Hmm... This popped up yesterday. I found it rather "interesting."
#author #armylaundress #LaramieLive #Wyoming
This was a recent interview with the hometown newspaper. There were a few glitches (Libby Custer was definitely not a laundress, but rather the wife of General George Armstrong Custer,) and a couple of other minor things, but for the most part, a good article.
#LaramieBoomerang #publicity #armylaundress #science #teacher #WILLA #WomenWritingtheWest #author #writing
When I started this blog, I had the best of intentions. I was going to write something at a minimum of once a month. Isn't it funny how life gets in the way of things we want to do.
In October, I went to Tucson, Arizona for the Women Writing the West Conference. I was thrilled to be honored with a WILLA award for Best Non-Fiction book. It was not only exciting, but overwhelming. It was a poignant moment, and it caused me to reflect on my journey with "Laundress." (The award is made of glass. I am holding it in the photo, though it is difficult to see.)
It began when a friend asked me to present the women's role in the western frontier army. While I knew absolutely nothing about it, I figured a little research would tell me all I needed to know. Little did I know that research would go on for a number of years, resulting in trips to various forts with friends, and later, my husband Mark. All along the way, they encouraged me to write a book about laundresses.
One day, I looked at the spiral notebooks, scraps of paper, and photocopies of information that were haphazardly tossed in a plastic tote, and decided it was time to write the book. I did, and pitched it to my publisher, Nancy Curtis at High Plains Press in Glendo, Wyoming. I wanted to keep it local if I could, and that was my first choice. (Any place in Wyoming can be considered local, with a state population that hovers around half-a-million people at any given time. We are just a small town with long streets.) Nancy liked the idea, and the rewriting began, as did many other tasks associated with writing a book.
"Laundress" was finally out in print, and my whirlwind adventures began. It has been a journey filled with travel, speaking engagements, and award ceremonies. I have met some great people along the way. At almost every stop I learn even more about "my ladies," and the role of the United States army in the American West. That new information gets filed away, but I am a little more organized now. I have an expanding file, instead of a plastic tote.
I also have a couple other book ideas I am playing with. One is another non-fiction book. I am currently doing some research to make sure it is a viable idea, and I will be pitching it this spring. Another is a children's chapter book.
We will see where those ideas go. Meanwhile, the "Laundress" adventure just keeps going. I will be on the road again this weekend, giving a talk and signing books. If you are in the area, come see me at Fort Caspar, in Casper, Wyoming on Saturday at 1 p.m. Cow and her friends will be riding along with me.
#Writing #WILLA #Tucson #Army #Laundress #Women
My car's odometer just turned over the 140,000 miles. It did so as I was returning from Rapid City, South Dakota. I presented a paper on laundresses at the West River History Conference. Three weeks ago, I was just west of there, at Sturgis. I was a guest speaker at Fort Meade. The week before that, I was at the Wyoming State Historical Society meeting in Cody, Wyoming, accepting an award.
Sometimes my husband accompanies me on these trips, but it depends on him being able to take time off from work. Fortunately, I have enough leave days banked that it is not a problem for me to make these journeys. However, I do have some constant traveling companions.
A number of years and three cars ago, I bought a blue, Buick Century. That is when I learned about "New Car Syndrome." This is when an individual doesn't notice any other cars, until he or she buys a car of that type. After I bought the blue car, I noticed there were at least fifty other blue cars in the grocery parking lot, and they all looked either identical or very similar.
It dawned on me why one friend had a hat on the back window ledge of her car, and other had University of Wyoming Cowboy brown and gold pom-pom shakers on her dash board. This was so they could readily identify their own car in the parking lot.
I wanted to put something unique in the back window of my car. I found Cow at a local store. She was just the right size, and was a reflection of my interests. She traveled many miles with me, and when the blue Century finally became a little questionable on road worthiness, I traded it in for a newer, Green Buick Century. (Can you tell I liked those cars?) Cow assumed her duties on the back window ledge of that car. Eventually, it became necessary to trade the green Century. Along came my GMC Envoy, and as you read earlier, I have put well over 100,000 miles on that car.
