Here you go – the “why,” the “how,” the “what,” and the “what for,” about the greatest, latest writing contest to hit the web in, well, the last second or two…
I’ve long wanted to write Western novels that could eclipse the standard, formulaic, shoot-em up genre fiction that so many readers have come to expect from any book with a Western title. Why can’t a Western address social issues? Why can’t a Western be more about characters and the trials and tribulations of life, rather than a morally and physically invincible white-hatted gunfighter rescuing the damsel in distress from the wicked, power-hungry villain in the black hat? Isn’t a good book or story simply good no matter the setting? Despite my attempts at creating literary quality Western short stories and novels, a friend of mine recently taught me a great lesson. This native Texan friend is no professional writer, but he may have sired one of the greatest Western stories of all time. At the very least, he says it all without saying too much – no minor feat at all.
His story has no title, has never been published, and certainly has received no critical acclaim. Here you go, a “My Two Cents” exclusive – the greatest Western never told (hang your head in shame All the Pretty Horses and Lonesome Dove).
“The horse died. My saddle rotted and my stirrups fell into the creek. The Indians shot my partner through the hat. The End.” – Wallace Johnston, Amarillo, TX
Can you get any more Western than that? The entire horde of Western movies and scores of Louis L’Amour and Ernest Haycox stories absorbed over the span of my life flashed through my mind as I read Mr. Johnston’s tale, and I understood its meaning as if in a vision. Ah, such simplicity masking the overall complexity of the metaphors and allegory. He pokes fun at the genre, while at the same time paying homage to it. His clever use of stereotypical cowboy plotting destroys my notions that pulp fiction and Saturday afternoon matinee cowboy horse opera can’t be art. In so few words, the story says it all. It may be the mold by which all further Westerns are measured against, or should be. An outline, if you will, of perfect construction and writing – as sparse as an Arizona desert, but at the same time filled to the brim with cool, clear meaning.
In all seriousness, I find this little piece strangely effective and enjoyable. Not only does it have lessons to teach about editing, and the impact of words, but it also reminded me not to strain so hard trying to create a masterpiece, but to simply write a good story the way I like to write them. The author reminded me that despite all the clever characters I attempt to create and portray, and all the philosophical depth I strive for, a story is never more than just that… a story.
Hats off to you, my friend. Thanks for reminding me not to take writing so seriously.
IN THE SPIRIT OF JOHNSTON’S MASTERPIECE, I’M GOING TO HOLD A WRITING CONTEST IN CONJUNCTION WITH HIGH HILL PRESS. I dare those of you out there stranded upon the barren wastes of the web to top Johnston’s story. Can you write a better Western using no more words than he did? There are short stories, short-shorts, and flash fiction. Perhaps we can create a new form – the Western Mini. Go ahead, dare to be bold and leave your stories in the comments box.
1. Use no more than four sentences (not counting “The End”).
2. Multiple entries are allowed.
3. Western / Old West topics are a must.
4. The contest closes 9/23/12 at the last stroke of midnight (0oooh! Dramatic, huh?).
5. No poetry, and please, no excerpts from novels where you make what should be ten sentences into four with creative punctuation. Please adhere to the spirit and intent of the contest. I know a lot of you want to show off your skills and work, but do so by writing something exceptional in the form we want. We need four-sentence stories with the wording carefully chosen. That is the fun and educational part of trying to write a western story in four sentences – sparsity of words and those words having an impact.
6. I, Brett Cogburn, get to be the sole, judge, jury, and executioner… I mean congratulator. Although, fan comments will be taken into consideration, and death threats will assure entries of winning.
7. WINNERS WILL BE POSTED ON A NEW BLOG POST THE WEEK AFTER THE CONTEST CLOSES. An email address will be given for the winners to send their hometown info and bios.
Grand Prize: [This is really cool.]
LATE BREAKING NEWS! HIGH HILL PRESS HAS OFFERED TO PUBLISH THE BEST OF THE WESTERN MINIS IN THE CONTEST IN THEIR NEXT CACTUS COUNTRY ANTHOLOGY. THE WINNING STORIES WILL BE PLACED IN THE BOOK WITH THE AUTHOR’S NAME, HOMETOWN, AND A TWO SENTENCE BIO. BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR IN ONLY FOUR SENTENCES!
I will pick one winner, and maybe multiple winners, to receive a free, signed copy of their choice of my books. I will also post the winner’s story in it’s own blog post with an interview of the author, as well as putting it on my author FB page (every little bit of advertising helps for those of you who are aspiring authors). Some top notch successful western authors have agreed to post their western minis throughout the coming days. Pay attention to what they do, and see if you can top them.
WINNERS WILL BE POSTED ON A NEW BLOG POST THE WEEK AFTER THE CONTEST CLOSES.
check out High Hill Press @ http://www.highhillpress.com/High%20Hill%20Bookstore/High%20Hill%20Press%20Bookstore.htm
Cactus Country’s Blog @ cactuscountrypublishing.blogspot.com
Brett Cogburn @ brettcogburn.com or http://www.facebook.com/authorbrettcogburn
Dusty Richards @ www.dustyrichards.com
John D. Nesbitt @ www.johndnesbitt.com
P.S… And in the spirit of enlightenment, I’ll close with one last bit of wisdom passed on to me years ago by another sage of the pen and pistol. His name eludes me, but his words still ring true. ”Shooting a pistol may be just like pointing your finger, but then again, you might be surprised what you actually hit if your finger were to go off.”