By Barbrara J. Eikmeier
Hi! I'm a newcomer on the blog. Let me introduce myself: Most people call me Barb but I always use my full name when I'm writing. I live in Kansas where my full time job is a quilting designer, teacher and author. I travel all around the country (and via Zoom) giving quilting programs for quilt guilds. I go to California regularly where I co-own a retail quilt shop with my sister in law. I've written how-to instructional books and many magazine articles about quilters and quilting. And, I'm writing a novel that, of course, has a quilt in it. Quilting is what I know.
"Write what you know” is good advice. Your writing will ring authentic. But what if you’re seeking a quirky character for your novel? Or you need a fresh new location for a bad turn of events? Maybe it’s time to watch TV.
Recently, during a layover at the Denver airport, I noticed a group wearing hats with National Finals Rodeo logos. They were on their way home from the annual Las Vegas event. We chatted a bit and I said, “My 91-year-old father watches the NFR every year. He knows all those cowboys and their fathers!”
As I traveled, I considered what I knew about the NFR or rodeos in general. The answer was: Not much.
I was on my way to take a turn helping my parents. Seeing those traveler’s hats reminded me that, for the second consecutive year, I’d be watching the NFR every evening with my dad. I’ve discovered I don’t have to know much about rodeo to enjoy watching it. The trick is to watch with someone who knows the competitors, their records, their horses and their fathers! Every evening a different family member joined us. My knowledge expanded with each event as my dad and brothers explained rules, mistakes, and the history of the commentator’s own rodeo days. When a bull ride is only eight seconds long the lineup of competitors whizzes by and it’s on to the next event, so if it’s boring (!) or painful to watch, the misery doesn’t last long!
After five days of NFR broadcasts, I don’t have enough knowledge to write a cowboy as a main character, or the arena as a primary location, but I’m thinking about it. I mentioned to my brother, “Maybe I should go in person.”
He laughed and said, “It’s sold out two years in advance.”
I checked. It is. And tickets range from $120 - $450 per night. That’s expensive research.
I thought I’d written all I could about horses and cowboys. Now, after watching the NFR, I’m pondering a character who is absent from home while riding the rodeo circuit. Or maybe I’ll write about a former record setting cowboy who now works as a commentator at an annual small town rodeo. Or I might have a young woman pass through on her quest to break a title in barrel racing. She could make an interesting walk-on character when she needs a place to board her horse overnight. I have new ideas for dialog. Phrases like, “He’s out of the money,” or “There will be no buckle for him” should resonate with a reader who knows rodeo. And, the arena could be the scene of an accident, a death or foul play, not to mention eight seconds of tension during the bare back bronc ride.
There’s a new item on my to-do list: Find a golf enthusiast to watch a PGA tournament with. I don’t know much about golf. Yet.
Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, author, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in northern California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.
Welcome to the Gang, Barb! Your post brought back memories of attending many Houston Rodeos over the years. One of my favorites was when I sat next to a former bull rider, a man who mentored a lot of the cowboys competing that night. Such fun to get his behind-the-scenes perspective! Looking forward to seeing more posts from you.ReplyDelete
Lucky you to sit next to a former bull rider! That would be memorable for sure! I have only attended little country rodeos but someday hope to go to a big event!Delete
Welcome, Barbara! Oh, how cool about the quilts, and I definitely understand the "write what you know" comment. Unfortunately my muse doesn't let me say 'never mind' and insist that I finish the story. Let us know what you come up with when you join the circuit!ReplyDelete
Thank you!! Muses can be bossy, can't they?Delete
Welcome, Barbara. I'd be down for your book about the rodeo circuit! Or golf, too.ReplyDelete
Thank you! I have a tentative invitation to hang out with a golf pro in Monterey this spring. We will see where it all goes!Delete
Welcome, Barb! I would love to see you write a cozy that at least partially involved rodeo in some way. I think you would do an excellent job of that. And golf? That brings up so many possibilities. You're going to fit in here just beautifully.ReplyDelete
Thank you Linda! You're always encouraging me in the most positive ways! And thank you for inviting me to be a part of the Stiletto Gang!Delete
Welcome Barb--I love the cowboy setting idea. I'm not one (cowboy) but I've been a horse person all my life, so if you have a question, feel free to call on me.ReplyDelete
Good to know!! In my current novel I had to research parade saddles when my protagonist finds her tack room filled with vintage tack and decides to sell it to pay bills. And her new best friend breeds, breaks and sells paint ponies. I got that idea when I lost my way on a country road in Kansas and passed a pasture with at least 20 paint ponies, all with colts. I wish I had taken a picture. I wish I had turned into the driveway and talked to the owner. But I was lost and running late and didn't have the foresight to know that I'd write that place into my novel! Thanks for offering to be a horse SME if needed!!Delete
Welcome to the blog. I, too, believe in writing what you know or at least stretching to write what you can learn about. Now, if the cowboy's recreational relaxation was golf .....ReplyDelete
I love that ... "stretching to write what you can learn about" I went to the farm store and asked if I could hold a baby chick so I would know how to write about chicks. Did you know their little feet are like soft leather? I was so surprised!ReplyDelete
I think a golfing cowboy could be a great, and unexpected character! Thanks!