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I've set up a new WordPress blog (with the help of my web-wrangler) because it gives me more options than the blog on this website, including the ability to post more photos, the ability to link with social media across the web, and a subscription service that sends a dandy version of the blog directly to your email inbox. Try it out.

Notes from a Western Life at WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com

You can continue to read the blogs here, however a few of the very long blogs under the category of "Writing: Where I've Been" will only appear on the WordPress blog.



An Index of Blog Topics
may be found lower down in this left-hand column so, for example, you can search for all blogs with "Writing Suggestions."

A dated archive of blogs is also available below the index.

Click here to jump to the index, or scroll down to see a selection of photos related to the blog posts.






Blacksmith or Wordsmith

Iron legs from yesteryear.

Smaller iron items inside.

The scrap-iron table.



Dust, Grass, and Writing

Like the native grasses, the roots of writing go deep and reach out in many directions.

Tough prairie grass roots splitting open a rock.

Green life may be found under dry debris.


Fringed Jacket Foofaraw

Turtle carved from bone.

Turtle made of silver.

Warrior Woman pin.

George's grizzly bear claw earring.

Powwow jingle cones made of tin.

Brass bell.

A tiny dream catcher.

Harley Owners' Group pin in honor of Jerry.

Wally McRae's cufflink and tooth.





South Dakota Poet Laureate? Not Right Now, Thanks.


"An older writer, conscious of his or her limited life span, may have specific projects in mind to complete. Thus, requiring that the Poet Laureate travel and teach extensively may exclude older writers regardless of their worthiness to hold the position."



Don't just click "like" about some political story you read.


Pick up the phone or write a letter and make a difference.



Ah! The Bathtub.

A brass hook on a nearby wall to hold my robe or a towel.

A removable wire basket stretches across the tub to hold my soap and sponges.



Windbreak House
Now on Facebook.


If you Like me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.

www.Facebook.com/​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I post Tuesday Writing Tips, Wednesday Word Posts, and various other writing-related stories, announcements, book reviews, photos and the occasional joke.



Ah, Spring!


Want to know more about this critter?

See the Gallimaufry Page for more about the bird, including more photos, and some odds and ends that don't fit anywhere else on this website.



More Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.

* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.

* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.

* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.

* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.



Linda on YouTube

Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.

To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
click here.

To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
click here

Or go to www.YouTube.com and search for Linda Hasselstrom.

You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.

Thanks, Nancy!

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Index of Blog Topics

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Notes from a Western Life
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For Teachers and Other Hard Workers: Making Time to Write

February 22, 2013

Tags: Writing Suggestions, Butterfly, Life of a Writer

Inspiration found at the Creek Place, 2010.

. . .
The original draft of this letter was written to a long-time friend, a great teacher. Like many teachers I’ve known, she is frustrated because, though she loves teaching, she also wants to write. I hope my comments help other hard workers as they seemed to help her.

Good morning, Friend,

I got to thinking during the past couple of days about your frustration with the complications of teaching. You’re frustrated by the forms that must be filled out, the meetings to be attended, the administrators-- some of whom have never taught-- to please. And yet you love your students and the challenge of teaching; you cannot imagine short-changing them by teaching the same thing every year.

And you look at me and the fourteen books I have in print, the work I’m doing on the next book or two and think, “She’s so productive!”

Thinking, I looked up and realized I hadn’t yet removed the 2012 calender from above my computer (and you say I’m organized!) and the quote on it.

The butterfly counts not
months but moments,
and has time enough.

— Rabindranath Tagore —


From the outside, perhaps I look organized. From in here, much of my life seems to have been an agonizing stumble from one mistake to another. Occasionally I seemed to wake up and act intelligently or have a little good luck, making the right choice in between making a lot of wrong ones. I won’t go into detail; you’ve read enough of my work to see admissions of idiocy or omissions where you might assume it occurred.

