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Archive for the ‘Writing Life’ Category

Colorado Treasures

23 Jun
Manitou Incline

Manitou Incline full of tourists

People often ask how I find the treasures of information about people for my biographies, along with nuggets of details about Colorado’s colorful history. I have a system, which boils down to “making the rounds” to various hot spots and collections pertaining to my subject. Whenever possible, I begin at the cemetery. By visiting a family plot, I get a sense of dates and family members during the final days of a character’s life. Then I work backwards, visiting libraries, archives, repositories, museums, houses, statues, and monuments.

Until recently, I often visited archives and repositories to look up files and read microfilm. Now, we have the luxury of studying many of these documents online. Although most of us know better than to believe what we read in the newspaper, articles contemporary to the person’s life give us many details about the times in which they lived. The trick is to follow up these leads and road maps to primary evidence and public records to substantiate what we find. In Colorado, the manuscript collections at Denver Public Library and History Colorado’s library allow access to special documents and collections. The Colorado Archives office in the Department of Revenue’s basement is an especially rich assemblage of information.

I am constantly on the lookout for graphic images and photos of the places where my character worked, lived, and played. I have a secret weapon … post cards! My growing collection of vintage post cards contain scenes as they appeared during the lives of my pioneer subjects. Several of these images often appear whenever I give PowerPoint presentations about Colorado history, and also are included in my biographies. They flesh out the scenery as it appeared during Colorado’s early days.

My current work-in-progress is Spencer Penrose: Builder and Benefactor, due for publication from Filter Press later this summer. Penrose built many important buildings and landmarks in the Pikes Peak Region, such as the Broadmoor Hotel, the Pikes Peak Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Manitou Incline, and many other attractions. The El Pomar Foundation, established by Penrose and his wife, Julie, is responsible for millions of dollars in grants donated to non-profit organizations in Colorado. The Penroses were colorful characters who worked hard to improve their growing community, and to make it a better place for its citizens.

Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Western history, Writing Life

 

Outlaws and Desperados

14 May
Outlaws and Desperadoes

Spencer Penrose with pal Harry Leonard, outlaws and desperados, in their twilight.

A writer’s life often requires switching gears and topics while awaiting the next step, another round of edits, a transition in story format, publication. My Work In Progress is a biography about Spencer Penrose, a mover and shaker in the early days of the Colorado Springs community at the foot of Pikes Peak. With fortunes made from mining and land development, he built roads and attractions to accommodate tourists, built the Broadmoor Resort Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Rodeo Arena, and buildings for schools and hospitals. He invested his mining fortune in the El Pomar Foundation, which continues to donate millions of dollars in grants to non-profit groups for good work and causes in the community.

In the late 1800s, Colorado Springs founder, General William Palmer, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in his new city, in order to discourage bad behavior, outlaws and desperados. When Penrose arrived in the city, he was looking for a job and a cold drink. His prospective business partner, Charles Tutt, accommodated both needs by offering him a job, and taking him to the newly established Cheyenne Mountain Club outside the city limits where they could enjoy their favorite libations in the bar. A few weeks later, Penrose was briefly banned from the club for his involvement in a minor brawl, which disrupted the elite club and resulted in broken furniture. If his reputation as a trouble maker followed him to the freewheeling Cripple Creek mining district, it was no doubt overlooked.

By the time he moved back to Colorado Springs, the scrappy investor’s reputation was overshadowed by his shrewd investment sense and knowledge of mining ventures. He married a widow named Julie Lewis McMillan, which further settled and cultivated his behavior in public and his stature as a solid citizen with an adventurous streak and a flair for fun. The mold was set for his place as a colorful and important character in Pikes Peak area history.

Joyce B. Lohse, www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Western history, Writing Life

 

Cheyenne Vacation?

