Books, livres, tomes, libros, volumes. No matter how I say it, they are my companions. I seem to always be reading one or two at a time. Perhaps they are different genres or one is for fun and one is for edification. Until a few years ago, my shelves were filled with faceless writers. Once I started writing, I also had the privilege of meeting — and putting faces to — a large number of my own library’s authors. Now I have a section that is devoted to wordsmiths that I know personally. I tease my husband, “You have lots of books but you have never met Tom Clancy nor John Grisham. I have dined with Candy Moulton, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Gaydell Collier and more.”
Last week Gaydell’s pen went silent. The West and writing is sorry for the loss.
Although I have to drive 135 miles one way, I occasionally attend a meeting of Bearlodge Writers in Sundance, Wyo., which Gaydell founded. I appreciate so much that it is a gathering of writers who are not afraid of helping other writers succeed.
Gaydell, Nancy Curtis and Linda Hasselstrom worked their compiling and editing magic with three anthology volumes written by Western women — “Leanin’ Into the Wind,” “Woven on the Wind,” and “Crazy Woman Creek.” (For the third title I was pulling for “Windy Women.”) It was an honor to have one of my essays — in fact my first published essay — included in Woven.
This led to everyone included in the Woven anthology to be invited as honored guests for a book signing at the Tattered Cover in Denver. How many authors go their entire careers without ever having that feather in their cap? It came about because of a trio of women saw a need to encourage other women writers to sit down and write. Not just talk about writing, but write. That is what writers do — get together, support each other, encourage — sometimes with a kick in the pants, sometimes with a referral for a writing assignment — but always with actually putting words on paper in mind.
In 2011 High Plains Press owned by Nancy Curtis, published Gayell’s latest book, “Just Beyond Harmony,” a memoir about her first years in Wyoming. Unbelievably, Gaydell was a transplant from the East Coast. The book garnered several major writing awards but primarily it touched souls. What a meaningful legacy for Gaydell to leave for all of us.
None of the writers I have met project the attitude that they feel they are on a pedestal. They, too, struggle from time to time with what-is-the-perfect-worditis; they consult, critique and challenge others, and celebrate small victories with fellow writers.
Now when I sit down to read, I feel like I am having a conversation with a friend, no matter who wrote the book. Thank you, Gaydell.
Peggy says to everyone how has proclaimed, “I should write a book,” there is only one thing you need to know — you have to sit down and write. Here internet latchstring is out at Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