When people, perhaps especially women, look at ourselves, we often see only the flaws and errors, and fail to appreciate what we have or what we’ve accomplished. I’ve had good friends, especially during the last couple of decades, who helped me see myself with a little more understanding. And as you know, writing in my journal and studying what I’ve written in my journal for years has also helped. It’s sometimes discouraging, though, to see that I’ve had the same life-changing revelation more than once: in 1965, say, again in 1978, perhaps in the late 1980s. But perhaps we need to keep learning the same lessons over and over until we really understand them.

The butterfly . . .

So let’s look at your life: you have been a diligent and creative teacher. You are sometimes impatient with administrative detail because some of these requirements seem to steal time from your real work: teaching. Your students remember you for years; when they see you after graduation they sometimes rush up to you with thanks. Or they forget to thank you but you can see the changes you have made in their lives by their attitude, their grades, the way they step out into the world.

At the end of the day, you are exhausted because you have poured so much energy into your work. You curl your lip at writing advice columns that suggest you establish a home office; you’ve had one for years and the desk is usually piled with papers to be graded. You hustle to clean house, make meals, tend to your spouse, children, pets. Sometimes you get up early to write. You may carry your journal everywhere with you and make notes.

But you want to spend entire days writing, as you imagine I must do, with nothing to think of but the next word, the next sentence.

counts not months . . .

Let’s see, where was I? I had to stop to let the dogs out, then start lunch, which reminded me I needed to put the compost bucket by the back door so I could empty it next time I go out, then let the dogs in, then turn down the heat under the spaghetti because it was boiling over, then take a load out of the dryer, fold it, and put another load in the washer.

See?

Besides teaching, you managed to survive a difficult first marriage that might have ripped you apart or sent you into depression or alcoholism. My grandmother said that when her first husband was killed, she wanted to die but she had to live for the children. She kept on living and working and raising those kids and married again.

Her second marriage was a good one but yours wasn’t. Still, you raised your children very well; you stuck by them when they made stupid mistakes and you now have incredible grandchildren in whose lives you are closely twined in the best of ways.

Remember I’ve never had children, though I still have some ties with three out of my four stepchildren. I’ve never taken-- made-- the time to know my grandchildren or my (gulp) great-grandchild. But I know about bad marriages and divorce and widowhood.

But all the time you kept teaching, kept writing in your journals, kept writing poems. And you, like me, found a man who will support you psychologically, lovingly, in anything you choose to do. Will work his fingers to the bone to support you financially. Knows stuff the rest of us haven’t even begun to figure out and besides all this has a great sense of humor. That man will never let you down.

but moments . . .

So look at where you are now: you have had a satisfying career but you are tired of filling out the forms, arranging your life around class schedules. You currently choose to teach but you are able to arrange to do so on your own terms. You are getting respect, at last, for what you know. You can begin to let this part of your life wind down if you choose to, knowing you have accomplished a great deal. The important thing is that, as you approach what much of the world calls “retirement age,” you can choose your next adventure.

Meanwhile, as you said, you have this gigantic body of rough drafts bubbling in the pot on the back of the stove. You can smell ’em, hear the bubbles, stir once in awhile. Even if you don’t turn the heat up, the pot will continue to boil and bubble and once in awhile raise the lid and make it jingle. Sometimes you’ve snatched up a bowl, filled it and won an award for your creation.

and has time enough.

Relax. You know that a good soup has to simmer a long time, tantalizing you with its aroma.

Look at yourself: you are a woman who knows how to get what she wants. When you need a break, you’re smart enough to take one. You can enjoy strolling in the sunshine, visiting with friends, petting the dogs. When you see a pair of earrings you love, you buy them; you don’t spend too much, just enough to remind yourself you can.

Trust this woman. She’ll know when she must write. She might analyze how her time is spent and decide that she should drop this or stop doing that in order to spend that time writing.