13 Feb

Cheyenne Mansion Jan 2015

Recently, while vacationing in Cheyenne, Wyoming (yes, I said vacationing in Cheyenne,) we stayed in an incredible B&B adjacent to downtown. According to our host, the Nagle Warren Mansion is considered one of the best appointed and restored cattle baron Victorian homes in Wyoming. We actually had a business errand to conduct in Cheyenne, but combined it with our 41st wedding anniversary. What a treat! Our 40th had slipped by unnoticed, so a splurge was in order. The beautiful welcoming late 1800s mansion, artfully decorated with period antiques, includes an extremely pleasing gourmet quality breakfast served in a gorgeous dining room with period china and table settings. This was the perfect venue for our celebration, and a great way to step back into western history.

The upstairs turret on the third floor is a cozy reading room. It has the feel of a treehouse and would be sadly underutilized if it was never a children’s playroom. I found it mildly claustrophobic up there, but it certainly added to the charm of the old building. I did not ask about the presence of ghosts, but would not be surprised if they were present. Our room was in the carriage house on the main floor, which was perfect for us. Had it not been for the biting chill winds and freezing ice conditions, the patio outside our room would have been delightful. As it was, the fireplace kept us cozy inside. The hosts did all they could to attend to their guests and make them comfortable. We will definitely go back another time. After all, true Denver Westerners travel through Cheyenne and into Wyoming at regular intervals. Be warned that the road from Colorado is a wind tunnel, often afflicted with nasty weather during the winter months. Gates can be closed in both directions, and they are not afraid to close them to save travelers from unfortunate situations. Without time constraints, we weren’t concerned as long as we were both on the same side of the gate.

More information about the mansion, located at 222 East 17th Street, can be found at http://www.naglewarrenmansion.com/

Joyce Lohse, www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Western history, Western Travel, Writing Life

 

More Yellowstone Savages

16 Dec

Squatters in Paradise

James Perry cuts loose in his memoir of twenty-five years as a concession employee in Yellowstone National Park. Although his outlook is often jaded and sometimes sarcastic, his viewpoint is honest as he withholds very little in describing life in the nation’s oldest and largest national park. My outlook in A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland is decidedly more optimistic, as he readily points out with a funny jab about the potential for singing Kumbaya around the campfire in my version. Although our voices and tones differ, we share an honest love and reverent respect for Yellowstone, a place where hardy souls endure sometimes unforgiving working and living conditions for the privilege of calling it home.

I enjoyed noting the differences in lifestyle of new age “Savages,” concession employees that he sometimes refers to as “Parkies.” Mobile satellite dishes?? Technology has intruded. I also noted a plausible theory about the origin of Yellowstone Christmas, considering documentation of the traditional version is vague at best. So much food for thought. James and friends’ invasion of the CUT (Church Universal and Triumphant) compound was brazen and delightful. What an adventure! I tip my Savage hat to James. I was leery that this might be an angst filled tirade, but it came off as more honest and straightforward than diatribe. Bring on more memories, Savages! There’s plenty of room.

My book, A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland, was published in 1988 in trade paperback, and was published as an ebook in 2013.
http://www.amazon.com/Yellowstone-Savage-Natures-Wonderland-ebook/dp/B00CTSA7BI/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369061111&sr=1-4&keywords=A+Yellowstone+Savage
This was the first Savage memoir of its kind, initiating a cult following, and inspiring others to publish, preserve, and share their own stories and versions of their memories and life in Nature’s Wonderland.

Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Western history, Writing Life

 

2014 Women Writing the West Conference

28 Oct

WWW ConferenceMid-October marked the culmination of a year and a half of planning for Women Writing the West’s 20th Anniversary Annual Conference in Golden, Colorado. The result of work by Colorado’s WWW Conference Planning Committee to plan the event spread among several venues was a huge success. The City of Golden was a perfect fit for our group. A synopsis of highlights will give those with a passion for the craft of writing an idea of the content of a really good writers’ conference, and the priceless value of this particular sold-out conference of 150 attendees.

Thursday, October 16 – provided a bonus day of activities at the Table Mountain Inn, full of panels, critique sessions, an annual board of directors meeting, and networking. In the evening, a reception at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum took place for readings by WILLA literary award winners and LAURA short story winners. A special quilt featuring squares hand-stitched by WWW members was introduced for the conference raffle, which benefits the WILLA Literary Fund.

