Bringing Portland to You


Kathy Sechrist – 2021 Conference Chair

Portland, Oregon—water, water, everywhere. The city sits in a valley between two of earth’s natural treasures and lifelines. Their waters carved the land and affected both man and earth’s history. 
Travel east, and you pass through the gorge cleaved by the mighty Columbia River. The Gorge began forming as far back as the Miocene period (roughly 17 to 12 million years ago). You’ll pass many waterfalls pouring off of steep cliffs which were created by the great Missoula flood when torrents over 700 feet high raged through the area.
As years passed, the river became home to native Americans, fur traders, steamships, dams for electricity, cargo carriers, and salmon—always salmon.
Portland, Oregon water scene
Travel to the west and in an hour you’ll pass through another mountain range butted against the Pacific Ocean. John Jacob Astor’s ship, the Tonquin, staked the first U.S. claim to the entire west coast.
His fur-trading post became the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. The settlements have grown, adding forts, canneries, aquatic centers, museums, lighthouses, and hiking trails with unparalleled views.
Travel south and you’ll follow many of the Oregon Trail travelers and they claimed rich, fertile farmland in the valley. The state is the NUMBER ONE U.S. producer of blackberries, peppermint, hazelnuts, cranberries, rhubarb, grass seed, AND Christmas trees.

Travel north a few miles and you’ll find yourself crossing one of the twelve bridges in Portland and landing in Washington.

Portland is associated with water. Rain from the sky. Rivers running to the ocean. Even bubblers downtown, provide free, fresh (not recycled drinking water) 365 days a year—unless there’s a cold snap or a pandemic.

2021 DOWNING Journalism Award Finalists

Exciting News! The finalists for the 2021 DOWNING Journalism Award are as follows in alphabetical order: 

Wild Women of the West: Jenny Murphy by Chris Enss, 

Ripple Effect: Will the West Figure Out How to Share Water? by Sophia Jeremias

Living Space by Susan Tweit. 

Congratulations to all! The winner will be announced at the Virtual Women Writing the West conference in October.

Linda Wommack
Downing Journalism Award Coordinator

Finalists Announced – 2021 LAURA Short Fiction Award

I’m pleased to announce The 2021 Women Writing the West LAURA Short Fiction Award finalists in no particular order:

“The Pretender” by Karen Jones

“Lila’s Song” by Jane Perry

“Mountain Trout” by Heather Ormsby

Final placements will be announced during the 2021 Women Writing the West virtual conference in October. 

Congratulations, ladies!

Betsy Randolph
2021 President-Elect
The LAURA Award Coordinator
Women Writing the West

Eliana West

Diversity-How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Eliana West passionately believes that young people are our future readers, and they want to see stories of people they can relate to in worlds that look like their world, with friends of different abilities, skin color, sexual orientation, and religious and cultural backgrounds.

Sounds great.  How do we learn to get there? West will give a Don’t-Miss presentation at the WWW 2021 Conference. She is an expert at creating a safe space for writers to ask questions about diversity and learn to create REAL worlds across all genres. 

West shared a quick tip to the question:

How does a writer create characters who are different than the writer, when her/she/they doesn’t have the life experiences?

West says, If you aren’t comfortable writing a diverse character, that’s okay. Here are some other ways you can add diversity to your stories.

“Where does your character live? As yourself what your character sees when they drive down main street? 

ï      Is there a Mosque or a Synagogue as well as a church in your character’s neighborhood?

ï      What do your character’s neighbors look like? Who is playing in the park?

ï      Are there any community events happening? Was there a Diwali celebration at the community center last week? 

ï      What restaurants does your character like to go to? 

“Here’s an example of how you can add diversity and enrich your character’s backstory.  

“Stephen ladled the rich golden chicken soup into the container. This would be the perfect thing to take over to Jeff. He smiled as he added the matzoh balls. Thank goodness for Mrs. Greenfield, his next-door neighbor growing up. The Greenfields always joined his family for Christmas dinner and they always celebrated Passover with them. Mrs. Greenfield encouraged Stephen’s love of cooking, teaching him how to make challah, rugalach and most importantly her famous chicken soup with matzoh balls. He carefully packed the basket with soup, bread, and a bottle of wine. They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Stephen hoped it that was true, he’d been looking forward to this date for a long time. 

“Did your character just go to a wedding or a funeral? Maybe they just came from an Indian wedding with the bride wearing a beautiful red and gold sari. How about a Bar or Bat Mitzvah? 

