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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Writing: Where I've Been --- A New Series of Unpublished or Published-but-Uncollected Work.

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My current project is writing a diary of a year on this ranch nearly 30 years after my first book, which is a diary of a year on this ranch. In this new work, I've necessarily looked back at journals I kept, letters and journals from my relatives and others who lived in this area, and at writing I did during that time, when I was searching for my writing voice.

Much has changed. I've worked as a journalist and a college professor. I've been divorced and widowed. I've settled down in several places for several reasons.

But always, I was writing. Much of what I wrote during the past will remain private, though— following my own advice— I rarely discard a draft because I never know what insight or information it might contain that will be of value to me now.

But re-reading some of what I wrote in past years has been useful for me, not only in matters of insight, but in matters of writing style. I can see things I would write differently today, but I have also discovered writing I consider good that has had few or no other readers. Technically, these are either unpublished works, or published and uncollected, meaning they have not appeared in a book.

Who knows when, where, how or even if I might publish another book that will enable me to collect past writing? My book Between Grass and Sky was a wonderful gift of that nature from the University of Nevada Press but the world of publishing has changed as well; I may not get so lucky again. Besides, publishing a book means promoting a book and these days I enjoy making sales pitches less and less.

So I've decided to self-publish some writing via my blog. The writing that will appear in the category “Writing: Where I've Been” on my WordPress Blog is a mixture of styles, written as I was searching for the narrative voice that most nearly suited me and the material that has become most important to me. Each piece is annotated with background information. Some stories were intended to be read as fiction though they were substantially true; in those instances I have explained what is fact and what is fiction. Some of these pieces were published in slightly different forms; I have noted any previous publication.

Each of these writings was part of a thought process that resulted in other writing; readers may see the roots of ideas that appeared in later work.

I invite writers and aspiring writers to read these texts as part of your study of how writing develops. Remember, I think revision is the second most important part of writing (after thinking), so you might consider how you would revise and improve a particular story. Be inspired; be amazed; be annoyed! You might even comment, and I may— or may not— respond.

No matter what your response, I've posted these especially for writers in the hope they will help you to keep writing until you find the style and voice that particularly suits you. Then write your life with the variety and enthusiasm with which I continue to write my own.

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Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota


Note: Because of the length of these unpublished or published-but-uncollected pieces, they will only be posted on my WordPress Blogsite.

Notes from a Western Life at WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com.

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Backing into Blogging: how to blog without even trying

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"I’ll never give up my Underwood typewriter," I said-- before I got my IBM Correcting Selectric. "I’ll never give up my IBM," I said, and in fact I still have the original and one I got for spare parts when they started disappearing, and use one of them daily. "I’ll never get a computer," I said-- several computers ago.

"I’ll never live in the city," I said, and I managed to keep that promise until I was almost 50 years old, when events sent me to a city. Took me several years to recover, but I finally stopped saying "I’ll never." When it was time to get a website, I was happy to comply. When we returned to the ranch, despite my antipathy to ATV’s, I was soon riding one back and forth from Windbreak House to retreats at Homestead House, a quarter mile away.

But, despite all the evidence, I still said, "I’m NOT going to BLOG."

The word did not unfold into metaphor, sang no music to the ear, babbled no poetic phrases, displayed no imagery. It sounded downright unhygenic and a waste of time besides. I thought it might be an onomatopoetic representation of what happens when you eat a bad oyster.

Blogging, I thought, was probably a fine outlet for frustrated writers, people who couldn’t get their work published any other way.

And people who didn’t know or care about revising something until it was written as well as possible.

And people who didn’t know or care about, or respect, copyright, which protects a writer’s work from theft.

My assistant, Tamara, who knows all and sees all in connection with Windbreak House Retreats, could not only testify to these statements but probably retrieve email and letters with direct quotations. But beyond pointing out a few articles by people who thought blogging helped them sell books, she wisely did not try to persuade me.

Finally, however, I reminded myself that since it is essential for me to keep an open mind about so many other things, I’d better unfasten the locks on this opinion as well. I began to see fine blogs from friends and writers I respect-- just a few examples are the blog writings of Susan Tweit, Sharman Apt Russell, and Prairie Mary.

Go to Sharman Apt Russell's website (links to the websites mentioned are provided below) to find her "Love of Place" blog to read the work of Sharman’s group of writers who celebrate varied places and intimacy with them. Also read the powerful speech "Writing in the 21st Century" in which Sharman discusses the future of writing and publishing.

At Susan J. Tweit's website, Susan not only talks freely and warmly about her husband’s battle against brain cancer, but writes about dozens of other interests and projects involved with taking good care of landscape. And she includes "sites I enjoy," with links to some other fine writers with similar interests like someone whose fascinating blogs I almost forgot to mention: Susan Wittig Albert.

Prairie Mary calls hers an "eclectic" blog and writes a thousand worth-reading words a day-- much more than many folks who make money giving speeches about being writers.

Cindy Salo, an "acolyte of Artemesia" describes herself as "an overeducated Teva-wearing Subaru-driving sagebrush hugger who wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up," and writes on related topics at her "Sagebrush and Spuds" blog.

And then Tam reminded me that I’d been sending her unpublished bits of writing with the offhand suggestion that she "put it on the website somewhere." So she did: and the result here will be an eclectic, itinerant blog.

I’d been blogging and I didn’t even know it.

This concerns me; I do write daily in my journal, just as I advise writers to do, and much of that material is not intended for anyone else’s eyes. I want to be careful, as some bloggers are not, to make a distinction between what’s personal and private, and what might conceivably interest someone else.

I blog, they blog, I am blogging, I have blogged. I don’t plan to write every day. Please note that the word "never" does not appear in that statement.

I do invite folks who want to engage in a meaningful dialogue with me to post comments either on the "Ask Linda" page, or on this blog. I won’t promise to answer, but I won’t say I never will.

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For more information:

"Lifescapes: Notes about writing, landscape, and life in the Texas Hill Country" website for Susan Wittig Albert

website for Sharman Apt Russel
"Love of Place" blog for Sharman Apt Russell

"Walking Nature Home: living a green & generous life" blog for Susan J. Tweit

blog for Prairie Mary

"Sagebrush and Spuds: A science Geek ruminates about life in Idaho" blog for Cindy Salo

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