WWW Raffle Quilt

Friday, October 17 – featured a full schedule at the Golden Hotel of panels and presentation about the business of writing, marketing, and trends in e-publishing. Private appointments with editors, agents and publishers were available. Author Margaret Coel captivated us with her stories about writing 20+ mysteries set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. LAURA short story awards were presented at the lunch banquet. In the evening, a feature film, The Cherokee Word for Water, was presented at the American Mountaineering Center. The film, about the life of first female Cherokee tribal leader, Wilma Mankiller, was followed by a Q&A session with members of the film production and Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, and from the local Cherokee Circle.

Saturday, October 18 – Following the annual WWW business meeting in the morning, participants enjoyed another full day of panels and presentations. A Luncheon honored WWW Founders and spotlighted WILLA Finalists. Later in the afternoon, Joyce Meskis enchanted us with stories from her many years as owner of the famous Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver. A booksigning session hosted by Who Else! Bookstore with networking capped off the afternoon. Evening brought the annual WILLA Awards banquet. Author and founding member Sandra Dallas presented an inspiring keynote speech. When the winner was drawn for the WILLA Fund Raffle, we were happily surprised when she insisted that the quilt stay with WWW.

WWW Conference Booksigning
Sunday, October 19 – Many conference attendees stayed for a Sunday morning gathering at the Briarwood Inn. Some wore historic costumes to the delicious high tea brunch. We were entertained by WWW founding member Corinne Brown, who portrayed five famous women from Colorado’s history. She did amazing costume changes when switching characters. It was a fantastic finale to a successful and memorable 20th Anniversary celebration and conference for attendees and members of Women Writing the West.

Joyce at Golden HotelJoyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 

A Biographer On Reading Biographies

08 Jun

As an author of award-winning biographies, I take my craft seriously, and I am fairly critical when I read those written by other people. I recently read three totally different biographies. These particular subjects may or may not appeal to you for summer reading, but you can apply the same principles when choosing subjects of your choice and selecting your biographies this summer. These books all receive my biographer’s nod for excellence.

Cecil Smith: Mr. Polo, by Blair Calvert (1990) — This book is a must read for the student and fan of the history of polo in the United States of America. Smith was considered by many to be the best American polo player of all time. He carried a maximum ten goal handicap for a record twenty-five years. The apex of his career was early on during an East-West tournament in 1933, when Smith led the West team to show the East that they were not the only show in town. Humorist Will Rogers reported that polo had moved from the board room to the bunkhouse when the cowboys beat the east coast dudes. Publication of the book was a little rough as were some of the subject transitions, and I would have enjoyed more coverage of the later years in Smith’s career with the progression of the sport’s history. However, this biography serves the supreme purpose of saving an important and impressive life story of a true sports hero.

Eminent Hipsters, by Donal Fagen (2013) — Although this does not qualify as a biography in the true format sense, it contains autobiographical material by Steely Dan (rock band) front man and philosopher, Donald Fagen. The first half of the book shares remembrances from Fagen’s formative years with descriptions of the artists who influenced him and his work, from jazz greats to Tina Turner. The second half of the book is a diary of criss-crossing the country on the road in 2012 in claustrophobic tour buses with the “Dukes of September”, which included Michael McDonald and Bozz Scaggs. This was a decidedly lower budget style of travel than he was accustomed to with Steely Dan, and cause for recurring anxiety, from which he suffers. It was enlightening to learn what feeds the craft of this talented musician, and his viewpoint as he produced his tunes for the entertainment of rooms full of a combination of aging rockers, and those he calls “TV Babies,” who have no clue about good music and quality production. I was drawn in and understood Fagen’s outlook and frustration of dealing with everyday challenges while attempting to maintain the quality and art in his music. I enjoyed it thoroughly because Fagen approached it as a serious think piece rather than a self-indulgent tell-all gossip fest.

