By Barbara Smith
Western Wyoming Community College 

Wyoming writer to give reading and book signing, visit memoir writing class

 

October 12, 2023

Photo courtesy of Barbara Smith

Marcia Hensley

Wyoming writer Marcia Hensley will read from her new book, Away from it All: A Wyoming Love Story, on Friday, October 13th at 7:00 p.m. in the Grace Gasson Room at White Mountain Library. Locals may remember Marcia as a long-time English instructor at WWCC, and a former resident of Rock Springs and Farson, Wyoming.

Hensley's book combines the story of her personal journey of self-discovery with depictions of small-town and rural life in Wyoming from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. In her first book, Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West, Hensley introduced readers to stories of pioneering women who came west on their own – in this memoir, she shares her own story.

Like the stories of pioneers who fascinated her since childhood, Marcia Hensley's story has been a westward journey. As a 21-year-old working in Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1963 she fell in love with Wyoming, igniting a longing for the West that smoldered for twenty years until a chance encounter opened the door for her return – a job offer teaching at Western Wyoming Community College. There she meets Mike Hensley, a respected faculty member, charismatic teacher, photographer, actor, and outdoorsman. The book follows their courtship and mutual love of the Wyoming landscape, history, and lifestyle as their lives unfold. Readers will recognize the book's setting in southwest Wyoming, Rock Springs, Farson, and the Wind River Mountains.


In her preface, Marcia wrote, "This book tells how a dream can build in your heart and mind, and experiences can gather around it until that dream turns into your actual life." She continued: "This writing is my way of trying to preserve and share a time and place that will never again be like it was then. It is my way of thanking the universe for the life Mike and I lived there in the small town of Rock Springs, and the even smaller community of Eden Valley, in the high desert landscape of Wyoming with the Wind River Mountains keeping watch from a distance."


Early reader Susanne George, author of Adventures of the Woman Homesteader, praised the book for its "lyric prose and vivid details." Other authors also commented on the book: Page Lambert, The Light Shines From the West, noted that the book "reminds readers of the importance of honoring one's true and special place." Marjane Ambler, Yellowstone Has Teeth, said Hensley's "intimate story conveys the complexity of life on the modern frontier. It made me laugh and made me cry." Mary Beth Baptiste, Altitude Adjustment, commented: "Hensley's love of Western life is palpable...Away From It All shows that it is never too late to follow a deep-seated dream."


Born in Missouri not far from where Oregon Trail pioneers began their treks, Marcia moved with her family to Oklahoma where she grew up, was educated, and started her teaching career. She is a graduate of the University of Tulsa (B.A. 1964; M.A. 1966). In 1983 Hensley moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming to teach at Western Wyoming Community College. She taught courses in writing and Western American Literature, as well as creating and directing a Western American Studies program. Learning about the landscape and history of southwest Wyoming during her nearly thirty years living there with her husband Mike was an ongoing adventure that inspired her writing. Marcia and Mike especially loved their rural home in Eden Valley close to the Oregon Trail. Currently, Marcia is now enjoying small-town life and getting to know the landscape and people on the opposite side of the state in Laramie.


Marcia is the recipient of the Wyoming Arts Council's Neltje Blanchan award for writing inspired by nature. Her essays have been published in several anthologies as well as in High Country News, Wyofile, and the syndicated column Writers on the Range. In 2009, her non-fiction book, Staking Her Claim, Women Homesteading the West won awards from the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association as well as from Women Writing the West, Wyoming Writers, Wyoming Historical Society, and ForeWord Magazine.


The reading and book signing event on Friday October 13th is sponsored by Sweetwater BOCES for their Speaking of the West series. It is free and open to the public. She will also be a guest in the WWCC memoir writing class offered this fall by former colleague Barbara Smith at the Young at Heart Center.

"We are really looking forward to Marcia's visit in which she will tell us her story of how she put together this memoir set in our own part of the world," Smith said.

Away from it All was published by Deep Wild Books, an independent press in Grand Junction, Colorado. Copies will be available for sale at the reading and can be purchased on the Deep Wild website https://deepwildjournal.com/books/ and at local bookstores.

 

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