February 27, 2010      A Grimm Experience

Zach Salazar, Raton

Raton Youth Theater goes into dress rehearsals next week for its hilarious comedy "The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon", presented at Shuler Theater March 5, 6, 7. I just wrote and sent my preview, to run in The Chronicle-News early next week.

I spent an hour Wednesday afternoon at the theater getting the story and some pictures. They were working on Cinderella, here with understudy Clair Willden and versatile comic actor Zach Salazar -- who I was surprised to learn is only a freshman in high school.

The play's premise is that the other three-dozen young actors are finished and gone home, so Zach has to play all the parts himself -- the Wicked Stepmother (above), all three Wicked Stepsisters (below), and, of course, Prince Charming. His frantic changes of costume, voice, and behavior are rib-splittingly funny. I'm looking forward to reviewing and photographing the show next Saturday night, when I'll sit front center to shoot pictures and scribble quick notes.

Zach Salazar, RatonIf you're following my stories in The Chronicle, you've noticed that they're backed up (again). They have four of my stories awaiting publication, one going back nine days. When this happened last year, I backed off and wrote a lot less for them. Then my life and that of Laura Brewer, their other New Mexico freelancer, took us other directions that prevented our writing regularly for the paper.

Coincidentally, Laura and I are both back to writing a lot for the Chronicle and, I'm happy to report, they've just decided to reinstate their dedicated New Mexico pages two days a week. Hopefully that will help them keep up with our stories and photos.

The publisher tells me that the number of pages they can print depends on the amount of advertising they sell, so running my stories depends on their having enough advertising. My intuition says that it's the stories that bring the readers who, in turn, attract the advertisers. I guess I think it's the egg and they think it's the chicken. What do I know.




February 20, 2010      Some Kinda Fun

Manuel Gonzalez, Albuquerque poet

The highlight of this week was having poets Manuel Gonzalez and Beata Tsosie in town for a three-day residency across the street at the Des Moines Schools. By the time Manuel ran a slam-style poetry reading Wednesday night, everyone was impressed -- parents, teachers, administrators, visitors, and the students, many of whom read their own poetry from stage.
Jon CruzDiego Martinez











In the classrooms, every student was writing. Classes that weren't scheduled showed up anyway. A fifth grade class walked in unannounced to join a class of seniors. The poets went with the flow and included everyone.

Des Moines Schools applied for and received grant funds from New Mexico Arts to bring this and other programs to the school. New Mexico CultureNet books the poets for schools throughout the state. Executive Director Alex Traube was so interested in seeing the poets out here in far northeastern New Mexico that he drove 200 miles from Santa Fe to see Wednesday night's reading. Like me, he loved what he saw. I wrote about it in Friday's Chronicle-News, and they ran it with 8 of my photos.

I was so impressed that I've already arranged to do the same thing at Raton High School next year. That puts 3A Raton High School in the position of following 1A Des Moines School. Congratulations to Des Moines on a great week.




February 15, 2010      The Hi Lo Country

Max Evans' classic novel The Hi Lo Country revolves around cattle ranching, a great friendship, and a love triangle in northeastern New Mexico after World War II. Evans ranched off Blind Gap Road, 14 miles east of Des Moines, which is called Hi Lo in the novel.

The two-story building in the shadows under the big pine tree at the far left (now the Have a Cup Cafe - click photo to enlarge) was the Club 87 saloon back then. The gray building at far right was the Ranch Bar. In the novel they're the Wild Cat Saloon and the Double Duty Saloon, respectively, and there's an amusing amount of foot traffic between them. Apparently there were a lot less Texans using Highway 87 back then.

My one-page featurette will be published in the Going Places: See For Yourself section of New Mexico Magazine, with more pictures and places, later this year.




February 14, 2010      My Snowy Valentine

It's been snowing this morning. Because we didn't get to make the full roast turkey dinner here for Christmas -- we were at Christina's family home south of Santa Fe -- we decided to do the turkey dinner for Valentine's Day. It's late morning and the smells are already sumptuous.

I spent much of the morning posting my two features from the February issue of Western Horseman. Now that it's off the newstand, I can share the stories on the website. If you haven't yet seen them, here's your key.




February 13, 2010      My Heart's Desire

Shuler Theater, Raton

Last weekend I wrote here about my frustration at not being able to post photos I'm submitting to New Mexico Magazine for three local features because their contract essentially probibits, or at least controls, any form of pre-publication. To some extent, every magazine wants, and buys, exclusive first-publication rights. But it's hard to blog about my work if I can't post the photos!

Good news, though! I've been working this week (through e-mails and FTP) with Fabian West, the art director at New Mexico Magazine, and because she's become a friend, I broached this subject. She agreed with me that a photo appearing here before its time in the magazine would be more likely to bring people to the magazine than divert them. She gave me the go-ahead. I'm thrilled, because writing about my current work each week, here and on the companion TKP blog, has become an enjoyable part of my process.

