Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing the West with Dusty Richards and Friends

with Dusty Richards and Friends
High Hill Press
188 pages
Trade Paperback, $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-60653-021-4

Full disclosure: I’ve known Dusty Richards for about 15 years, after meeting him and his wife Pat at an Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I got to know Dusty while serving as a board member of the Ozarks Writers League and have attended his workshops in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and at Saturday Writers in Missouri

More disclosure: Louella Turner, of High Hill Press, is a writing friend. Although Lou gave me a review copy of WRITING THE WEST, I’ve not been compensated to give a favorable review of the book.

Dusty has published nearly 100 novels and a dozen short stories. In 2007 he won two Spur awards from Western Writers of America. In 2010 he received the annual Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

No matter how many of Dusty’s workshops I attend, I always learn something new. Tucked away in a desk drawer in my office are several books of notes from his talks. That’s why I’m pleased he’s come out with a how-to book to use as a quick reference.

In WRITING THE WEST, Dusty uses plain language to share his thoughts on writing. He gives examples of the right and not-so-right way of doing things, and, like any good teacher, he gives assignments and exercises to show writers how to become better at their craft.

Topics in his book include: the importance of story, word count, dialogue, creating a strong sense of place, editing, scene and sequel, critique groups, first drafts, marketing, and creating memorable characters.

One suggestion that stands out is how to divide your book into quarters. Another tip points out words editors hate. On details and research: Who knew about the history of tumbleweed in America?

WRITING THE WEST also features essays by other acclaimed Western writers, all friends of Dusty’s.

Three-time RITA award winner and member of the RWA Hall of Fame, Texan Jodi Thomas’s essay “Romancing the West” offers tips to get writers started. She also stresses the importance of reaching the heart of your characters to connect with your readers.

Pulitzer-prize nominated author Jory Sherman’s essay on “Writing the Mountain Man Novel” immerses the reader in time and place. Sherman discusses research, conflict, setting, and taking your readers along on your character’s journey.

Wyoming writer and teacher and Spur finalist, John D. Nesbitt’s essay focuses on “Writing the Traditional Western.” His informative essay defines: setting, time period, word count, form, conflict, and structure.

Spur award winning author John Duncklee writes from his New Mexico home about mistakes to avoid when writing the West. In Duncklee’s essay he discusses the importance of research on geography, weaponry, history, customs, and other telling details.

Don’t forget the young’uns! YA Western writer Mike Kearby discusses the importance of understanding your audience through characterization, dialogue, and other age-appropriate topics.

The artwork of Western artist Michael Andrews adds to the enjoyment of the book.

Although I’m not a Western writer, I’m always eager to learn about writing for the best in their fields. In WRITING THE WEST with Dusty Richards and Friends, I’ve discovered a mother-lode of writing advice.

Copyright Donna Volkenannt


  1. Thanks for passing this along!

  2. Thanks Donna. I first met Dusty at Eureka Springs in 1991 before I moved here from Idaho in 1992. Great guy! I can't wait to read this book or better yet invite him to speak at Twin Lakes Writer where I am the founder and president.

  3. The name Dusty Richards has crossed my path several times this last year. Guess I am going to have to listen! Book sounds great even if you don't write westerns. Wonder if he is close enough to speak to Joplin Writers? We have a western writer this last winter and she was very interesting. Dusty's books sounds like it would make a nice program!

  4. Thanks Donna. Sounds like Dusty offers a lot of solid tips for any writer, regardless of genre.

  5. Thanks for this info! I appreciate it:)

  6. Hi Mary Nida,
    You should ask Dusty. He's just across the state in Arkansas.

  7. Hey Claudia,
    If you need Dusty's e-mail address let me know and I'll send it to you.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    You are right. It's all about the writing.

  9. Hi Karen,
    You are welcome.
    Blessings to you,

  10. WHOA. 100 novels?! Jeesh.

    I'm so glad you stopped by your former stomping grounds! I hope you'll come back soon!

  11. Hi Holyoke Home,
    Yep. Dusty is amazing.

    Your site brings back memories of the first home my husband and I owned. It was on Hillside Ave in Holyoke--lovely woodwork and a built-in bookcase in the parlor.


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