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Novel brings to life struggles of ranching families

Kelly Silva

— In a book that peels back the fibers of life’s simplistic yet tantalizing ways, Laura Pritchett gives birth to the true expression of families drawn together through their Colorado ranches.

For the 30-year-old author and student at Purdue University, Pritchett struggles every day with changing diapers, feeding babies and writing her second fiction novel at her home outside of Fort Collins.

“Hell’s Bottom, Colorado” connects its characters in a non-physical way. But with a helpful family tree in the beginning of the book in which to refer, readers can get a glimpse of a family torn apart by death and changes but sewn together by blood.

“(The book is) all unconnected stories but they were just put together,” Pritchett said.

As a graduate literature student at Colorado State University, Pritchett finished a series of short stories (not necessarily connected in any way) in her early 20s, and when a publisher suggested she push them all together to create a book, she did.

But it wasn’t until she moved out of Colorado and to Minnesota that she felt she could really describe and feel the lifestyle of a family dispersed through Colorado ranches.

“I got advice to differentiate the voices more or link them to the family,” Pritchett said. New stories were written, other stories were cut and the whole was revised at her parent’s cabin at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs one summer.

“It was a struggle and a learning experience,” Pritchett said during a phone interview. “I would start out with a comprehensive idea. I was just sitting around writing.”

Pritchett grew up on a small cattle ranch where life and death are common occurrences. Although the West is filled with legendary tales and myths, Pritchett said she wanted to be truthfully representative of the lifestyle.

“I just try to capture that realistically,” Pritchett said of the fiction novel.

Although the characters and the story line are all fictitious, Pritchett said there is a small piece of her in all the characters.

“There’s a good mix of me, others and pure fiction,” Pritchett said.

Being a mother of two, a wife, a student and a writer may be overwhelming for Pritchett, but it has given the gift of insight and compassion.

Rediscovering the world through a child’s eyes couldn’t be truer for the student author. Having babies has changed her entire outlook, she said.

But none of these distractions has kept her away from the word processor. Pritchett has begun writing a new novel about a poor, young, single mother growing up in rural Colorado.

Currently, Pritchett is a doctorate student at Purdue University studying contemporary American literature.


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