Stan Musial – An American Life, by George Vecsey (2011) — I kicked myself for not purchasing this book when I saw it while I was walking through the St. Louis airport, so I ordered a copy from home. I was a steadfast fan of “Stan the Man” while growing up in Illinois. I had read a fairly dry biography of his life in the 1960s. This one was a modern take on Musial’s life and times and brilliant baseball career. It took me back to good times, lurking in the parking lot at Busch Stadium with my dad, waiting for Stanley and his pal Red Schoendienst to appear from the locker room chatting away about the game, yet always ready to stop and sign an autograph. I also enjoyed reading about the struggles of a man as talented as Musial as he worked his way to the top in major league baseball, worked hard to stay there, and to maintain his character as a really good guy. He wasn’t a saint but dealt gracefully with pressure from public expectations. He worked hard and kept his character, and all that was important to him, close to his heart. I came away admiring him more than ever, for his foibles as well as his obvious assets. This is a top-notch biography. I don’t say this often, but I could not have done a better job than Vecsey of writing this important biography about my first true hero, Stan “The Man” Musial.

Biographies not only preserve details of the lives of their subjects, but give us real insights into the history and times in which they lived. Read biographies, read them often, and choose your biographer with care. A good biographer will either peel away the sludge, or else identify it for readers, so they know what is real and what is pure fabrication. You can find plenty of that in fiction.

Happy reading, Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 

 
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Posted in Family history, Western Travel, Writing Life

 

Same Road, Different Day

06 May

Greeting CommitteeWriting feels all-consuming at times. When I have been pushing hard on a historical biography, a change of scenery can jolt my brain like a bolt of lightning. Once again, I found myself on the highway near Meeker when we encountered an unlikely greeting committee. Traffic came to a halt as literally hundreds of sheep surrounded the automobiles.

Miles of sheepThe herd extended beyond our vision. I rolled down my window to enjoy the sounds of plantive bleats and the clanging of bells around their necks. Then there was the aroma which was not so pleasant, and the window went back up. The sheep had all recently been sheared, and we marveled that they had been relieved of so much precious wool. How high would it reach if piled all in one place.

Sheep herder on horsebackIt was also refreshing to see that the sheepherder was on horseback, with his sheep herding dog trotting alongside. With so many ATVs roaring through the woods and across the plains, horses can still move at the same pace as their charges and give the job a personal touch. Cowboys are still riding the range near Meeker.

Blue Mountain sheepThe same weekend, more sheep were moving to summer pastures near Blue Mountain. This outfit was much smaller, and getting the job done in the same way, with a herder on horseback. These are the sights we live for in the west, and food for the starving soul of an overly-engrossed author.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/6/14
www.LohseWorks.com

 

 

In With the New

09 Jan

I enjoy the arrival of the New Year. It is an inspiring time of optimism with an empty calendar waiting to be filled with interesting new adventures and quests for historic tidbits and treasures. To celebrate the arrival of 2014, I ordered a banner to use at upcoming events. During the last weekend of July, I will be promoting books and talking history, along with South Park Perils author Christie Wright, at Burro Days in Fairplay. Come see us! Look for the booth with the big red Colorado History sign!

New book sign

New book sign

Currently, I am moving forward on a biography about Colorado Springs builder and promoter, Spencer Penrose, for the popular “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press. The Penrose project is a double-header. I am also hard at work on a presentation piece for the next Pikes Peak Library District history symposium called “Bigwigs and Benefactors of the Pikes Peak Region”, scheduled for June 7, 2014. Working title is “The Penrose Legacy: Ventures, Vogue and Vagary”. During this time of discovery, I cannot wait to see what will happen next or what will appear around the next bend. Penrose was a fascinating character and I embrace the challenge of sharing a fresh viewpoint on his life and times. More details to come.

Looking ahead to fall, my national writers’ group, Women Writing the West, will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with our annual conference taking place in Denver at the Brown Palace Hotel. As hired administrator for WWW since 2002, I will be busier than usual with additional duties as I look forward to participation in and celebration of two decades as a non-profit literary force and presence in the United States. For planning and registration information, go to: http://www.womenwritingthewest.org.

