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An Interview Revisited

Durango

Joyce in Durango, Colorado

This week, Wyoming Author Jean Henry Mead
revisited her 2011 interview with Joyce B. Lohse.
Jean’s interview is shared here for the first time.
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Joyce Lohse is an award-winning biographer and journalist, who accepted induction in the Colorado Women Hall of Fame for Eliza Routt, the subject of one of her biographies. Since 2002, she has worked as administrator for Women Writing the West.

Joyce, your books have won quite a few awards, which tells me that you spend a lot of time in research and writing. Which book was the most difficult to write and which did you enjoy most?

Each book has its own set of advantages and challenges. My shortest book, Justina Ford: Medical Pioneer, the first title in the “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press, was most difficult to write. Although Dr. Ford was a wonderful character, research material contemporary to her lifetime was scarce. Fortunately, she received recognition and was interviewed toward the end of her life. Through those precious retrospective articles, I was able to find her voice, and learn about her experiences, obstacles, and personality.

First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado, is a personal favorite. For years, I was a journalistic drifter, unsure how and where to apply my writing skills. Through genealogy research of my ancestral cousin, Eliza Pickrell Routt, I found my niche in the world of biographies. Extensive research of the Routt’s lives and characters took about five years. That project also helped develop my knowledge and love of Colorado history. In 2008, I attained and accepted induction in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame for Eliza Routt. It was an accomplishment to speak on her behalf, and share her story with an audience of 750+ people.

Tell us about your journalism background. When did you begin writing?

I wrote stories and learned the power of the pen at an early age. A poem I wrote about my father riding the commuter train to Chicago each day was published in the local newspaper. Readers loved it. Soon, I was editor of the junior high newspaper, and was forevermore hooked on writing.

Later, at Northern Illinois University, I received a rock solid, old-school journalism education, producing stories with yellow second sheets on a manual typewriter. My specialties were feature writing and photojournalism. I especially enjoyed writing profiles about people and their lives.

For whom do you write?

I write for “all ages.” My titles for the “Now You Know Bios” series from Filter Press, an independent commercial publisher in Palmer Lake, Colorado, makes them accessible to many readers. My simple and direct journalistic style lends itself to a wide reading audience. However, I need to restrain myself from getting carried away. For instance, I acquired enough material about General William Palmer and Baby Doe Tabor to write two or three bios.  Although it was a sad and painful process to remove half of my work from the Palmer manuscript, the book has done well. It received the 2010 Best YA Nonfiction Award from the Colorado Author’s League.

What sparks your interest in people that determines whether you write about them?

I enjoy writing about pioneers. It is extremely important that the stories of early pathfinders are shared and preserved in western history. Women’s history is especially important and appealing to me, although I do not wish to be pegged as only a women’s writer, or a feminist. For that reason, I also write about men. I choose all my subjects carefully. More accurately, they choose me. When good stories make themselves available or known to me, I am naturally compelled to share and preserve them through biographies.

What does membership in Women Writing the West mean to you?

Women Writing the West has a hugely positive impact on my writing. When I joined the group, I had one self-published book to my credit. My seventh book has since been published by Filter Press. WWW provides innumerable ideas, education, inspiration, and networking opportunities, as well as role models, friendships, and adventures in an otherwise isolated occupation. I am so fortunate to be part of a sharing community of talented western writers.

How would you spend your time, if not a writer?

My work has always revolved around publishing and administrative skills. For fifteen years, I was a self-employed typographer and pre-press graphic artist. I have worked in sidelines of writing, research, and publishing, but never far from it. Jaunts and outings with friends have a way of turning into research and photo excursions, often to historic settings, and always great fun.

What do you enjoy most about writing and what annoys you?

Research is the most enjoyable part of writing. Finding nuggets hiding in archives, or even in plain view, then implementing them into a story makes my spirit soar. Recently, I enjoyed experimenting with recipes from Baby Doe Tabor’s cookbook. It provided a strong connection with her for my book, Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen.  Also, nothing beats the euphoric feeling, or “writer’s rush,” of finding long sought-after or missing research elements, or finishing the last sentence in the last paragraph of a manuscript after months of hard work.

The worst part is when I prepare my tax return and realize my income is rather paltry. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “so it goes.”  As my publisher would say, “The intangibles, experiences associated with writing, are priceless.” In my opinion, writing is the best job in the world.

Why should the younger generation be interested in our Western heritage?

The American West was built and expanded from the collective courage, hard work, and independent spirits of pioneers, immigrants, and Native Americans. Through biographies, we learn about their accomplishments and successes, as well as mistakes, hardships, and tragedies, which all combined to create Western life and culture. To this day, people in the West maintain a strong pride and independence, which evolved from its pioneering past.

Advice to fledgling Western writers?

Maintain a high ethical standard. Do not cut corners. Respect and protect research materials, and choose sources carefully. Do all you can to locate, interpret, and preserve the truth. Be professional. Mistakes are inevitable. Own up to them, and move on. If you honestly feel you have done your best possible job, then you have.

Thank you, Joyce, for taking part in this series.

Joyce’s website: www.LohseWorks.com

Jean Henry Mead’s web site: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2013 in Western Travel, Writing Life

 

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All is calm, all is bright

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

As the holidays dwindle down to a few days until Christmas, in the midst of a beautiful Colorado snowstorm, I am enjoying the many ways in which the season surprises and gladdens me. This photo of a Christmas cactus is a perfect example. It is not just any Christmas cactus. It belonged to my mother, and was adopted by a caring friend, who gave it a good home. It is obviously growing and prospering in her care. Links to the past appear in the most amazing ways, whether they be photos from the past or new blossoms on an old plant.

