Meet the 2023 Conference Chair

Rachel Santino

I am a new member of Women Writing the West. Having joined in the middle of 2021, very few of you reading this blog know who the heck I am. I thought it would be nice to introduce myself and share a little bit about how I ended up here as the current conference chair.

I was born in Virginia in the 1970s. When I wasn’t out chasing fireflies or riding in the back of a pickup counting deer, I was getting lost in the pages of a book. My mother always said I should be a writer, but doing what she wanted me to do was very often the opposite of what I did do. However, when I graduated from college, I began working as an editor, taking a job as a contractor for the government in Washington, DC. After a few uneventful of years of that, I changed things up and moved to rural Japan for a two-year stint teaching English. Fast forward to how I eventually ended up in California in 2009. I had lost my job during the economic recession, and like many pioneering women of the West before me, I followed the fella I was married to, to a land of promises. He promptly deserted me, but I wanted to stay in California and to make a life for myself outside of what I was used to back East. Suddenly on my own, I decided to get a job working as a bartender in the heart of San Francisco. I like to think of myself then as a modern-day version of a Harvey Girl. Just over a decade later, in 2020, like most of the world, the hospitality industry was shut down and I was faced with the reality of switching professional gears once again to make a living. I decided to get back into editing. This time, I wanted to do it for myself. I took a refresher course and figured it would be best to choose a specialty. Just being “an editor” can mean anything. I decided being a “western editor” meant I would probably have a little less competition from my new circle of editor friends. I was right. I was also introduced to a wonderful and fascinating group of passionate writers—western writers.

The toughest part after deciding what to do with my career was how to meet the people with whom I wanted to start working. It was 2020; the world was still closed. Everything was quiet. I joined Facebook and found the Western Writers of America group. Perfect. I registered for their summer convention in Loveland, Colorado. I was ready to meet the writers in person, hopefully make new friends, and to get to work! I shuddered at the thought of walking into a big room of old cowboys. I was nervous, but also excited to see what this would be like. I had my business cards, the Armadillo Proofreading pens I had made, and my ever-supportive big, friendly, bearded husband at my side, ready to start networking. We were greeted with open arms. The first night, we found ourselves an empty table and were joined and welcomed by some of what turned out to be the “big guns,” like Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, Larry Martin and Mike Bray (who I nervously asked if he wanted a promotional pen. He did not want a pen. It was my embarrassing freshman moment). We had a blast. Chris Enss was president, the whole group was energized, the mood was encouraging, and I was enthralled. I really felt like I had found my place.

It was through these new connections I made at the WWA that I first heard of Women Writing the West. So I joined in July of 2021. In the meantime, I also made a connection with author and current president, Lynn Downey. It turns out I had lived for a year in the same neighborhood where she grew up, and I became a fast admirer of her past career as in-house archivist and historian for Levi Strauss & Co. So I started reading her books. After another move, I happened to end up in her town of Sonoma. Then with her election to incoming president, she tapped me as conference chair. A terrifying but thrilling ask … 

In the next blog installment, more about my experience as a western fiction editor and my new side job as conference chair for Women Writing the West. 

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High School Writing Contest

Do you know a high school student who enjoys writing? Do you know a teacher who would encourage their students to enter writing contests?
As part of a high-schooler’s journey into the world of words, WWW would like to invite young writers ages 13-19 to submit their short pieces about women and girls in the West.
Please share the following message with teachers and students at your school, as well as homeschoolers. You may download a poster (link at bottom of page) with all the information needed for the submission process or post on hallway bulletin boards if applicable; or, share the link to this post.

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Registration is Now Open

Registration for the 2023 Women Writing the West Virtual Conference is now open. Follow the to the WWW website for more information or to register.

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New Release

Captured Secrets by Carmen Peone

At some point, we have to release the secrets that hold us captive. 

After her parents die in a horrific car accident, Sydney Moomaw is thrust into running their popular guest ranch in eastern Washington. She discovers that her parents were keeping secrets. Why is the ranch in serious debt? Why did her parents allow the insurance to lapse? Why didn’t they tell her about it? And where are their wills? Sydney needs to figure out a way to save the ranch she loves before her sister sells it.

Photographer Trey Hardy arrives at the ranch the same day Sydney’s parents are killed. His working vacation plans change when he decides to help Sydney save the ranch. But, his offers to help are met with resistance. Her stubbornness and independence are both maddening and alluring.