“These may seem like small, insignificant ways to add diversity, but it’s a start. Once you are comfortable adding diverse elements in small ways, you may feel more confident in making diversity a bigger part of your story.”  

Eliana West has more information every serious writer MUST hear. She has founded Writers for Diversity, a safe and welcoming community, encouraging questions and helping writers learn. Join us at the 2021 WWW conference as she gently leads us into becoming diverse writers for diverse worlds. 

Literature For All

Why adjust The WILLA Literary Award categories?

Romantic fiction has been around since the 18th century, but it was Jane Austen who set the world on fire with a new form of fiction focusing on the lives and everyday struggles of female protagonists–particularly their romantic lives.

Pride and Prejudice, published in 1811, did not identify the author, as was common with novels of the 18th and early 19th century. The title page only indicated that the book was written “By a Lady.” Jane Austen’s name never appeared on any of her novels during her lifetime.Charlotte Bronte’s romance, Jane Eyre, published in 1847 under the pen name Currer Bell, became an instant bestseller and gained the reputation as a “naughty book.”

Both of these classics became templates for romantic literature that followed. It evolved and separated from other genres by having the unique distinction of primarily being written by women, for women, about women.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (1936) reawakened public interest in romance novels. Soon Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier followed. It was considered women’s literature—a gothic romance. It is now classified as one of the best psychological-thrillers ever written and has never been out of print.

In the 1950s, romance trended in stories of exotic locales, featuring women who worked outside of expected careers as housewives or mothers. Stewardesses and nurses led exciting lives.

The 1970s introduced the subgenre known as bodice rippers.  Eventually these were replaced by narratives that didn’t involve violence and abuse, but they left a heavy lingering perception of romance novels.

In the last twenty years, romance novels have shifted toward accuracy, displaying the wide diversity of their readership and the challenges in overcoming personal struggles. The category has exploded into seven publishing subgenres: contemporary (since WWII), historical, romantic suspense, erotica, religious/spiritual, paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy, and young adult.

By the 2000s romance has become the most popular genre in modern literature. A whopping 29 million people read these subgenres with 84 percent of the readers being women. 

And who writes romance? Primarily women. 

The debate about whether romance is a worthy genre goes back to it’s advent. Not just romance, but women’s writing as a whole has been questioned. From its beginning, WWW has pushed back against the attitude that a work is judged by the gender of the author.

All genres of literature, including romance, will continue to grow and change with the times. WWW promotes writing about the North American West with emphasis on experiences and sensibilities of women of that region. This includes stories of romance. We welcome people of all genders in their writing endeavors. We learn, strive, cry, and congratulate each other as a community.

Our rubrics strive to evaluate books based on the quality of the writing, regardless of genre. And we thank the authors who came before us, challenging and changing attitudes, so that NOW a title page can bear our name.

I believe Women Writing the West would make Jane Austen smile.

NOVEMBER 1ST—The WILLA Literary Awards open for submissions.  Eight categories. Romance is one of them.

Our thanks to members who asked for this adjustment and the 2021 Board, pondering, listening and supporting our members.

~ Barb Froman, WWW President 2020-2021~

Photo credits: joanna-kosinska-b6ydtys2igy-unsplash

Bringing Portland to You

VOODOO Doughnuts

Barb Froman, WWW President

If we could be in Portland during the 2021 Conference, I guarantee you’d walk 40 yards from the hotel to the famous VOODOO Doughnuts.  Founded in 2003, with the tongue-in-cheek mission of “world doughnut domination,” you can no longer get the Pepto doughnut which made the company renowned.  Covered in pink-Pepto-Bismol icing and sprinkled with crushed Tums, the treat was a huge favorite of the late-night crowd.  But you can get hundreds of other unique creations including:

Oh Captain, My Captain-covered with Captain Crunch. Memphis Mafia-(in honor of Elvis)-with banana chunks, cinnamon, chocolate, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top. Easy Kesey Lemon Peasy (in honor of Oregonian Ken Kesey)-lemon-filled with tie-dyed frosting. VooDoo Doll– filled with raspberry frosting, chocolate icing, and a pretzel stake.