To give you an idea of how easy it is to rack up miles here in Wyoming and beyond, the two trips to South Dakota were over 600 miles each round trip, while the one to Cody was over 700 miles round trip. Many of those miles are on two-lane highways, too. That gives a person a lot of time for contemplation, especially when the vehicle ahead has a driver that a) is afraid of the mountain road, or b) is jamming on the brakes every few moments to stop and gawk at something.
There isn't a back window ledge for Cow to sit on, but I didn't feel right not having her in the car anymore. She sits in the middle of the back seat now.
Cow acquired some friends along the way. Frog was literally sitting up, in the middle of the street when I was driving to work one morning. He looked quite forlorn. I felt sorry for him as cars whizzed by, causing him to rock back and forth. I rescued him, and tucked him in beside cow. I don't recall Monkey's story now, but it was much the same.
Cow, Monkey, and Frog always wear their seat belt. Cow has traveled the longest with me, and has logged close to 300,000 miles. She has been all over the mid-western and western United States, from Texas to Montana, and from Kansas to California. Some of those trips were research for "Laundress," along with book signings and marketing gigs, others were for family weddings and funerals, while others were just for fun.
I expect my little trio will be traveling with me for some time to come. There are lots or roads ahead, and places and people to see.
#BuickCentury #GMCEnvoy #Cow #Driving #Laundress #SoapSudsRow #Sturgis #Fort Meade #CodyWyoming
Part of being an author is promoting your book. Sure the publisher does some promotion, but they have other books that they are also promoting. If you want your book to sell, you have to be out there selling it too. That can lead to some interesting adventures, not the least of which are book talks.
I don't live in a big city, although at around 30,000 people, Laramie is one of the bigger towns in Wyoming. I can only promote my book so much in a town that size. That means I have to go on the road to do so. That often involves an over-night stay, and a motel.
I have had a few interesting motel adventures. This one involved an evening book talk at a fort. My plan was to get to town around five, get a motel room, and then go on over to the fort. On this particular day, there was not a room to be had at the chain motels. We finally located a small, Mom and Pop type place. (We includes my husband, who sometimes accompanies me.)The lady running it was very sweet, but it was obvious that the place had seen better days. She showed us to our room and gave us the key. (Yes, you read that right, a good, old-fashioned key.) She then explained that if the air conditioner was running the bathroom window had to be open, or else the room door would vapor lock. There was something about the television too, but I don't recall what now. It goes without saying that there was no internet access. She went back to her office/apartment, and we went on to the fort.
I gave my talk, signed some books, and we went back to the motel, we thought for the night. It didn't take long to discover there was no ice machine, no complimentary drinking glasses, no bar soap, and only one small bath towel for my husband and I. No washcloths or hand towels were available, either. The roll of toilet tissue sat on the edge of the bathtub. Off we went, found a Safeway, and bought soap, plastic cups, and ice. We finally settled in, and turned on the very noisy air-conditioner. My husband opened the bathroom window, only to find there was no screen. Fortunately, the insect population wasn't too overwhelming. (I will say despite the lack of amenities it was a very clean, quiet motel.It was not the worst I have stayed in either, but that is another story!)
Just when I thought it couldn't get anymore interesting, my cell phone rang. (Mind you, this was getting close to 10 p.m.) It was someone calling from the fort. A person who had attended the book talk had lost their keys, and thought I might have accidentally picked them up. I was quite sure I hadn't, but I said I would look through my things. I take a number of artifacts with me to pass around as I talk about the life of laundresses. I sorted through the tote, and checked the box of books. Nope, no keys. I called back, and assured them I did not have the keys. I thought that was the end of the matter. Little did I know!
The next morning, my phone rang around 7:30. We were just getting ready to leave. It was the person who had lost the keys. Apparently, this was the only set of keys to the car, the car was locked, and the person was positive I had rolled the keys up with my table cloth. I politely explained that I didn't have a table cloth. Was I sure? Well then what was covering the table where I signed books? I said I didn't recall, but I was almost sure it was a plain table top. Then the person asked if they could come look through my things! I explained that I had done so last night. They were insistent. I finally agreed, mostly to settle the matter, and explained where we were. The person came, searched, and found that I did not have their keys.