Amid the tangle of finances, tensions with her sister, and her own grief and anger, Sydney begins getting threatening notes. They must be from her abusive ex-husband, but he’s in jail. Isn’t he? When a teenager appears at the ranch insisting she is Sydney’s daughter, Sydney finally realizes she’d going to have to start trusting people to help her. Will Trey’s plan work? Can they save her beloved ranch? Can she really have the life she’s dreamed of?

Carmen Peone is an award-winning author of Young Adult and Contemporary Western Romantic Suspense and lives with her husband in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation.
She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions, which led to her writing career.
With the love of history and the western woman’s lifestyle, she weaves threads of healing, hope, and horses into her stories. With a thread of romance.

Get a copy of Captured Secrets
Sign up for Carmen’s newsletter and get her novella, Gentling the Cowboy for free!
Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub | Goodreads 

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Building Better Learning

Meet WWW’s New Educational Committee

Exciting news for all members of Women Writing the West! We are proud to announce the formation of an Education Committee. This committee was created to provide educational opportunities for members to further develop their writing skills and, as another member, benefit.

The Education Committee members are Kathy Sechrist, Chair, Denise Senecal, and Linda Wommack. They are dedicated to providing learning opportunities for members, both in Webinars and Workshops. They are committed to providing a supportive and inclusive environment where members can collaborate, learn, and grow together.

Upon the webinar presenter’s agreement, they will be recorded and available to all members to view/review from the Member’s Only section of We hope to build a library of webinars available on the website that members can access anytime.

Workshops will be delivered on a learning platform where attendees can learn from the presenter’s documents, post their work, and collaborate.

Our first webinar is Uncovering the Truth: A Journey Through the World of Journalism, presented by Susan Tweit, a member of WWW. Watch for the official announcement and the link to register. Wouldn’t it be cool to invite a writer friend who is not a member to watch with you?

The first workshop will be a pitch workshop with Laura Drake. It will be September 24-30, 2022. Watch for the announcement and registration to come out sometime this summer.

We are thrilled to be offering this new resource for our members and can’t wait to see the fantastic work that will come from this new initiative. We hope this will be a valuable asset for all members and help further their careers as writers. If you have questions or ideas for a workshop or webinar, contact Kathy Sechrist.

So join us in welcoming the Education Committee, and don’t miss this opportunity to enhance your writing skills!

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Congratulations Will Rogers Medallion Winners

The Will Rogers Medallion Award ceremony was held at the Fort Worth Stockyards on October 29, 2022.

Thank you to Alice Trego for compiling the list of the Women Writing the West members who received medallions in various categories.

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Do You Annoy Your Readers?

When you write, do you ever think that your work might annoy people? John W. Howell says the inspiration for this post was a series of tweets that people found annoying in books they have read.

Hello SEers, It’s John again. Happy Hump Day. Today I want to talk about things that annoy readers. In doing so, maybe we can all avoid putting things in our books that trouble those who choose to read them. I’m sure you all are readers in addition to being a writer, so I think this post may hit home to you as well. The inspiration for this post was a series of tweets recently where folks could add their gripe about what they find annoying in books they have read. I thought you might be interested in a few of these. So, the question is. “What annoys you when authors do it?”

Here we go.

When authors plant some kind of clue and never follow up.
When a character disappears.
When chapter breaks come at the wrong time and disrupt the flow.
When a lot of time is spent on history (backstory)
When it is clear the author is self-indulgent and continually overly describes a scene or character only to find neither had a lot of relevance to the story.
When the use of brand names reads like a commercial
When the story finishes with a contrived ending that is out of left field.
When dialogue becomes confusing as to who is talking
When characters are killed for no justified reason.
When children and animals are mistreated.
When words have been used that need to be looked up to be understood.
When character traits seem unrealistic, unnatural, or out of synch.
When profanity has no context.
When sex is too graphic for the genre.
When it is obvious the author needs an editor. (Or a better one)
When the story does not fit the stated genre.
When the POV changes with no warning or setup.
When the narrator seems to know more or less than the narrator should.
When there is a quick and unnatural ending that screams “Buy my next book.”
When formatting is not consistent.
I venture to say if we could write a story that had none of these irritations, it would be fine work. I know from my point of view, I have had most of these items in my books at one time or another. Lucky for me, these were caught before the book went public. Such is the value of a good editor

How about you? Have you caught these in your writing, and are there others that you feel would annoy readers? Let’s talk about it in the comment section.

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