Candy Moulton: Reading the West 2-13-12
February 13, 2012
I so often write about the books that are published or the authors who have written them, but seldom do I get the opportunity to talk about another important cog in the publishing wheel – the publisher. So this week I want to announce that Western Writers of America has selected High Plains Press to receive the 2012 Lariat Award. This special award is given to those who have achieved distinction in their support of Western Writers of America and the literature of the West.
This honor has only been bestowed six times. Previous awards have been presented to the University of Oklahoma Press, True West Magazine, Tom Doherty/Forge Books, Caxton Press, Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books, and Luther Wilson University Press Director.
Of all the publishers I work with, High Plains Press is definitely the most authentic. It originated on a cattle ranch near Glendo, Wyo. Under the guidance of Founder and Editor Nancy Curtis, the company has published more than 50 books since its beginning in 1984. The company focuses on history of Wyoming and the American West, but also publishes one book of poetry a year, under the series title “Poetry of the American West.”
The newest selection in this series is “I Married Into It” by Patricia Frolander, who, since publication, has been named Poet Laureate for the State of Wyoming. I received that book in this column last year … and it, too, is as real as it gets since the poems are all based on Pat’s ranch life.
I’ve been fortunate in that Nancy Curtis has published five of my books, including my first – “Steamboat: Legendary Bucking Horse,” which came out 20 years ago. I recall the day we “cut the deal.” I had driven from Encampment to Glendo to meet with her. It’s not often that an author can sit down at a publisher’s kitchen table! But that is exactly what we did. We talked about her company and the book manuscript. She concluded the conversation with, “Is there anything else you want to know?” and I responded, “Yes, are you going to publish my book?”
I remember that conversation so vividly because it was my first book deal and I’ve since come to realize how unusual such an opportunity it was.
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Later as we worked through the publishing process, I recall conversations with Nancy, who was often just returning from feeding cows, or on her way to do some other ranch chores. Once she told me the hilarious (to me) story about how she was feeding and her dog was doing the pickup driving. Well, the dog managed to lock the doors of the pickup and the windows were rolled up, so Nancy had to creatively break a window in order to get in the cab and stop the truck before it ran out of the field.
Yes, those are the kinds of stories you learn from a ranchwoman-publisher. As she has said her combination of ranching and publishing is perfect. “We try to raise a few good cattle and publish a few great books,” she said.
Nancy has always focused her attention on publishing books about Wyoming history, with a few that cover other stories of the West. She has said, she knew people who were writing good books, but who were not finding publishers. “Other publishers did not understand the importance of the subject or thought the market was too small,” she has said.
Proving that neither location nor size affects good work, High Plains Press has won four Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for poetry, a Willa award and several Willa finalist awards from Women Writing the West, several finalist awards in the Western Writers of America Spur Awards, and finalists in the Ben Franklin Awards competitions. She has also published several winners for book awards from the Wyoming Historical Society.
Among the authors Curtis has published are Larry K. Brown, Gaydell Collier, Laurie Wagner Buyer, Lori Van Pelt, Diana Kouris, Robert Roripaugh, a past Wyoming Poet Laureate, Tom Lindmier, Mary Alice Gunderson, Peggy Simpson Curry, Charles Levendosky, Chip Carlson, W. C. Jameson, Gladys B. Beery, Linda Hasselstrom, and Jane Candia Coleman.
Curtis received the 2010 Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award for her contribution to writing. She is also the co-editor with Linda Hasselstrom and Gaydell Collier of three collections of writing by plainswomen published by Houghton Mifflin: “Leaning into the Wind,” “Woven on the Wind,” and “Crazy Woman Creek.”