She might decide to get up earlier on Sunday and leave the cell phone off and write. She might decide to organize all her writing so that she knows what she has and what she wants to work on next.

She might decide that the book club has deteriorated into political squabbling and stop attending meetings. Perhaps she’ll refuse the next invitation to join an organization that really really does a great deal of good for something or someone.

She might decide that every time she starts to think of how frustrating a particular situation is, she will grab the rough draft of a poem from the place she’s handily stacked or tucked them and put her mind entirely into that. She might write a poem the size of a postcard every day. She has time.

The point is, she is a mature, seasoned woman and writer. She doesn’t need to apologize for what she has done or feel inferior to anyone. She will evaluate her life and decide where to make changes to allow her the time to do the kind of writing she wants to do. She’s getting on with her life and her writing and she’s just fine, thank you. She has time enough.

Signed,

Another Struggling Writer

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Free Advice: Worth What You Pay For It
Or: Why I Won’t Give you Free Advice on Your Manuscript

June 4, 2012

Tags: Writing Suggestions, Writing Workshops, Life of a Writer, Publishing, Book Promotion, Book Selling, Computers, Writer: Helen Rezatto

Linda talking at a workshop for which she was paid.

. . .
Dear friend of a person I barely know,

You wrote your friend to say you are fed up with workshops, that you know you can write. All you need, you wrote, is a mentor to help you put your manuscript into book form.

The mentor, you wrote, should also tell you how to sell your published book. “I need a connection,” you wrote, urging her to give the letter to me so that I would become that mentor.

Your friend did give me your letter: at a workshop where twenty writers had paid for the time and expertise of several published writers. For four days the experienced writers worked with those students, ate lunch with them, sat for hours discussing their work.

You weren’t there because you have decided workshops are a waste of time and money. Sadly, that is sometimes true.

As a science fiction writer replied when asked why science fiction is worthless: because 99% of everything is worthless. A few years ago I saw a workshop that promised to introduce writers to an agent even if they hadn’t written a word. Legitimate agents are unlikely to discuss your publishing prospects if you don’t have a book contract in hand for a book that’s already written. (See my suggestions about whether or not you need an agent elsewhere on this website.)

A writer interested in attending any workshop should investigate it the same way you would investigate any purchase: asking questions and doing research to see if what you are buying will be useful to you.

But workshops can be beneficial. You may gain information you didn’t know you needed. And you might connect with other writers who are learning about the profession and who have the same concerns. You mentioned the cost of travel and motels as being prohibitive. So look for assistance where you live; aspiring writers are everywhere. Scan want ads, check with friends, examine the bulletin boards of libraries, bookstores. Search online for “writers, Your Town USA.” Visit websites on writing topics.

Ideally, you will find compatible writers who will exchange writing with you, so that everyone comments on everyone else’s work. This can be time-consuming; you owe your fellow writers the same effort you expect them to put into helping you. But it is likely to be the single most useful thing you can do for yourself as a beginning writer: to discover, cultivate and cherish fellow writers so you can all help each other. I wish I’d known this opportunity existed and found writers with whom to exchange information at various stages in my career. Most of what I have learned has come from making mistakes and doing research on my own.

You said you need a “connection.” Surely you have read news reports of publishers going bankrupt, of bookstores closing nationwide. Even nationally-famous writers with long lists of books published by reputable companies are finding their books rejected as publishers cut costs and try to profit with new competition.

If you consider yourself a writer, educating yourself about the world of publishing is part of your job. Read available news about publishing, writers, bookstores and libraries to learn about your chances of publication. If you believe your writing is valuable, then you must find your own method of getting it in print.

You may dream of receiving a contract from a major publisher but many other methods of publishing exist, from print on demand to online publishing. You can write your thoughts on the Internet through blogging, publish in an Ebook, self-publish, create a POD (print on demand) book or join a publishing cooperative.

