They share the same state for both their homes and subject of their work, and have been touring together to share their perspectives on writing about the American West. And Wyoming authors Laura Bell and Mark Spragg bring decidedly unique points of view—and tremendous writing talent—to that topic.
Bell’s memoir Claiming Ground follows the author through 30 years, starting with her relocation from Kentucky to Wyoming as a freshly minted college grad, taking on the hard, lonely work of sheepherding. In spare, achingly poetic prose, Bell describes the shifting seasons and landscape of her chosen home, as well as the internal shifts as she wrestles with an unhappy marriage and personal tragedy. Bypassing the simple episodic chronology of most memoirs, Claiming Ground becomes a portrait of the inextricable link between a person and a place.
Spragg (An Unfinished Life) opts for fictionalized tales of taciturn Westerners, including his new novel Bone Fire. In the town of Ishawooa, Wyo., a handful of characters struggle with transitions in their lives: a sheriff developing the first symptoms of ALS; a young artist taking care of her aging grandfather; a 10-year-old boy making his first visit to the father he’s never known.
Like Bell’s book, Bone Fire explores people who pride themselves on their independence, yet who depend on makeshift families of their own creation. Today, spend some time with the two authors for a joint discussion and reading about the terrain—physical and psychological—that informs their work.