"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Opening the pages of the West

Western non-fiction books to be judged, in front of my Dad's old drawing and watercolor of the Sandias.
One of the pleasures and blessings of my life these last few years has been serving as a judge for non-fiction books for the Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/
This December, 29 of them arrived in two boxes with a January 31 deadline. I have to pick the top three, and my selections will be combined with the selections of two other judges before the winner is selected. That author/publisher will be presented one of the handsome bronze Wrangler statues at the annual shindig at the museum, scheduled April 19-20 this year.  
www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/events/wha/default.aspx
There are many categories of awards, from poetry to fiction, music to movies, and more. The celebration brings a crowd of movie star celebrities, authors, publishers, and unbelievable western characters and dress from across the West.
So what do I get out of it, other than just judging books, seeing photographs and maps and reading about the West? 
First of all, as my wife Susan will tell you, we get complimentary admission to the Jingle Jangle Mingle on Friday and then to the black tie awards dinner Saturday. That's where she got to go ga-ga over Tom Selleck and get her pix taken with Ernie Borgnine. http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/04/agog-at-mingling.html The food and liquid refreshment is terrific--a don't-miss-event.
Here also I got to meet poet and Mongrel Empire Press www.mongrelempire.org publisher Jeanetta Calhoun Mish a few years ago when her poetry book Work is Love Made Visble won the poetry division. I usually buy a book or two here, and the benefit was a new friend, and painting buyer for that matter.
Then last year, I noticed that of the 37 entries, about one third of them were from the University of Oklahoma Press. www.oupress.com/ I took that idea and Oklahoma Today www.oklahomatoday.com/ bought my story on the press and its role in printing books about Native Americans this past year.
I also get to work with the folks at the Meusem's magazine Persimmon Hill--editor Judy Hilvosky and former student and photographer Carolyn Seelan. Fun all around.
And then, I get to keep the books...those I want, and give the others away, to libraries and friends.
So now I've finished judging the books, and will have to wait till April --as will you-- to find out if the other judges are  close to me (I've managed to pick the winner for several years now).
If you'd like to see more  images of the Western Heritage Awards, search that term in the Search This Blog blank on the sidebar. It's a natural for photos and writing and lots of posts over the past few years. Here's one link to whet your appetite:
I've scattered them across the floor in the photo above, to give you an idea of these books, in front of my Dad's old drawing and watercolor of the Sandias at Albuquerque, where I grew up in the West. This is also meant to gig Jeanetta a little too, because she and her husband recently moved from Oklahoma to the base of those mountains, and she keeps posting photos of the Sandias, gloating away.
These books and people and connections are the power of the West to me. 



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