Shuler Theater, Raton

The new Shuler Theater photos here (thanks, Fabian!) are among a group I'm submitting for my Going Places featurette on the Shuler. Art directors like to receive a mix of vertical and horizontal shots because it gives them more flexibility in layouts. I like the vertical shot for the red streaks of the car taillights and because I shot it from a 2nd-floor window in Kathy Honeyfield's dance studio across the street. (Thanks, Kathy!) The horizontal shot was taken from the sidewalk across the street as the show ended and people filed out: it's better for the crowd of people. As always, I look forward to seeing, when the magazine arrives in my mailbox in a few months, which shot is chosen.

An update from January 24 below: I caught that mouse living among my computer cabling (the secret bait was a "Craisin" - a dried cranberry), but the computer is still crashing inexplicably. My in-house computer specialist (Christina) is on the case, and she's narrowed the problem down to "a software conflict", but it's proven tough to find and fix. (Craisins don't work.) I mention it in case I disappear for a spell! Thanks for checking in.




February 8, 2010      Your Heart's Desire

Heart's Desire Inn, Raton

Christina and I stayed at Heart's Desire Inn, Barbara Riley's downtown Raton B&B, Friday night. Sunday morning I wrote my 300-word featurette for New Mexico Magazine while yet another snowstorm moved in. I also wrote a Shuler Theater piece for the magazine, a Chronicle-News feature, processed a lot of photographs for the stories, and learned how to set up an FTP account in my Mac for sending large high-resolution photographs directly to magazines. (I send 70MB TIFF files, usually on disc, but New Mexico Magazine has begun calling me for stock photos -- images to fit needs other than my own articles, and they want them now. They're way too big to send by e-mail.)

The highlight of my Heart's Desire Inn project was photographing the rich interiors, then coming home to process the images: they're lush, gorgeous, exciting! I'm frustrated, though: for the past 2-3 weeks, everything I've shot has been for three New Mexico Magazine projects, but their contract prohibits my allowing the photos (or text) to be shared anywhere else until they've finished their run in the magazine. My problem: what am I going to put in my blogs if all my photos are going to magazines?

I like to put a favorite shot of the week here and discuss it. I think a presence here is more likely to increase readership of my articles in the magazine than decrease it, so I'm leaning toward broaching the subject with the editors -- but not until after they've received these first pieces and are happy. We'll see. Another option, of course, is for me to shoot more photos on the side, but I'm so busy on the projects that it's hard to imagine finding more time. Besides, what I'd really like to be blogging about is the projects I'm working on!

That's the Victorian room, above, at Heart's Desire. The photo is an outtake, a shot I'm not sending to the magazine. We had packed up and were moving out; we straightened up the bed and room so I could photograph it. We had a wonderful stay -- so much so that we're already talking about returning for a two-night stay.

I was too busy to blog over the weekend. Now it's Monday morning, still dark. By the time they called a two-hour school delay, I'd already started on my coffee. It's still snowing, so I'll be moving stuff from the Prius to the big 4wd F-250 pickup for the 38-mile drive to Raton. There's a 90% chance of snow, 2"-4", continuing to fall today on top of what we got last night. I'll be driving slowly. But, hey, if it wasn't for the snow delay, I wouldn't have been able to make time to write the blog.




January 31, 2010      A Grave Week

Des Moines Cemetery - Capulin Volcano

Except for burying Coltrane (see today's TKP blog), it's been a good week. I finished my Hi-Lo Country featurette for New Mexico Magazine, though I'm waiting for all the snow to melt so I can get two more photographs it needs. Because the magazine's contract forbids my publishing anything I send them until they've had their run with it, I can't share the pictures they're getting. Two are from the Des Moines Cemetery, where most of the book's characters ended up sooner or later, so I've substituted another winter photo of Des Moines Cemetery, one I took last year titled "Winter's Rest".

Tomorrow night I'll be in an upstairs window across the street from show night at The Shuler Theater in Raton, getting a photo for another featurette in New Mexico Magazine, and next weekend Christina and I will spend a night at Barbara Riley's Heart's Desire B&B in Raton for yet another. These are all one-page pieces in the new Going Places section, just 300 words and some pictures. (Getting the Hi-Lo Country piece into 300 words was like writing haiku!)

Someone else has been writing about Raton: Fabian West, New Mexico Magazine's art director, e-mailed me Friday seeking photographs to illustrate another article they're running. That's looking pretty good: it will/would be the first time my photographs have been used to accompany anyone's article but my own. Fabian now has some of my existing shots to choose from; I'll also be shooting two restaurant interiors for her this week (The Ice House and Pappas Sweet Shop) in hopes they work for this other Raton feature.

That's it. I'm going to take Pearl on a hike today, our first without Coltrane. You've got to get back up on the horse and ride.




January 24, 2010      Exploring the Hi-Lo Country

Curve by Tim Keller - Chico, NM

New Mexico Magazine sent their "assigning letter" and formal contract this week. I'll be doing three -- not four -- one-page featurettes, due by February 26, though I intend to ship them a couple weeks earlier.

