|Western Novelist/Songwriter Mike Blakely with three members of Critique Cafe|
Mike Blakely made his second concert appearance at the Fort Stockton Public Library on Thursday night, March 1, 2012. Three of Mike's western novels have been nominated for the Western Writer's of America Spur Award, and in 2000 his novel Summer of Pearls won the award. In 2007, his song "The Last Wild White Buffalo" won the Spur Award for Best Western Song.
Before delighting the audience with his special brand of songwriting and singing, Mike joined the Fort Stockton Area Writer's Group, Critique Cafe, for a Q & A. session.Here are a few highlights:
Which came first, your writing or your music? My dad taught me to play guitar when I was just eight. I was very involved in music in high school. After graduation from high school in Wharton County, Texas, I spent three years in the Air Force. When I discovered that the Air Force wasn't going to be my career, I decided to go to school for Journalism. My dad got his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri so I thought I'd go there. All day long I wanted to learn how to write something, but they just wanted to teach politics, so I transferred to the University of Texas. They taught journalism there.
What is your opinion of the current state of journalism? There's no such thing anymore. I was taught to be objective. Every report is slanted one way or another now days.
Did you sell your first book? I wrote my first book while I was in the Air Force, back when I didn't know what I was doing. No, didn't do anything with that.
How did things get started for you? I wrote a series of newspaper articles for several years during the Texas Sesquicentennial in the mid-eighties. That took a lot of research into Texas history, which I've always been passionate about. I cowboyed on family ranches from the time I was small. It seemed natural that I would have a passion for western writing.
You are an award winning western writer. Yes, I've written 17 novels. Summer of Pearls won the 2000 Spur Award, and in 2007 I was awarded the Spur Award for Best Western Song by the Western Writers of America. That was the first time they gave that award.
Who is your agent? I queried over twenty-five agents when I was trying to get started. And that was before email was the predominant pathway. I got a lot of very pleasant rejections. Finally I landed an agent that was willing to represent a new western writer. I've been with Joe Vallely of Flaming Star Literary Enterprises ever since.
I know you just finished a project with Kenny Rogers. How does that kind of collaboration work? I'd already done a book with Willie Nelson (A Tale Out of Luck). He has the same agent (William Morris Agency) as Kenny Rogers and so one thing led to another. We pass ideas back and forth. I do most of the writing, but it is a give and take. I actually liked some of Willie's ideas better than mine.
What is your best advice for writers? Go to conferences and meet with editors and agents. Learn all you can. Don't write for the markets, follow your heart.
Check out Mike's Website Mike Blakely
Critique Cafe enjoyed the Question and Answer session, and the concert as well. One of my favorite things he said was "I grew up so far out in the country that my zip code was ee i ee i oh."