Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo in America.  Yep, it’s pretty badass. Always the last ten days in July.  Always.  I have covered Frontier Days since 2001, as a freelance writer and photographer.

I had a press pass every year from 2001 – 2005 and in 2009.  It was pre-digital, or I had no idea what a digital camera was.  So I used black and white film (2001 – 2005).  I truly believe these four hot Julys was my unofficial training in photography.  I went to the University of Rodeo, so to speak.  I love taking photos of cowboys and rodeo.  I find the sport titillating.  I get so excited, and I love being behind the scenes.

There is a certain beauty and poetic element to the life of a cowboy.  It is a lonely road, filled with challenges and temptations.  There are many types of cowboys.  But honestly, and you know me — I am bone honest: every cowboy I have ever met and interviewed or spoke with has always been down-to-earth, courteous, and polite.  I am usually nervous when I interview cowboys.  Never has one blown me off or been rude.  I have interviewed Ben Jones, JB Mauney, Austin Meier, Kasey Hayes, Jerome Davis, Clint Craig, Bobby Mote, and many more.

I have entered a photo in a contest on Talenthouse.  It is of Clint Craig, who is adorable.  He is so cute and so nice.  I was very lucky to interview and photograph Clint with his two buddies, JB Mauney and Lander Creech, at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2009.    My assignment:  pick the hottest cowboys at Cheyenne Frontier Days and ask them questions like, What’s sexier — cowboy boots or heels? and How does a woman get your attention?  What is your phobia? and Favorite body part.

Tough job, but someone has to do it, right?

The article appeared in Cowgirl in January 2010 for their Valentine’s issue.

Clint is from Mena, Arkansas and a very nice young man.  He does look like Woody Harrleson.  You can see my Clint Craig article in Rodeo News,  published in the September 2009 issue of Rodeo News:

I have also posted a video of him being interviewed about for 93 points ride on Red Onion in San Antonio in 2010.

Clint is in Cheyenne today for the Championship Bull Riding.

Click on the link above to vote for Clint’s photo, “Smile.”

If you are looking for souvenirs of Cheyenne Frontier Days or would like photos of cowboys, please visit my online gallery.  For a limited time proceeds will be going to Team Amber, who is a Cheyenne native and dear friend of mine who was paralyzed recently in a boating accident.

Burn through the Fear

Book Expo America is in New York — right now.  So you can attend the event by clicking on the link above. Or just hang out here at the memomuse ranch and watch it live.

Someday I want to be at BEA as a featured author.  I am finding that talk is cheap and writing is expensive (not in dollars, but in dedication).  As a writer, it’s all great to have wonderful ideas and enthusiasm for the subject you write about, but unless you sit your ass in the chair and write, it’s just talk.

So, in the next couple of months, I have three book projects I am actively working on.  I am really excited about the opportunities that have manifested.  It should be noted, that I have worked my tail off in the last three years to make things happen.  I have a New York agent interested in reading a manuscript and book proposal I wrote.  I sent her an official query letter and she requested the full book proposal and a full manuscript.  She is from a reputable literary agency in New York.  I have to keep it under wraps until I know more.  She is reviewing the proposal, or at least it’s been delivered to her email inbox and uploaded to her Kindle.  Just the fact that a New York agent has my words on her office Kindle makes me giddy.

“View” © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved Blue Ridge Mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

I am finding that the more I conquer my fears and go outside my comfort zone, the rewards are so rich. (Just for the record, my comfort zone lately has been as a stay-at-home mom with a two year old.  Most of the time, I have not showered, in sweatpants, and hair in a messy updo — and frantically trying to write between toddler meltdowns and naps).

Recently, I arranged to interview some PBR cowboys at an event in Asheville, North Carolina.  I had the green light for the interviews and the opportunity to interview JB Mauney (ranked 5th in the world), Austin Meier (ranked 8th in the world), and whoever else I could muster up the courage to talk to.  The thing is — I almost didn’t go.  I was so insecure about going.  I had a great deal of anxiety before I started the interviews.  But, as rodeo is one of my passions and the fact that cowboys can conquer their fears and get on a wild animal, I told myself I had to conquer my fear and get er’ done.  As I drove out to Asheville, I felt I burned off the anxiety and fear.  I thoroughly did my research and I was prepared.  All I had to do was check in with the public relations person and get the interviews done.

© Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved — A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

While I waited outside the Western Agriculture Center in Fletcher, NC, I ended up talking to a rodeo mom.  She told me  a delightful story of how her son and his best friend made a promise to each other at ten years old in upstate New York, that they would be bull riders, after watching the movie, 8 Seconds.  They both moved to North Carolina to study under rodeo icon, Jerome Davis.


Journal signing from “The Original Journal Project” (This is one of my book projects — you can click on the quote to go to the Facebook page)  “2000 pounds of pure adrenaline between your legs. 8 seconds of pure hell but we do it cuz we love it. Bull riders only.” – Dan

By going with the flow, I found the lead for my story about bull riding in North Carolina (which is the article I am working on).  I let go of the nerves and enjoyed the rodeo Friday night, taking a gazillion photos.  It could be said that I actually watch the rodeo through my camera lens.  I am not kidding.

© Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved — PBR bull riding in Asheville, NC
JB Mauney is in the foreground, as he helped out with the event, but did not ride.

Then I did my interviews on Saturday after spending the day on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I was on a solo memomuse trip and my husband and son stayed at home.  My husband was not able to make the trip because he had an important meeting he had to attend on Friday.  Getting that large dose of nature on the Parkway inspired me to trust my instincts and passion.  I do believe that I have a gift to write and I need to conquer my fears.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I tell you what — once I overcame that fear, it was magic. I interviewed Ben Jones (ranked 25th in the world), Aussie cowboy who is famous for his celebratory dance after he has a successful ride.  He is a character.  He told me he has broken both legs, both arms, had reconstructive surgery on his face, is missing more than a couple teeth, and had his lungs pierced three times.  He’s 33 and can’t see himself doing anything else.  He truly loves what he does.  There is something to be said for living your dreams.

The public relations person had to politely escort me out of the cowboy ready area, as I was just warming up and was ready to talk to every cowboy I could interview!   I find bull riding and rodeo to be a fascinating sport.  I love the fact that these cowboys continue to ride even after facing injuries that would make people run in the other direction.  They love what they do.  I can relate to that.

On another note — a photo of mine was on a New York Times writer, Mark Allen’s website. He also writes for the Huffington Post and is a regular contributor to NPR’s, All Things Considered.  He was so gracious about taking the photo down and uploading a photo with a watermark.  And he told me that my photos are amazing.  Now, that is a silver lining on the photo piracy I have been dealing with.  Read this post, Buck like Bodacious. if you want to know about my photo piracy nightmare.  I have seen been more cautious on what I put on the internet, in relation to my photos.  But I do believe in serendipity and the way the universe tell you something.  I think a book of photo of cowboys will be coming out soon.  The best compliment though, is when a cowboy appreciates the photo I take of him.

That happened ironically this weekend.  I interviewed Kasey Hayes (ranked 34th in the world) this weekend and I was telling him about an intimate photo I took of him and JB at the 2009 Jerome Davis PBR Invitational.  He said he saw it on the internet (it was one of the photos that was pirated and there was no watermark on it) and said he liked it.  I told him I’d send him a copy.  So I googled JB Mauney and Kasey Hayes and found the photo on Mark Allen’s website, the New York Times and the Huffington Post writer I mentioned before.

So, having the cowboy photographed in the photo compliment it was awesome, and then to have a writer for the New York Times sing it praises, was nice.  That is why I do what I do — I believe in art and expression.  And I believe it should be shared, respectfully (please think about every time you share a photo that is not yours and credit the artist and ask their permission if you can post it).

The best part of the night was seeing my favorite bull, Chicken on a Chain, break the bull rope.  Chicken is retiring this year.  I believe, but can not say 100%, that Asheville was his last professional ride.

JB Mauney gets a hand from fellow rider, Kasey Hayes at the 2009 Jerome Davis PBR Invitational in Archdale, NC
© Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

What is something you did that you thought you could not do?

In 100 Years, I Want to Know I Gave 100%

Well folks, I’ve reached 100 likes on my blog posts.  Don’t I feel special!

Italicized writing from this website: Within My Power – The Power of One Man Print E-mail

The following was written by Forest E. Witcraft (1894 – 1967), a scholar, teacher, and Boy Scout administrator and first published in the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine.

Forest E. WitcraftI am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated. I do not have great wealth, control a big business, or occupy a position of great honor or authority.

Yet I may someday mould destiny. For it is within my power to become the most important man in the world in the life of a boy. And every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the Scoutmaster of a Troop in which an undersized unhappy Austrian lad by the name of Adolph might have found a joyous boyhood, full of the ideals of brotherhood, goodwill, and kindness. And the world would have been different.

A humble citizen like myself might have been the organizer of a Scout Troop in which a Russian boy called Joe might have learned the lessons of democratic cooperation.

These men would never have known that they had averted world tragedy, yet actually they would have been among the most important men who ever lived.

All about me are boys. They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow. If I can have some part in guiding them up the trails of Scouting, on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship, I may prove to be the most important man in their lives, the most important man in my community.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.


I find this interesting that when you search for this poem, some sites recognize it as anonymous.

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

  – Anonymous

The above text quote is from this website.

You would think they would credit the author, Forest Whitcraft.  Someone changed the last word from “boy” to “child” and now Forest Whitcraft loses credit for profound statement.  He seems like the type that wouldn’t care too much about that.  Well me, I am not that evolved.  I work hard as an artist (photographer and writer) and I want credit for my work. I also like validation.  You’ll have to buy my memoir to find out about the deep seeded reason for that! But I think everyone loves validation.

I have been using Pinterest and I am still so new to the site, that I am not sure how I feel about it.  I worked really hard to upload watermarked images, but I am still finding people using my photos that do not have the watermark on them.  I am reporting people to Pinterest that do that.  I feel bad about it though, like “Oh, how can I be your friend still, even though you are stealing my photos and not crediting me?”  Like, I ‘ll lose a precious fan or potential customer.  News flash — if people steal the photos and don’t credit me, it is safe to say, they are not going to buy a photo. Dah! I am also looking out for other photographers.

