key to everything.” Rob Word, TV writer, producer, host of the YouTube celebrity talk shows A WORD ON ENTERTAINMENT and A WORD ON WESTERNS

“You have to get out from behind your desk.” Toby Thompson, author & creative writing instructor at Penn State University.

“Thank you for coming to Crow country. The land you are standing on is mixed with Crow blood.”Alden BigMan Jr.

“Western writers have a strong sense that place is special.” Linda Jacobs, geologist & award-wining author.

“Just because you know beef, you don’t know buffalo.” M. Michael Gear, archeologist & award-winning author.

“Bison are not worked physically. It’s more like a chess game.” Kathleen O’Neal Gear, archeologist, historian, and author.

“So many different ways to connect with readers. Be findable.” Kirsta Rolfzen Soukup, owner Blue Cottage Agency.

“Be prepared to get on social media and promote the hell out of yourself.” Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency.

“Take a moment to consider the breadth of subject matter our organization represents. We have a great group of finalists and winners.” Kirk Ellis, WWA President & television producer.

“I had to remind myself this is not a documentary. It’s art.” Marcus Red Thunder, technical adviser on Longmire.

When your book becomes a television show…”It’s like ranching. You get the very best people you can to work with and leave them alone.” Craig Johnson, WWA board member & best-selling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series.

“I tell kids, get into the books. They are a hell of a lot better than that TV show.” Marcus Red Thunder referring to the Walt Longmire mystery series by Craig Johnson.

“Write good books; the one thing writers have control over. Never underestimate those characters.”Craig Johnson

 

Spending time with other writers reminds me of why I can’t ignore the stories and characters in my head, and why I don’t want to stop no matter what life throws in my path. Listening to someone else tell you about their work and hanging around others who are passionate about stories is very inspiring.

If you are a fan of history, the western genre, or stories set in the American West, you might be interested in these organizations for writers.

Women Writing the West is a group of writers and professionals who promote the contributions made by women to the history, culture, and growth of the American West. For more information, visit http://www.womenwritingthewest.org The 2018 meeting will be held October 25-28 in Walla Walla, Washington, or join us in 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.

Western Writers of America boasts historians, nonfiction authors, young adult, romance writers, songwriters, poets, and screenwriters for film and television within its 650 members. We all have one thing in common—our work in every medium is set in the ever-changing American West. For more information go here  http://westernwriters.org Join us in Tucson, Arizona in June 19-22, 2019.

Natalie Bright is an author, blogger and speaker. The two newest books in her RESCUE ANIMAL SERIES features a Tennessee Walker named Flash and a registered Hackney named Taz. Click on the books tab above for more information, and check the events calendar. For a funny, Wild West adventure, the TROUBLE IN TEXAS series is perfect for middle grades and family read-a-longs. Coming soon for young adults, WOLF’S WAR is a dark adventure set in the Texas frontier about a muleskinner and Comanche brave who reluctantly join forces to fight a ruthless gang of outlaws. Also in the works from NKB Books LLC, tales from an Arkansas Vet and a book for novice cow punchers about the unwritten rules of the cowboy code.