Prospects are excellent for an interesting year, and I anticipate seeing many of my peers and pals along the way. In the meantime, I will be working on the Penrose story, which I look forward to sharing upon completion.

Happy New Year!
Joyce and Don

Events in 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014 – Porter Place, Denver – “Baby Doe Tabor” –
1 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2014 – D.A.R., Aurora – “Eliza Routt: Colorado’s Original First Lady” – Tin Cup at Aurora Hills Golf Course, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 – Columbine Genealogical Society, Littleton – “A New Age Family History Tour” – 1 p.m.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 – Pikes Peak Library District History Symposium – “Bigwigs and Benefactors” – at East Library, Colorado Springs – will feature Joyce Lohse’s Spencer Penrose presentation – pre-registration is required for this free all-day public program.

July 26-27, 2014 – Burro Days in Fairplay – Author booth with Christie Wright – last weekend in July – come see us and talk Colorado history!

October 17-19, 2014 — Women Writing the West Conference – Denver – 20th Anniversary Celebration – Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace Lobby

Ceiling in the Brown Palace Lobby

 
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Posted in Denver history, Western history, Western Travel, Writing Life

 

Million Mile Reflections

31 Dec

When the year 2013 began, I was worried. People often ask about my next project, and I said I did not have one in the works at the moment. Stagnation might be setting in … or was it? A reflection of highlights from the past year tells me that I have little or no reason for concern. It was a very good year.

DWPC

Display of Joyce’s books at the Denver Woman’s Press Club.

Event Highlights in 2013

Two “salons”, interactive literary programs – at Denver Woman’s Press Club

TV Interview on Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Experience — Dr. Justina Ford documentary

Daughters of the American Revolution in Arvada — Eliza Routt presentation

CCIRA Conference at the Marriott – Filter Press booth, meet and greet the author

Erie Public Library — Women’s History Month presentation

Palmer Lake Historical Society — presentation on Baby Doe Tabor

National Mining Hall of Fame Museum, Leadville – banquet and program on Baby Doe Tabor

Fountain Public Library – presentation on General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer

Estes Park Genealogical Society – General Palmer presentation

Idaho Springs Public Library – Baby Doe Tabor presentation

Publication of revised e-book edition of A Yellowstone Savage – 40th Anniversary gathering in Montana

Denver Public Schools Book Fair — Filter Press Booth, Denver Merchandise Mart

Women Writing the West Annual Conference – Kansas City, Missouri

CU Anschutz Medical Center – STEM program on Dr. Justina Ford for Skinner Middle School students

Healy House Museum in Leadville – “Meet the Author” Day

Riverside Cemetery History Walk with “Dr. Colorado” Tom Noel – Eliza Routt portrayal

Piecing Partners Quilters Guild program – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Broomfield Public Library – Colorado History: Truth and Mystery Program

Monument Hill Kiwanis Club – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Sons and Daughters of Pilgrims – Castle Rock – Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen

Watch for new projects and programs in 2014!

Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Denver history, Western history, Writing Life

 

Time to get moving

26 Nov
GOG

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Ah, the writer’s life. Hours slip away while sitting in a desk chair in front of a glowing screen. Then its off to find a wayward address while fighting traffic behind the wheel to get to a program or presentation book event. Gears shift again as the holidays loom and linger, allowing attention to divert to family and feast.

It is also time to get moving. When the body feels sluggish, a walk in a beautiful park or a cemetery sounds inviting. Better yet, an outing can be combined with research. Small history museum’s continue to surprise me with the treasures they display. The latest happy discovery was the El Pomar Carriage Museum near the Broadmoor grounds in Colorado Springs. After a meeting, I stopped by to study historic vehicles and carriages, to learn, and to clear my head. It was outstanding. So much to see, so little time. What a gift to myself during the holidays. This is the finest display of vehicles and carriages I have seen south of Cheyenne’s Frontier Days Museum.

Stagecoach

Stagecoach at the Broadmoor

Joyce B. Lohse, www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted in Western history, Writing Life