By Natalie Bright
Through the Yahoo group, I posted an invite to members of Women Writing the West for a possible meet up for those who might be attending the Western Writers of America conference. We exchanged cell phone numbers, and Elizabeth Boyle responded with suggested time and place; hotel lobby for lunch at 11:30 or dinner at 6:30. I made the dinner time and along with fifteen other WWW members, we walked across the street to Jake’s Steakhouse in downtown Billings, Montana. Unfortunately, our group was so large we had to split up with some going towards the bar and others being seated in the dining area.
Dark wood paneling enhanced by soft light gave the restaurant an old world, western feel. It set the perfect mood for dinner with a group of writers. At a table for six and after drinks were ordered, our attention turned to the menu. One woman commented that she lived in the Pacific Northwest and they ate seafood at almost every meal. In Montana, she was going to order a steak. I mentioned that we raise grass-fed beef in the Panhandle of Texas and that Montana seafood sounded really good to me. Orders were placed and with drinks in hand after a long day of meetings, conversation turned to what does a cow giving birth look like. Do they stand or do they lay down? Definitely not the kind of dinner question I had anticipated in Billings, but we are writers and as such, an extremely curious bunch.
The food was delicious and the conversation even more so. Interestingly, it was at a Western Writers of America conference 25 years ago that Irene Bennett Brown and two gals from Colorado decided there might be a need for a new organization. Irene told me that one of the girls volunteered her house, but soon discovered that it wouldn’t be big enough. The place and time was set, and Women Writing the West became a reality. And now here we are again at a WWA meeting sharing a meal in Montana many years later.
Billings is the largest city in Montana, located near the Yellowstone River and surrounded by sandstone cliffs.
As it always does when writers get together, the conversation soon turned to “what do you write?” The breadth of work was wide and fascinating. My “To Be Read” list is massive at this point, as I made notes on my phone of author names and book titles. Several others pulled up chairs to join us as they passed our table after finishing their meal. Time flew by and I didn’t notice the bar had emptied until the bartender told us to take our time. There’s no rush he says, he had to clean and we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted. He asked where we were from, and was surprised at our answer: Colorado, Utah, Washington, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. I laughed at the look on his face.
Thanks for the unforgettable evening Linda, Richard, Randi, Elizabeth, Denise, and Alice. What binds us is a passion for tough people who have a fierce sense of adventure and hard work, and we share a fascination for the history of the American West. I wish I had asked the waiter to take a picture of our group. The faces around the table that night have since gone separate ways, but memories of the laughter and new friendships made remain in the heart.