Writer hears the West’s many voices

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Hear the words “Western writer” and you’re likely to think of shoot-’em-ups and stampedes, stagecoach robbers and rustlers. But the West was, and is, much more diverse than that according to writer Rod Miller, and so is his writing.

“There’s no place on earth like the American West,” Miller says. “From the earliest days of the frontier to today, we live in a unique place that’s rich in people and stories. You can look at the West from many directions and hear its stories in a variety of voices. That’s the approach I take in my writing.”

Miller is among the presenters at the Kanab Writers Conference, October 25 and 26 and will conduct a session on writing cowboy and Western poetry and another on the importance of strong openings in writing.

“Most writers tend to write a certain type of book, to fit within a certain genre. That doesn’t work for me. It seems in a way, like telling the same story, or writing the same book, over and over again.” That view has led Miller to write poetry, short fiction, novels, history, essays and magazine articles. Even within those categories there is plenty of variety.

Miller says, “I write poems in the traditional cowboy poetry style, but also explore broader Western themes and experiment with other poetic forms.” His collection, Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems, won the Westerners International Award for Poetry and a poem from the book, “Tabula Rasa,” received the 2012 Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Poem. His short story, “The Death of Delgado,” also won a Spur Award and was a finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for short fiction.

“My first novel, Gallows for a Gunman, sort of fits in the ‘traditional Western’ category, but is unusual in being told from the point of view of twelve different characters, each given a chapter,” the writer says. “My second novel, The Assassination of Governor Boggs, is historical fiction, based on the attempted murder of ex-governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri and the prime suspect in the crime, Porter Rockwell. Cold as the Clay is my newest novel, and it’s a sort of retelling of the biblical story of King David in an Old West setting.” Another novel, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range, is set for January release, and is a collection of tall tales told on cattle drive.

Three books of nonfiction to date, John Muir: Magnificent Tramp and Massacre at Bear River: First, Worst, Forgotten and Go West: The Risk & The Reward are also among Miller’s works. He describes the first as a “highlight reel” of the explorer’s life. The second chronicles the 1863 killing of some 350 Shoshoni men, women and children by Army troops just north of the Utah border in Cache Valley, the worst massacre of Indians by U.S. troops in Western history. He wrote the text for Go West, a colorful pictorial on the settlement of the West.

Miller has also written about the historical and modern-day West for several magazines, including Ranch & Reata, American Cowboy, Roundup and Western Horseman.

“I can’t think of a better place to spend an October weekend than Kanab, or a better bunch of people to spend time with than those who enjoy reading and writing,” Miller says of the upcoming Kanab Writers Conference. “My poetry session focuses on cowboy and Western poetry, but the techniques and principles we will cover apply to poetry of all kinds, and are applicable to other kinds of writing. The other session uses timeless opening lines from a wide variety of books and we’ll discuss why they work, and how to adapt those ideas to our own writing. With some 20 other presenters on the schedule, there is sure to be something of interest to every writer and reader,” he says.

To purchase a copy of Rod’s books, check out his page on Amazon.

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