Information on publishing is easily available. You can learn how to publish a book via the internet or in your public library. Librarians I know are eager to help their patrons. Start with a look at Writer’s Market and The Literary Market Place. In the library or bookstore or online, browse the dozens of “how-to” books on writing and publishing. Look at bibliographies so each source leads you to others. Every day hundreds of writers figure out how publish their own books. You must do the same. This is the good news.

You already know the bad news: some of the people spreading information are not honest.

As an author, plan to learn new skills that will enable you to publish and promote your writing in the way that suits you best. No mentor, no matter how generous or well known, can determine which publication method is best for your book, submit it, design it, edit, copyedit and proofread the manuscript, oversee publication and help you sell it. Because you know your own manuscript best, you must develop your own ideas about where and how it might find readers; that’s just part of the job of the writer.

Do you picture yourself as a famous author seated comfortably on a chair in a TV studio, casually discussing the latest book? Even famous authors have to work hard to sell their books. Commercial contracts often call for a certain number of speaking and book-signing appearances in particular cities as part of the publishing campaign. The author who publishes with less-famous publishers has to arrange his or her own travel. In both cases, when the writer is traveling to promote her book, she’s not writing. Many authors now use the Internet for promotion, blogging, tweeting, exchanging reviews. And more and more frequently, I hear the complaint, “I’m spending all my creative energy promoting my work, not writing.”

In writing to me, you proudly said you do not have a computer, that you are “too old to learn” and can’t afford one. Without a computer, your task is more time-consuming in several ways. Internet research is faster, though often less reliable, than library research. Most publishers no longer read printed manuscripts; they require attachments sent in the proper format.

Still, most settled regions swarm with people willing to teach you how to use a computer, often at low cost. For example, senior citizens’ organizations offer many such classes particularly for seniors of limited means who aren’t interested in “surfing the net” but in writing their life stories. I know a dozen people in their 80s and 90s who confidently use their computers to pay their bills, do research, write to friends– and none of them are well-to-do.

When you told your friend that I should help you write, publish and promote your book, you did not mention any effort you may have made to find help in the busy metropolitan area where you live. I know that city to be thronged with writers at all levels; many of them are generous with their time and teach or give workshops. I might have ignored your letter or said “No!” but I’ve spent hours composing this reply. Those are hours lost from my own writing. And if you are like many who have asked me for help as you did, you will be angry, resentful, perhaps rude about my refusal to put aside my own work to help you with yours.

I have and do work hard to help writers who show initiative and determination to see their work in print. But if I am to get any of my own work done, I must limit the time I take away from it to give to others.

I am a full-time writer; I begin writing by nine each morning, stopping only to cook and eat lunch. In the afternoon I may write or answer mail or email. I also have all the usual responsibilities: cooking, cleaning, gardening. My writing is an important part of my livelihood. Because I don’t make enough money from selling my books to eat, I have developed other ways to make a living from writing.

Once upon a time, when had real jobs and was not writing as much or as seriously, I worked free for “good causes;” I reserve the right to do so still. But my writer friend Helen Rezatto lectured me: “You wouldn’t call the plumber and ask him to fix the leak in your pipes for free,” she said. “Why should writers be expected to give away their hard-earned knowledge?”

Often, I am invited by a college or university (with paid professors) or a high school (with paid teachers) or a civic group or arts organization (with paid staff) to teach writing for a day or more. They don’t mention pay but the invitations promise chirpily, I’ll have a “chance to sell my books.” This usually means I’ll sit at a table in the foyer as everyone goes home to lunch or out for the evening. People issuing such invitations do not consider the costs of travel, overnight stays, or time lost from my work. I speak from experience; I’ve done hundreds of such jobs in and around my home state.

If Helen were alive, she’d remind me to tell them that I might sell far more books staying at home and blogging or tweeting. People value service in direct proportion to the amount they pay for it, she insisted, and writers who perform their work for free are always underrated.