VooDoo Doughnuts, Portland, Oregon

Yes, you can get regular ol’ doughnuts too, but it’s the fantastic treats like: Spicy Margarita, Grape Ape, and Viscous Hibiscus doughnuts that made VooDoo featured on the Travel Show, Today Show, MTV, Wheel of Fortune, People, Playboy, and Conde Nast.   Or…maybe it’s the weddings that happen in the shop. It’s an adventure to just to go there.

At WWW’s virtual conference, you’ll find one of the meeting rooms is the VooDoo Room—a lovely nod to Portland and the idea of following your life’s passions.   Thank you, Conference Chair, Kathy Sechrist.

We may not be in Portland, but you can still follow your writing passion.  Sign up for this very unique, informative conference today.  (Bring our own doughnuts) 

The Year of Changes


The Year of Changes;

The Year of Everything Virtual

Remember our lives before “normalcy” was not “normal” any longer? Covid-19 brought us so many things to adjust to – masks, social distancing, no hugging, no crowds – the list could go on, and each of us could add our own personal changes to that list.

There have been pandemics before, and wars, and depressions – all have changed people’s sense of normalcy. People move locations, jobs and their family members pass on. And yet, we have survived, and made changes in our lives to accommodate the change. Some alterations) have been drastic, some not so much. Some have remained changed; some have morphed into something even better than the old  “normalcy.”

Now, with people being vaccinated, the pandemic seems to have lost a bit of its grip (more active verb) on us. People are once again attending sporting events, traveling, staying in hotels – I suppose trying to go back to normal. 

So, why is WWW holding the Annual Conference virtually yet again?

There are a multitude of reasons the decision was made. First and foremost, the Board DID NOT want to gamble with our member’s health. Covid variants are surging and spreading rapidly across the U.S. As cases are still rising, people are still dying. We felt this was the best way to ensure the safety of our members.

Second, planning for the next year’s conference begins two years before it begins. For example, President Barb began seeking out the 2021 Conference Chair at the 2019 Conference. She looked into venues, which for anyone who has planned a conference knows venues book up fast! She got proposals and locked a venue in. In February 2021 Covid began infecting more and more people. Vaccinations rolled out slowly. The Board waited as long as we could, before deciding to go virtual. Waiting longer would have cost the organization $22K for canceling. Not knowing what the future would hold with Covid, the Board felt it could not gamble with WWW’s money. 

Like all of you, I am looking forward to when we can go back to normalcy again. Life will return to the way it was, in some cases, but I can get excited about dancing into the new normalcy that I create for myself. 

You may feel ZOOM weary. The 2021 Conference team recognizes that. At times, we’ve gotten ZOOM-tired, too. With that in mind, our innovative team has crafted a virtual conference that challenges your skills to the next level. Be ready to inspire your creativity, trying new, yet proven techniques. Get answers to befuddling writing problems. And most of all, experience laughter, joy, re-connecting and making new connections which makes you part of the conference and community instead of an observer.

We have a spot waiting just for you. Join us!

Kathy Sechrist, 2021 Conference Chair

Summer Workshop

Have you registered for WWW’s 

FIRST Summer Workshop?

The very successful author, Christina Dodd once said, ‘Submitting your work is like getting on stage, pulling down your pants, and asking for comments.’ Pitching is the same. Let’s face it; the thought of it is enough to make the strongest shudder and run. 

Ahhh yes, we’ve all felt that pain, haven’t we? Our baby that we sweated and cried over, is now in the hands of an agent. An agent we have empowered with making or breaking us.

What if it could be different? What if an experienced ‘pitcher’ could lead you through how to write your pitch into nothing less than a home run? 

Oh but there is!

Award winning Author Laura Drake, who, by her own words, “has pitched a bunch”, is leading a week-long workshop June 21-25, 2021. She will have lessons for you to complete, pointers and feedback on your pitch, so that at the end of the week your pitch is so polished it shines like a well-oiled saddle!

But wait! That’s not all!

Your pitch will reside in the workshop classroom, where agents have been invited to review your pitches the week of July 15-21, 2021! After they review, they then have the opportunity to ask you for more information – pages, or even a full manuscript. Yeehaw!

Some might think this opportunity would take all your vacation gold, but nope!

Cost for both, workshop and agent pitch, is just $25!!

Excited yet? For more information and to reserve your seat, check out the Member Event page on the WWW website. Not a member? You can join today and continue to receive all of the perks Women Writing the West has to offer. 

Hope to see you there ~ and good luck to all who participate!

