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Piecework  Newsletter


Read the newsletters from Sandra Dallas for news about upcoming books, stories, Sandra's Picks and reviews:

Why I Love Signings!

Volume XXIII, Issue Three | June 2023

I never met a bookstore I didn’t like. I’ve had wonderful signings at chain stores. I will always be grateful to Barnes & Noble for putting me on the New York Times best-seller list the first time with its special promotion of Where Coyotes Howl.

Still, it is the independent bookstores where I have had my best signings. Some, such as the Tattered Cover in Denver, have hosted me a dozen times or more. For Colorado authors, new books generally debut at the Tattered Cover. That’s the signing where most of my author friends, such as Harry Maclean, show up. (Harry has a book coming out in the fall about Charlie Starkweather, the first serial killer, and his girlfriend, Carol Fugate. I’ll tell you more about it in another edition of Piecework.) Tattered Cover also provided books for my talk at Douglas County Library, which, thanks to Lisa Casper, who is in charge of special events, brought in more than 200 readers.

Signings have become a meeting of old friends and new. At Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins, a woman brought her daughter, who had recommended Tenmile, my mid-grade book, to her teacher. Long-time readers Sarah and Bill George, who have been coming to my signings for years, were at Covered Treasures in Monument. I got to hug culinary mystery writer Diane Davidson at Hearthfire Books in Evergreen. And say good-bye to Kappy Kling, who just sold the store. My first best friend, Karen, was at Words of Windsor in Windsor, a new bookstore, and my best friend in junior high, Diane, was at the Douglas County library. And so many quilting friends were at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum for my signing there. Thank you, ladies, for the Mother’s Day roses and for the treats you prepared for those who attended.

The last signing was at the Bookies, a wonderful children’s bookstore, where I signed copies of Tenmile. I was surprised at the number of adults who came, some with multiple copies of my old books for me to sign. So I met old friends as well as Stella, an enthusiastic teenager and reader. It’s rewarding to see kids who love to read.

Of course, all authors stress out over signings. What if nobody comes? That’s happened to me. Even worse was the time two persons showed up, one with a manuscript under his arm that he wanted me to read. But at this stage of my writing life, I take the attendance, high or low, in stride.

What I love is the question-and-answer sessions that follows my reading. I especially like the interplay with the audience. At Douglas County, I was asked about book banning, and at the Tattered Cover, cultural appropriation, with members of the audience adding to the discussion.

Then afterwards, as I’m signing books, readers tell me stories, such as the one about a grandmother who was a pioneer or a family member who had the Spanish flu (the subject of my last book, Little Souls.) A woman at Covered Treasures brought her mother’s books and clippings about Georgetown, which I will pass on to the Georgetown historical society. At Douglas County, a woman asked me to sign a book in a special way. She had spilled something on a book I’d signed years ago to her friend, spoiling the title page. So she bought a copy of the same book and showed me a Xerox of what I had signed originally. She asked me to write the exact same dedication with the old date, and she’d give it to her friend. Oops! I hope I didn’t spoil the surprise.


Nice Recognition

Tenmile, my midgrade book about a girl in an 1880s Colorado mining town who wants to be a doctor, was a finalist for Western Writers of America’s Spur Award. And Little Souls, about the 1918 flu epidemic, is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Winners will be announced June 10. I’m not holding my breath on that one, because I’ve been a finalist eight or 10 times before and never won. Still, I’ll enjoy mingling with other writers.


Reviving The Colorado Book

Some 30 years ago, two historians, an art specialist, and I put together The Colorado Book, an anthology of Colorado literature. The 414-page compendium included everything from early explorer accounts to recipes to Broadway tunes. The book has been out of print for some time.

A few weeks ago, Bob Baron, owner of Fulcrum Publishing, which published the volume, invited me to lunch. He said he wanted to talk about reviving The Colorado Book. The two historians who’d worked on the book have died, and I was the only one left who’d chosen entries. (The art expert had provided illustrations.) I was happy to talk to Bob about the book, but no way was I going to get involved. Been there, done that.

Unfortunately, I’m a sucker for flattery, and by the time lunch was over, I’d agreed to revise the anthology—with one stipulation. I’d do it if popular historian Tom Noel (“Dr. Colorado”) would partner with me. Tom agreed. Then librarian Pam Smith came on board.

We’ve already shortened entries in the first book that were overlong and cut others that seemed important 30 years ago but are no longer relevant. And we’re adding excerpts from writers who were overlooked or who weren’t even writing when the first volume was put together. I’m sort of in the latter category. I’d just begun writing novels when we assembled the original volume, and the first two weren’t about Colorado. So my entry was a newspaper article I’d written about the death of controversial Colorado historian Caroline Bancroft. Now the revised edition of The Colorado Book will have an excerpt from one of my novels. After all, as an editor, I get to decide who’s included.


Sandra’s Picks


By Kent Haruf Vintage Books

I don’t know how we could have overlooked Plainsong when we put together the first volume of The Colorado Book. Haruf, who died not long ago, is Colorado’s finest writer. It’s hard to decide which of his books is best, but I think my favorite is Plainsong, set in the fictional town of Holt in Eastern Colorado. That’s in part because the book’s two McPherson men, with their dry wit, remind me so much of my dad, who grew up on a Kansas farm. The story is about two unmarried brothers who agree to take in a pregnant, unmarried teenager. The writing is lyrical and the characters so real you feel you know them. If you’re never read Plainsong, treat yourself.



By Dalton Trumbo Echo Point Books

Eclipse is another book I reread to find an excerpt for The Colorado Book. It’s Dalton Trumbo’s roman a clef of his home town, Grand Junction, Colorado. The story is about the city’s most prominent citizen, a successful merchant and benefactor, who is revered by the residents, until the Great Depression comes around. His misguided attempts to save the town from disaster combined with the greed of his one-time friends, cause him to become a pariah.

When the book was published, Trumbo, himself, becomes a pariah in Grand Junction. But all’s been forgiven, and there is a bronze statue of him in his home town.


The Way of the Bear

By Anne Hillerman


I can’t resist recommending at least one mystery. Tony Hillerman introduced his highly successful series set on the Navajo reservation years ago. After her father’s death, Anne Hillerman took over the mysteries, and The Way of the Bear, is her eighth Joe Leaphorn-Jim Chee book. Perhaps because she’s a woman, Hillerman concentrates on Jim Chee’s wife, police officer Bernadette Manuelito. This book is set in the Bears Ear area at the edge of the Navajo reservation, where fossils are being stolen. Bernie not only encounters dangerous fossil hunters but must fight a snow storm. Anybody who’s ever been in a blizzard on the Navajo reservation knows it’s a toss-up as to which is more threatening.

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