My big fear was that I would get home, and actually find the keys in my car or something. Fortunately, that did not happen. I heard later that the keys were on the floor of the person's car.
It was just another day in the adventure of being an author. Maybe when I get to be famous, I will get some "people." Then my people can contact your people, make motel bookings, schedule signings, and best of all, deal with people who lose their keys!
#author #book #writer #speaking
All too soon, the end of summer is in sight. My husband and I spent the evening with friends. We dined on a delicious leg of lamb, salad, and other tasty fixings under the big Wyoming sky. The conversation flowed, jumping from one subject to another, and later brought to mind a few thoughts.
The past year has been interesting. It has been a whirlwind that I could never have imagined. Parts of it were quite interesting.
Things get kind of weird when people find out you have published a book, especially when you share a name with someone famous. Some of the conversations and comments can be quite funny.
"Are you THAT Jennifer Lawrence?" Nope, not even close. It is easy to say there are a few years and miles separating us. Not only that, we live in two entirely different places, and really, two different worlds. While I can't speak for the other Jennifer Lawrence, I can say that this one is strictly a small town gal. I know I would not enjoy the big city lifestyle.
"Ms. Lawrence! That chick stole your name! You should sue her!" I had to explain to my lovely students that this isn't how the real world works. Movie stars can choose just about any name they like. This led to an even funnier conversation recently. Because there are two Jennifer L's that are teachers in our building, I sign all of my student's passes and paperwork requiring initials as JLaw. Little did I know that the other Jennifer Lawrence goes by JLaw. A building paraprofessional finds this quite humorous, and now never misses an opportunity to call me JLaw.
"But you are a scientist, not a historian." I have heard this from many people, my students included. (I forgive the latter. They are still young enough to be linear thinkers.) Hmm...I didn't know the two were mutually exclusive. I have always believed a person should have many interests, and should always be growing and learning.
"You forgot to dot that i and cross that t. You, not only a teacher, but a writer!" This was from a casual conversation, posted on a social media site. I took the time to explain that I considered Facebook, most email, etc. as casual conversation. I do not expect it to be perfect on your end, and I don't expect it to be perfect on mine. Besides, we all make mistakes.
My favorite conversation was via email. A young lady from Gillette, Wyoming took the time to write to me. The conversation went something like this...
"Hi, Ms. Jennifer Lawrence. My name is Suzy Q. I am interviewing a famous writer. Could you please answer the following questions for me?" The email contained a reasonable list of questions pertaining to the writing craft.
I was flattered to be thought of as a "famous writer," however the child had a slightly different perspective than I did. (That perspective is changing, but that is fodder for another blog post.) Nevertheless, I spent quite some time and thought crafting the answers to her questions.
I explained that I kept a notebook or note cards with me at all times to jot down random thoughts that might become something I incorporated into my writing. I told her that I while I only wrote nonfiction articles and books, I hoped to eventually publish some fiction. This would include children's literature. I mentioned that I tried to write a bit every day. I explained the importance of having other people read my work before submitting it anywhere, and told her it was very important to be willing to accept criticism. Oh, how I believe I waxed eloquently in answering the child's questions. I concluded by asking her about her writing, and said I would love to read what she wrote. I didn't have to wait long for a reply.
"Dear Ms. Jennifer Lawrence. I only wrote to you because this was an assignment our teacher gave us. By the way, you are the only author that has answered so far. Thank you for answering me. Sincerely, Suzy Q."
As we sit here on a cool summer night, swattin' flies and swappin' lies, it is good to remember that working with children and animals will always keep us humble!
#JLaw #Writing #JenniferLawrence #History #Science
(Photo courtesy of NIki DeLancey, DeLancey Stables)
She was 24-years-old. She had arthritic front knees, and a swayed back. On Friday, she "mared up" and got into a kicking fight with younger mare. Initially, the other mare tried to get away, but the old mare kept after her. Finally, the younger mare, wearing shoes, whirled and kicked. The old mare took off around the barn, packing her hind leg. I got the herd run into the corral, and sorted into their respective pens.
