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The Monster on My Back

For the past two months, during the countdown to Montana Storytelling Roundup, it has felt like there was a monster on my back. Or at least breathing down my neck. And let me tell you, he could use a shot of mouthwash.

But now it’s over and…whew!

Next year, I will be much less stressed, because I will know what I’m getting into. I will understand what it takes to make it the best it can be. And I will know, from experience, that even if you’re running late and slide sideways into the Browning High School parking lot at just past the nick of time, everyone will survive, although there were a few moments when some of the other cars on the road might have had their doubts. I haven’t gone that fast since we started out for the Idaho Cowboys Association rodeo finals and suddenly remembered Boise runs on Mountain time, not Pacific. (And thank you Officer Stone of Baker City, Oregon for being such an understanding kind of guy.)

Yes, I’m already neck deep in planning next year’s Roundup. Wanna know why? Because all of the work and the wee hour anxiety attacks were worth getting to spend a couple of days with people like this:

Meet Bill Cameron, mystery author, and Brenn Hill, western singer and songwriter. Two people who would seem to have almost nothing in common except the drive and the ability to tell an amazing story. One just happens to do it on a page and the other with a guitar. And if you’re not reading and listening to them, you’re missing something special.

Talking with them and our other performers made me realize that artists of all kinds are really doing the same thing. Taking a vision from inside of their head and transforming it into something that can be shared. Something that will grab the viewer/reader/listener by the throat or the heart and not let go until it’s done. Inspire joy. Heartache. Outrage. Yearning. Even fear.

It isn’t always fun, this process of extracting the vision from your head and putting it out there for the world to see. Hell, sometimes it’s outright torture. It will never be quite as vibrant, as shiny as what you see in your mind’s eye. There will be times you’ll think you should just forget it. You’ll never be able to get it right. Perfect.

But if you’re like me, quitting isn’t really an option. My muse isn’t some sweet, encouraging lady who lounges in the corner strumming a harp. Mine has claws. And it’s not afraid to use them.

A half broke horse and a half written book might not seem to have any more in common than a mystery writer and a cowboy singer, but you’d be wrong there, too. Because there’s no sense worrying myself about what I can’t see. What anyone else might think of this story I’m writing. No sense spooking at the bogeymen (or women) behind the watercoolers in New York publishing offices. The real monster’s on my back, and it’s spurring me to keep writing until I whip this thing into shape.

Like it? Buy it here.

Also check out Bill Cameron’s upcoming novel. To quote the starred review in Publisher’s Weekly:  “Contemporary sharp-edged noir doesn’t get much better than Cameron’s mournful novel featuring ex-cop Skin Kadash.”

And it’s a love story, too.

Preorder from Tyrus Books.


14 Responses

  1. Hey, all. Due to the internet security restrictions at my day job I can’t pop by and reply to comments except for at lunch and after work out here on Mountain time. But I can see what you say via email and will be popping in as soon as I can.

  2. Sounds like all the stress, anxiety, and hard work paid off big-time! So jealous you got to meet such cool people in person. 🙂

  3. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Bil’s new book, and can vouch for how fabulous it is. Oh, and you want to be jealous? My book club is going to be reading COUNTY LINE in July. Guess who’s going to come to our meting and talk with us about it?

    BILL FREAKIN’ CAMERON, that’s who!!!!!!!


  4. Your analogy seems perfect to me, Kari. I can’t say enough about what a privilege it was to visit you, to experience the austere beauty of Montana, and to meet so many amazing folks. And that Brenn, what a special fellow he is.

  5. Wow, sounds like you had an awesome time. I would hate the cold you have to deal with but the scenery I’ve seen is beautiful.

    I loved the post and you are so right about everyone having a story to tell, they just do it in different ways. i’ve always thought of country songs that way.

  6. I love this post.

  7. Also, I love BC’s sweater in that photo.

  8. I love the music!

  9. Tawna and Linda: Just you wait. Once your books are out there on the shelves to be pimped, you’re fair game for Storytelling Roundup.

    Janice: Check out the Ballad of Ed Cantrell. Amazing song.

  10. That sounds like a wonderful time, Kari! I bet you kicked ass with coordinating!

    I’ve followed BC on twitter for years.. embarrassed to admit I haven’t read him yet. You have poked and prodded into it!

  11. how awesome and congrats for making it AND deciding to plan for next year!

    and you’re so right. I should make that my standard response to someone who calls writing easy. “Great! Take the vision in your head and describe in detail!”

  12. Cyndi: Bill does most things well, but he is my guru of description and scene setting.

    Keri: Thanks. Husband is not quite so enthusiastic, after weeks of cranky wife and no laundry.

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