Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sally Gerard, Equine Author

Sally Gerard is an author, poet, and an English teacher.  Currently residing in rural eastern Colorado, Sally spent twenty-five years running a resident horse camp program in the mountains for youth and adults. Sally is the author of Windows in the Loft, a futuristic horse-love story that you’ll fall in love with…

When was your first encounter with a horse?
When I was growing up in Nebraska, we spent family vacations camping at Ponca State Park and you could always find us hanging over the fence at the stable there. I was born with that horse gene and begged for a horse of my own, but adopting every horse I encountered had to do. This horse, Amigo, was “my” first horse. He enjoyed getting too close to trees on trail rides, so was often available for me to ride. I never had any trouble with trees and loved this horse dearly.

Do you have a favorite horse anecdote to share?
Each summer at camp, there was one week we all, campers and horse staff, looked forward to and that was the week when we hosted some special needs campers. They had various disabilities and could not ride a horse alone, but they loved to come down to the barn and be led on a horse or if they couldn’t even do that, they just loved to pet and love on a horse. I only used certain horses in our herd for this, as a gentle disposition was essential. Two black and white paints, Smokey and Oreo, were always on the list. Although these two horses spent the rest of their year on a ranch and worked cattle or packed in for hunting trips, they just had a sense about these kids. Wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tubes didn’t bother them, and their warm muzzles found their way into these kid’s hearts, easing the burden of their lives and giving them what every horse lover knows—unconditional love.

What books have you written?
Dewy Moss published my novel, Windows in the Loft just last summer. It is a coming of age story centered around a young girl, Isa, and her life with horses. Some have called it “rural science fiction”! If you love horses and have experienced that incredible relationship with a horse, then you’ll love this story. Spread the word; Isa’s will find her way into your heart. I’ll be working on the sequel this summer.

Where do you like to write?
I actually wrote most of Windows in the Loft up in the barn on our place. The barn is pictured on the back cover of the book! I like to write up in the barn with the loft doors open because it gives me such a sense of place, and I can see the horses as they spend their day grazing along in the pasture. When I can’t be up in the barn loft, I write at the kitchen table. For me, the most difficult part is getting started—I can get distracted by the chores that always need to be done around a farm. I have to shut everything off and let myself enter the story. I love these shots: the shadow of Indian and me riding down the road and Indian and Oreo in the pasture this winter and closer to spring.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
I get inside the heads of my characters. Although they surprise me sometimes, I focus on where they’re going and on showing the struggles they are facing and working through just like all of the rest of us. I reread what I’ve written the day before and plunge into the story. I also drink a lot of coffee!

What are you currently writing?
I am currently writing a rural romance novel that of course features horses. I cannot imagine a life without horses, even if the character cannot have their own. The main character, Jess, has to overcome the emotional abuse she suffered as a child from her father. She struggles with whether or not she deserves to be loved. The one place she knows she can love and be loved is with her horse. She needs to move on from her past, wake up and see that Sam loves her and more, that she is worthy of love and joy. This novel is almost finished and then I’ll be working on the sequel to Windows in the Loft.

What is the key to writing successful poetry?
Keep it real. The great thing about poetry is that it takes the real world and boils it down to such basic but powerful words and ideas. Good poets write about what is right in front of them, from the wilting red rose saved after the funeral to the big paint horse nibbling on the farrier’s belt as his hoof is trimmed.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
Write and read. Write everyday whether you want to or not and write about what you know: the way the barn door squeaks, trying to get that peppermint out of your pocket as you’re riding your horse down the road, or that cranky neighbor who drives too close as they pass you and your horse on the road. Make it real. Take some creative writing classes and find some ways to share what you’re writing in order to get some feedback. Read what you write out loud to yourself to get an idea of your writing voice—you’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Do you have advice for novice riders?
The best advice I can offer is the same advice I received: ride as many different horses as you can. The more horses you learn to keep between your knees, the better rider you’ll become. And find a riding mentor, someone who already has more horse experience and who’s willing to guide you. Don’t blame a horse for being a horse; patience and firmness are key.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Clancy in The Man from Snowy River is a good example of a horseman: someone who partners with his or her horse. A horseman knows that you never stop learning and that a well-treated horse is a joy to work with and ride. A horseman treats horses with respect and listens to the horse but also knows that he is the head of this herd of two. A horseman makes sure the horse’s needs are met for everything from health to safety, and a horseman treats others with respect and isn’t afraid to both learn and to share knowledge and experience. A horseman is a good example for other horsemen. A really excellent horseman speaks horse—I aspire to this ideal.

List 10 things that your fans may not know about you...
1. I once rode in a dress, sidesaddle in a western saddle, holding a fishing pole with an apple on the line and no bridle on a horse with a boom box tied on and blaring the theme song from Top Gun to show a group of young riders what not to do. Talk about a bombproof horse!

2. I consider both dark chocolate and coffee to be in the vegetable group as they both come from beans and I try hard to make sure I get over the recommended daily dose according to the food pyramid.

3. I do not enjoy composing/writing on a computer. I write in small narrow lined Moleskin notebooks.

4. I’ve had several poems published and I love poetry, but the biggest response I’ve ever had to one of my poems was over a poem I wrote about an outhouse.

5. I’ve directed or co-directed Suessical Jr., Bugsy Malone Jr., and The Comedy of Errors for middle school productions.

6. I have sixteen brothers and sisters in various states of full, step, and through adoption.

7. One summer at camp, I snuck out of my cabin and out to the barn, found my horse and with a halter and lead rope went for a ride under the full moon. It was glorious! I didn’t get caught.

8. I like to make s’mores with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

9. I make a delicious chokecherry jelly.

10. I have a photo of myself at eighteen doing a backbend at Four Corners with a hand or foot in each of the four states.

Connect with Sally…


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