If Santa’s visit is part of your seasonal itinerary, I hope he delivers everything your heart desires. This is a good time to mention my writing bookshelf, those precious resources I consider mandatory to have within easy reach of my desk chair during my working days as a writer.

1. The Associated Press Stylebook –– which lets me know I’m not crazy. All of those rules I learned way back when in Journalism school are still intact. Many of those rules are dead wrong according to the Chicago Book of Style, which sits next to it. But, by golly, I feel affirmed with my trusty AP guide close at hand.

2. Stephen King On Writing — As I told him, I’m not a big fan of his tales of horror, but he sure knows how to live the writer’s life. Furthermore, he passes on his philosophies in a most instructive and educational manner. It is a truly fascinating story about the evolution of a master storyteller.

3. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style — Don’t leave home, or sit at your desk, without it! Small but mighty.

4. Absolutely No Manners: On Having the Audacity to Write Biography, by Susanne George-Bloomfield — a small jewel of a booklet based on a speech by Susanne in Chadron, Nebraska. When my biography pals and I met her at a conference, we surrounded her as if she was a rock star, complete with chants of, “We’re not worthy!” Within this tidy little thome is everything you need to know about writing biography.

5. Biography: The Craft and the Calling, by Catherine Drinker Bowen — If you want to learn more after reading #4, this is your next step. It will fill in any gaps and lead you down the right path toward creating righteous biographical work.

6. Writing and Selling Non-Fiction, by Hayes B. Jacobs — An oldie, but a darn goody.

7. Writer’s Market — Of course. A critical resource for all writers. Acquire an update at least every three years. Just got my new one, Santa, so you don’t need to carry that heavy brick down the chimney for me this year.

Now, if you don’t get the books your heart desires for Christmas, go down to your local bookstore, hold books in your hands, sit down and browse, and buy. Help support your indie bookstores AND writers AND publishers. You’ll be glad you did when we’re all still here a few years down the road.

Joyce Lohse, 12/22/2011
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Family history, Writing Life

 

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Deck the Club Halls

As a self-employed freelance writer, my prospects for a holiday office party are fairly bleak. Writing by nature is a solitary undertaking. For that reason, writers often join associations and organizations in order to pool resources, exchange ideas,  and yes, party, with associates.

DWPC

Denver Woman's Press Club

Recently, I attended a holiday gathering at the Denver Woman’s Press Club. Coincidentally, it is the 100th anniversary of the DWPC clubhouse, a charming little Victorian building surround by tall office buildings and parking lots not far from Colorado’s capitol building. It is always a pleasure to spend time in the little house and visit with the talented journalists who belong to the organization. DWPC is one of few, or possibly the only woman’s press club to own a building. The house is a historic treasure purchased by DWPC in 1924.

My next stop on the holiday party circuit was the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society. This organization meets in a church, and the holiday party is always a bountiful pot luck lunch. Members bring out their best recipes and wear their finest red and green sweaters for the event. This group of serious genealogists has always been interested in and supportive of my writing, and I look forward to rejoining their board of directors for the coming year.

A writing mole can socialize only so much. I was not able to attend the Colorado Authors’ League holiday party this year. I recently attended one of their interesting seminar presentations about e-books at the mens’ Denver Press Club. This past spring, I was honored at the CAL annual banquet with their 2010 award for Best YA Nonfiction book for my biography, General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer.

Although my Women Writing the West group is spread throughout the nation, we stay in touch daily via a Listserv bulletin board. Once a year, the group gathers for a national conference in a different Western location. We often create friendships with fellow members who live nearby. I’ve enjoyed many outings and adventures with my publisher, Filter Press, my research partner, Christie, with whom I recently enjoyed a holiday lunch and history walk, and several others. Who says writers are isolated?

Groups and clubs perform an important function in our writing lives. They draw us out with opportunities to learn and socialize, and they provide fabulous opportunities to embellish our experience. Holiday parties are an especially nice way to enjoy our peers and associates.

Joyce Lohse, 12/15/10
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Denver history, Writing Life

 

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Solitary Writing Life

Writing is sometimes a solitary endeavor. Not this week! Looking back, I am grateful for my support system, which helps make all things possible. On Tuesday evening, I attended the Colorado Authors’ League (CAL) banquet with my hub and partner, Don, who is my anchor in all aspects of life. My publishers from Filter Press, Doris and Tom Baker, braved a spring blizzard to attend with us. My friend from Women Writing the West (WWW), author Susan Tweit, was also there as a finalist, and we cheered each other on. CAL not only honored my work with their 2010 Award in Young Adult Nonfiction, but they presented me with a grant to help me attend the WWW Conference in the fall. WWW members sent numerous messages of congratulations on the Listserv digest.

CAL 2010 Award
Beyond my work as administrator for Women Writing the West, which involves interaction with approximately 250 members, I’ve enjoyed the support and society of several other groups over past weeks. CAL gave a seminar which I attended at the clubhouse of my Denver Woman’s Press Club. Yesterday, I attended a presentation at the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), to learn how to better juggle networking options. I continue to learn new and interesting research methods from CGHS, the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society. A week ago, I visited the Park County Archives in Bailey, Colorado. My research pal, Christie, was there, and she will also share a history lecture and trip to Leadville soon.

In upcoming entries, I will talk about some of these groups individually and describe some of their unique offerings and characteristics. They blend to lend support, education, and inspiration to those who choose to become members. Solitary writing life … I don’t think so!

Joyce Lohse, 5/16/2010
http://www.lohseworks.com

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2010 in Writing Life

 

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