Four authors share Wild West tales, lessons at Friday panel
Friday evening, Sept. 16, will be filled with tales of adventure, survival, bravery, and perseverance as Off the Beaten Path hosts four female authors for their panel “Badass Women of the West.” The authors, four Colorado writers, are Kathryn Wilder, Karen Auvinen, Christine Reed and Dagny McKinley.
“I chose these four because they are local women who have all written gripping outdoor memoirs,” said Off the Beaten Path marketing manager Hallie Priday. “I have loved each of their books and they all fit together so well. When I was comparing their stories, I wanted to sit in on a conversation between all of them because they seem to agree in so many areas but in such different ways.”
The panel will begin with a moderated discussion between the authors followed by an audience Q&A and will end with a book signing where guests are invited to chat one on one with the authors.
Meet the authors
Karen Auvinen’s memoir, Rough Beauty, tells the story of the decade that she spent living alone in a wood-stove heated cabin at 8,500 feet. Shortly after completing her PhD and retreating to the woods to write, a cabin fire destroyed all of her belongings and most of her writing. Rather than give up, she moved with her dog to a different cabin on the same mountain and started over, immersing herself in the seasons, landscape, and nature.
“There was a kind of liberation in telling the story of what drove me to the mountains and then a beautiful peace as I understood (in the writing of the book) more deeply the power landscape had on me,” Auvinen said. “It wasn’t simply refuge; it was the crucible in which I was formed.”
A Colorado Book Award finalist, Rough Beauty explores place, landscape and wildness.
“There is so much space in the West and all this mythology to contend with,” Auvinen said. “But for so long, only one familiar story of conquest has been told. Now we see diverse voices representing the American West and I’m excited to add my voice to this growing liturgy of women who are writing about their lives and essentially saying, ‘yes, we are here and yes, our experiences have meaning. We carry weight.’”
A Colorado Book Award and Nautilus Book Award winner, Kathryn Wilder’s book “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West” is a personal tale of a woman lost in grief who finds her way out by following the wild mustangs of southwestern Colorado.
“I have been lost before — in grief, in drugs, in general,” explained Wilder. “This time I knew enough to see how deep in the murk I was, but I still couldn’t see an out. Not until I made a right turn one day and found myself on a remote dirt road bordering mustang country.”
Hoping to impart a message of survival, she noted, “when a person is lost, anything can be a guide. Sometimes we choose guides that damage us — I certainly have: men, drugs, danger. And I have also found guides that nourish. Rivers, the ocean, paddling, hiking far from any trail, sitting in silence and stillness.”
Winner of the National Indie Excellence Award, Reed’s book “Alone in Wonderland” is a story of backpacking woven with themes of family, overcoming obstacles, self-knowledge and much more. At work and surfing the internet one day, Reed decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail which, years later, led to another adventure on the Wonderland Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park. Her adventures led her to become the outdoorswoman that she wanted to be, and she believes “Alone in Wonderland” is a testament to the decision to decide who you want to be and then become it.
Local author Dagny McKinley will discuss her book “Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp: A History of Art in Nature” and the personal experiences that inspired her to write it. The focus, she said, is on independent women and what they can accomplish personally and professionally when they step outside the barriers of what is expected of them.
“I think the story of the west has been dominated by male stories,” she said. “The old westerns were focused on men as the heroes. In each of these stories, the women step outside of the boundaries that have been set for them by society. They embrace their fear, they open their lives with such vulnerability, it is transformative. For women to do what they have done is even more remarkable because they have been told they shouldn’t … these are the stories that need to be told over and over again until they are not considered exceptional.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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