I make my living in three ways. I am hired by colleges, universities and writers groups to give workshops and talks. I expect those organizations to pay for my time, just as if they’d hired a plumber. (See an explanation of my fees on this website.)

I conduct writing retreats at my ranch. Writers who come for retreat usually spend two full days and two half-days here in my retreat house, consulting with me on work they have sent ahead. When I receive their email attachment, I can write comments directly in the manuscript. During the retreat, I print copies for the writer and for me and we devote our time together to reviewing and revising the work. I offer suggestions for publication once I know the writer’s needs and abilities. (Descriptions and costs of a Writing Retreat are described on this website.) They pay for my expertise just as they would pay the costs of a college class, and for the same reasons.

Third, I provide writing consultations by email. That is, writers send me their manuscripts-- by email, as attachments-- and I write comments throughout the work, sending it back so that the writer can work through my suggestions line by line. (Descriptions and costs of Writing Conversations are also described on this website.) I no longer accept paper manuscripts sent by mail because the process of commenting is so much more laborious for both the writer and for me. My $50 an hour charge for this service is, I’m told, hundreds of dollars below the industry standard.

I have spent more than fifty years writing and publishing my work, educating myself about the process-- so I believe I am justified in charging for the time I spend helping others. Writing and working with writers are my only businesses.

So I urge you to invest your own time to learn about the profession you chose by calling yourself a writer. Study the business and decide what procedure is best for you. If you have faith in your work, you will find a way. Thousands of people with limited resources have educated themselves and published worthwhile books in one form or another.

You could be one of them.

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Bess Streeter Aldrich

August 1, 2011

Tags: Book Review, Writer: Bess Streeter Aldrich, Family: Mother, Childhood, Christmas, Friend: Hobie & Lois, Life of a Writer, Living in a Small Town

Cover of "A White Bird Flying"
. . .
My mother grew up on her family ranch with an interest in books that lasted her whole life; she read to me, quoted writers to me, and turned me into a reader-- though she’d rather not have turned me into a writer.

Once we moved to the ranch, both my parents encouraged my reading habits; I was always allowed to open one gift before they got up on Christmas morning and it was always a book and I always read quietly until they arose. Sometimes, though, if I was reading in the middle of the day they encouraged me to stop reading and go hoe the garden.

Mother preferred romantic poets-- she’d kept poetry books from her college days, some inscribed as gifts from suitors, and quoted the Brownings often. She loved the books of Bess Streeter Aldrich. No doubt I considered my tastes superior to my mother’s because I never read Aldrich. But recently my faithful correspondents (Hobie and Lois Morris), modern homesteaders in upstate New York, mentioned how much they enjoy her work. They also compared my writing to hers, praising us both for bringing the prairie to life.

So I decided it was time. Yesterday I finished A White Bird Flying, originally published in 1931 and kept in print by the University of Nebraska Press. The story of Laura, the writer, bears some close resemblances to Aldrich’s own biography and to mine as well.

I could identify with Laura when she pictured herself as a writer, standing outside her own emotions sometimes until she almost missed the important part of human interactions. Laura was a hick when she went to college, just as I was, and stumbled over some of the same problems with sororities, studying, and her friendships with both men and women. Somehow, she grew to believe that she could not be a writer in Nebraska, just as I at one time concluded that great writers had to live in New York, if not California. I suspect that Bess Streeter Aldrich may have thought similarly, but she spent her life in small towns and wrote nine novels and numerous other works about the life she lived.

Since I encourage you to read this book, and others by Aldrich, I won’t tell you how Laura solved her dilemma. Aldrich’s descriptions of life in a small town in Nebraska are filled with details that made me laugh and cry over their resemblance to the places I’ve known and loved.

And writers, especially those from small towns in the Great Plains, if you read nothing else of hers, please go to Aldrich's website and read “Why I Live in a Small Town,” published in Ladies Home Journal in 1933.

# # #

For more information:
Bess Streeter Aldrich’s website

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