J.v.L. Bell Guest Blog

The Sandhill Cranes of Kearney, Nebraska

When pioneers crossed the Great Plains in their wagon trains, were they awoken by screams and by a sky dark with birds? In the evening, did they hear noises on the Platte River and wonder what new terror was approaching?

After visiting the Sandhill Cranes in Kearney, Nebraska, I’ve wondered if there are any first-hand accounts of pioneers encountering the birds. If you know of any, please send me information at

 For those that don’t know about the Sandhill Crane migration, every February through April, a half million Sandhill Cranes descend on the area around Kearney, Nebraska (Fort Kearney), taking a three-to-six-week rest from their northward migration. During the gold rush, the Cranes visited a three-hundred mile stretch along the Platte River. Now, because of farming and other man-made issues, many now visit Kearney, eating and increasing their weight by almost thirty percent before they fly on to their nesting grounds in Canada, Alaska, and even Siberia. 

While they are in Kearney, they eat, make tons of noise, and dance. In the evening, as the sun goes down, they drop down to roost on the shallow sandbanks of the river, forming large swarms that sound like a banshee is attacking. In the morning, one Crane will take off and they all rise into the air, turning the sky black with their wings while they screech, squawk, and fill the quiet morning air with noise.

During the day, a visitor can drive around the area and find them everywhere, eating in corn fields, dancing their unusual mating ritual, and of course, making noise. Sandhill Cranes are not stealth birds.

 If you visit, I recommend booking a morning or evening viewing in the Audubon Iain Nicolson Center at Rowe Sanctuary. The two to three-hour tour is worth every cent.  The guides are great, the money goes to a good cause, and the blind is on the river, giving you unbelievable views of the birds. It is cold, so put on your  snowsuit and then add another layer. You’ll be so mesmerized by the Cranes you won’t realize you’re freezing until you can no longer feel your fingers.

Listen to the sound of the Sandhill Cranes.

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and hiking in the deserts of Utah. Whenever possible, she and her family can be found hiking, rafting, or cross-country skiing.

Julie writes historical fiction and non-fiction based in Colorado. Her historical mystery series (The Lucky Hat Mine and soon to be released Denver City Justice) are set in Idaho Springs in 1863 and Denver in 1864 respectively. Her non-fiction biography of Elizabeth Byers, Denver Pioneer and wife of Rocky Mountain News editor, William Byers, is aimed at 5th graders.

Team Winning Writer ~ February 2021 Edition

Thank you, Alice Trego for providing us with the results for the 2020 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.

** Western Nonfiction: Third Place: Geronimo, Prisoner of Lies: Twenty-Three Years as a Prisoner of War (1886-1909) by W. Michael Farmer (TwoDot)

** Western Biographies: Fourth Place: Washington Territory’s Grand Lady: The Story of Matilda (Glover) Koontz Jackson by Julie McDonald Zander (Chapters of Life Memory Books)

** Western Romance: Fourth Place: Summer of Fire – Rain of Fire – Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs (Goodreader Press) Fifth Place: A Slip on Golden Stairs by Joanne Sundell (Five Star Publishing)

** Maverick: First Place: Catacombs by Mary Anna Evans (Poisoned Pen Press) Second Place: The Healer’s Daughter by Charlotte Hinger (Five Star Publishing)

** Western Fiction: Young Readers/Illustrated: First Place: Ruby’s Christmas Gifts by Nancy Oswald, Illustrations by Nate Jensen (Filter Press)

** Cowboy Poetry: Written: Second Place: Earthbound by Sharon Salisbury O’Toole (Red Dashboard)

** Western Fiction: Second Place: The Last Warrior: The Life and Times of Yellow Boy by W. Michael Farmer (Five Star Publishing) and Blood-Soaked Earth: The Trial of Oliver LeeW. Michael Farmer (Five Star Publishing)

** Inspirational Western Fiction: Second Place: One More River to Cross by Jane Kirkpatrick (Revell)  Fifth Place: Sand Creek Serenade by Jennifer Uhlarik (Smitten Historical Romance)

** Western Short Stories: Third Place: Boy in the Darkness by Anne Schroeder (Trailblazer Western Fiction)

We are inviting each of our WWW writing family to share awards and placings they have received for individual book titles, articles submitted and published in magazines or other periodicals. The achievements would be other than any recognition received for WWW awards. Refer to the Members Only section under Blog Submissions: Awards and Recognition, to submit your information. 

Submission deadline is the first of each month.