A story on The Mandala Center didn't pan out -- the magazine and I couldn't find common ground on it -- but my conversations with them and with Lori Coon at TMC may, I think, lead to a larger feature for NMM next winter. I'm seeing it as a net gain.

That leaves three one-page featurettes -- on Raton's Shuler Theater and Heart's Desire B&B, plus a travelogue based on Max Evans's classic western novel, The Hi-Lo Country.

As much as I like to post new project photos and notes here, the magazine's contract specifically forbids my sharing with anyone else, in any form, material I offer to them. As I do with Western Horseman, I'll have to wait until my material completes its newstand run and becomes a back issue before I can post it here. That puts some limitations on my blog.

Another potential limitation is my computer, which has been threatening to go dark on me. Christina is trouble-shooting (that's her above, on our land, far from high-speed Internet), and we're trying to trap a (wire-eating?) mouse that's been living down behind the cable run somewhere, but there's a chance, too, that my hard drive will be in the shop next weekend. If I don't blog, that will be why.

Meantime, I'm headed down some dirt road.




January 16, 2010      The Joy of Finding the Next Project

The Mandala Center - statue

You may have noticed that I stopped talking about work from New Mexico Magazine. Instead of them issuing the promised assignment the same week, months passed. I set it aside and moved on to other projects.

Finally, though, they got back to me this week and I'll spend the coming weeks assembling four one-page "Going Places" featurettes for them -- writing and photography -- essentially as an entry-level gig toward my preferred work, which is developing features.

We're talking about one possible feature, and eventually Fabian West, the art director, plans to publish a portfolio of my photography.

Meantime, these four pieces I'm starting will promote four area destinations. It'll be fun, and will help stir up much-needed business for them. I'll share with you which four places I'm covering a little further down the line (the photo is a clue for one), after I make contact with each, which I'm beginning today.




January 9, 2010      Work and Fun Are Often One

Steven F. Havill

I think both Steven Havill and I had a good time together yesterday when I interviewed him at the Raton public library, his home away from home. He'll be leading a beginning fiction writers' workshop at the library and I'm helping spread the word with a Chronicle article. We talked about a longer and more ambitious profile I want to write, and I'm beginning to see it take shape. Look for a major magazine piece early next year.

Steven is currently completing his 24th book, a sequel to the 2009 historical/medical novel Race for the Dying. Though he started in 1981 with westerns, by 1991 he had turned to mysteries when Heartshot was published, the first in his Posadas County Mystery Series set in a New Mexico county both rural and fictional, but not unlike where he and I both live and work. Red, Green, or Murder, the 17th in the series, was newly published when Steven read from it at Studio C in November.

I bought the new one, and the first six, at Studio C after Steven's reading, and I'm one short sitting away from finishing the fifth at this point. Each has been a fun read; sooner or later, I'll read the whole Posadas series and, I'm sure, some of the others.

Steven seemed pleased to learn that I'd arrived with a photo concept: he said a previous reporter who's featured him more than once has always photographed him standing with one of his books in his hands. He has an interest in photography and joined me in the fun of making the photo I've posted above. We look forward to doing more, later.




January 3, 2010      Watching the River Flow

Cimarron Canyon ice

Sometimes it's good to get away, to step back and change perspective. Our stay in Taos last week was restorative.

In my case it didn't change anything so much as add to my appreciation of the path I've found. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to find a good story, photograph and write it, then see it published.

2009 was my first year doing this and already there's the potential for me to do it full-time. Thing is, I love teaching at Raton High School, too. Increasingly, though, I'm seeing the writing and photography as a second career, one I'll step into full-time when I leave teaching. I'd planned to teach eight more years -- we'll see -- but another option is to take an early retirement in just three years, jumping full-time into writing and photography. It's too soon to tell right now which way it will go.




January 1, 2010      Putting a Great Year to Rest

Arroyo Seco Camposanto, cemetery

2009 started with the publication of my first magazine feature and ended, several features later, with my polishing a new feature for publication in Spring 2010. Seven of my photographs are in the 2010 New Mexico Vacation Guide (see pages 35, 52, 57, 59, & 103), and the February 2010 issue of Western Horseman will be published in two weeks with two of my features. Along with a one-artist photography show and awards in a couple of other shows, 2009 was an astonishing year: I didn't see it all coming, but I enjoyed it!

2010 shows no sign of being any different. Christina and I took a break and spent four days in a B&B north of Taos this week. For the first time in months, I went out for pure photography, as opposed to shooting pictures to illustrate stories I was writing. Over the coming days, I'll post more Taos area photos here and at my TimKellerPhotography blog.

That's the camposanto (cemetery) at Arroyo Seco, above, near where we stayed. (As always, click on the photo to see it enlarged.) It gives me a sense of both past and future, the year gone and the year ahead. I feel immersed in a process, noting markers -- like a new year -- as I float right by them. Life is good.



Want to see November/December?


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