I haltered the old girl, and led her into the barn. By then, she was able to put weight on the leg. She had a cut on her canon and another on her stifle. We doctored her, and put her in a pen by herself. She seemed to be improving, then she started declining again.
She was a winner in her day. She carried her older owner around the dressage ring, and through some two-phase events. Later, when her owner was in her 70s, the mare helped the lady win a season-end barrel racing buckle.
She was a trooper in the 4-H arena. Her owner's granddaughter showed her for many years, and won numerous championships. The mare earned that young girl many buckles, too.
I also rode her off and on. She had a walk that would take you to Texas, and a lope that jarred your teeth out. Ironically, one stint of my riding her involved being a lead horse for the mare that kicked her, when that mare was learning to be a saddle horse.
She finished her riding career carrying a young rider in the rodeo arena. She ran barrels and poles, and worked as a goat tail tying horse. That little girl won a year-end saddle with the old mare.
Then she was retired, living out life at the boarding barn where she had lived since she was five.
She was one of those horses that we didn't like some days, but we always loved. She had some truly stupid moments in her life, and we wondered what possessed her. She picked fights with any horse stabled next to her. She had a few little quirks, and came by the addition to her name of, "You ol' bitch," honestly.
She loaded onto the trailer this morning, not to go to a horse show or rodeo, but to go to the vet. Her final trip took her to that kindness that our animals deserve in the end.
Even though there are those that will say, "She was just a horse," she touched many lives. Contrary to popular belief, cowgirls do cry. As we've done before, and will do again, we will cry for a horse.
Don't Cry for the Horses
Brenda Riley Seymore
Don't cry for the horses that life has
A million white horses, forever to
Don't cry for the horses now in
As they dance and prance to
a heavenly band.
They were ours as a gift, but never
As they close their eyes, forever to
Their spirits unbound, forever to fly.
A million white horses, against the
Look up into Heaven. You will see
The horse that we lost, the horse we
Manes and tails flying, they gallop
They were never yours, they were
Don't cry for the horses, they will be
When our time has come, they will
show us the way.
Do you hear that soft nicker close to
Don't cry for the horses, love the
ones that are here.
#horses #sorrel #mare #riding #rodeo #euthanasia
Wow, Jennie....your book came out a year ago. Why are you just now getting around to creating an author's page? That is certainly a valid question. Actually, I have had a page for quite some time. However, the title and web link both say, Army Laundress. Unfortunately, people didn't always make that connection, especially when I write about other topics. I decided it was time to use my name as a connection to an author's web page.
As I sit here on the eve of Independence Day, I think of the freedoms we have. I have the freedom to start a new web page. I have the freedom to write what I want, you have the freedom to read what you want. We have the freedom to walk into a grocery store, and find what would be to some, an unimaginable choice of foods and other necessary supplies. We can buy fuel for our vehicles, our children are afforded a free education, we choose what we wish to become in life. Sometimes, we choose more than once.
Tomorrow we will celebrate those freedoms and many more. Many of us will go to local celebrations. I know I will. Laramie's big celebration is in a city park. As I drove home this evening, I saw the funnel cake trailer preparing for the event. The snow cone trailer was parked on another street. There will be food vendors. Civic groups and churches will be handing out slices of watermelon, cookies, hand-scooped ice-cream cones and more. There will be music, and games for the kids. The fire department will have their trucks on display. Red, white and blue bunting and American flags will be in abundance. It will be a busy place, with people nodding hello or stopping to talk. The big talk will be the forest fire burning west of town. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow it will be out.
The day will wrap up with a fireworks show. People will choose the best vantage points, and sit in their cars or on blankets as they watch the sky light up.
I don't know what I will do with my Army Laundress page. I may completely merge it with this page. I may keep it going as more of an historical information page. There is time to figure it out. Thankfully, I live in a country where I have that freedom.
Jennie Lawrence is the author of Soap Suds Row - The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses 1802 -1876. She also writes a regular column for African Violet Magazine, and has done freelance work. She has started to dabble in children's literature as well.