I had a mini discussion with a photographer about photo piracy on Twitter, when he posted that this photo had been pirated. This is what he said,

@memomuse1 Sorry I didn’t get back sooner but I once heard this: once you put a photo on the web you no longer control it. You can always control how put it there but once it’s up assume it can and will be taken.

@memomuse1 I do post on Flickr & on my site & a few other places that people can see my stuff. I don’t watermark anymore & just accept fate.

@memomuse1 Not a big fan of watermarks because they detract from the pic. Flickr has some protection at least. So I roll mostly w/Flickr
@PositivePauly You are an artist Paul and I agree with you on watermarks, but I guess it is part of the dealio these days as a photographer
@memomuse1 I do post on Flickr & on my site & a few other places that people can see my stuff. I don’t watermark anymore & just accept fate.

Why does this have to be the case?  Should we just give into plagiarism and photo piracy?  I have come to the conclusion, I will make a living as a teacher, educator, and hopefully someday, as a writer.  Now, as a stay-at-home mom, I am not bringing in an income.  I do have assignments that pay as a freelance writer and photographer, but as far as my art goes, I do it because I love it.  An old friend of mine, asked me recently, “Are you making money with your art?”  I responded, “Well, it depends on what you define as making money.”  This bothered me, mostly because, it reinforced the fact I am not making money.  But that is not my incentive.  I guess what fuels me most is when someone appreciates the art in a photo or one of my blog posts moves someone enough to take extra time to comment on my blog.

I don’t really have a plan yet on what I am exactly trying to do.  Yes, it would nice if I sold some photos at my art online gallery at and yes, it would super awesome to go viral on Pinterest as the awesome cowboy and rodeo photographer lady. But the truth is, I am slowly building a platform, of real people (like you who actually read my blog) who actually like my blog because they really do like it.  I have been caught up in forcing all my work out there that is even annoys me how I am marketing myself.  Little known secret — I was an elementary and special education major in college and I have a Master’s in English (Creative Writing), so I have no idea what I am doing on the business/marketing side.  I just am feeling the intensity of the NOW of the internet and social media, especially along the lines of platform.  But I have so much to learn still.  My good friend sent me this article, which might be of help to you if you are trying to build a platform, as well.

I feel the internet makes me fall into old mind traps of how I will get discovered instantly and then I can write thank you notes to all my people. Ha.  It’s so funny, sometimes I really think I have nailed it.  Like this attempt I had last night to channel Don Draper and write copy on Pinterest to get some traffic to my Talenthouse portfolio, ultimately to get more supporters to vote for my photo of Chris LeDoux.  Ha.  I guess nobody wants my ugly mug sitting on their pretty Pinterest boards (I would have uploaded an image of an attractive cowboy, cowgirl, or horse if I could have, but Pinterest only found the image of me sitting in a barn with my typewriter on my lap).

Yep, that's Memomuse, with her typewriter and a whole lot of hay! Photo by Sara Turner

This was my advertising copy:

There’s a whole barn full of cowboys here in my portfolio at Talenthouse (click on my photo). And they all tell a story — hop in the truck and let’s take a ride to Wyoming to see the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the United States! Hell yeah, hop in and let’s put some gravel in our travels.

×Thumbnail of Megan OteriMegan Oteri
Photos of Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Chris LeDoux, JB Mauney, Clint Craig, Brian Canter, cowboys, cowgirls, and broncs and bulls, and scenic Wyoming. Black and white photos with an artistic perspective. I’d love to get your feedback, so be sure to leave a comment if you have time. Thanks for stopping by my photo ranch!So, there you have it — I am really good at photography, writing, and teaching.  Advertising and marketing — well, I think Don Draper would take pleasure in firing me.I changed the Pinterest photo and copy (my husband helped me rewrite it).  He has more sense than me.It now reads: There’s a whole lot of cowboys here at my ranch. Visit them at my portfolio at Talenthouse (click on photo). And they all tell a story — hop in the truck and let’s kick up some dust and take a ride to Wyoming to see the largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration in the United States! Let’s go to the Daddy of em’ All!And I put this photo in instead of my ugly mug!

FYI:  To make the © symbol: Press the Alt key and “0169” at the same time.  My husband helped me with that.  I do an inner “high-five” via my left brain every time I execute that simple, but at one time, completely foreign and unreachable to my right brain mind.

Photo by my Awesome husband (my #1 cowboy) © Awesome husband All Rights Reserved
Memomuse's hand - high fiving all you right brains (and left brains and whole brains)

I actually met with a literary agent at the 2011 South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, and after two rejections of my gift book, The Original Journal (see tab above if you are not familiar with that project), I decided the third pitch needed to be something else, or my ego would literally strangle me with its wounded limbs.  So, I pitched my memoir.  The agent put her business card on the table.  I had no idea what that meant, having suffered (cue ego sad music) two rejections from other agents.

She said, “My next appointment has cancelled, so do you have questions about the publishing business and process?”

I searched my mind and had one thing on my mind, “How did my pitch go?”

She smiled, she is from the Mid-West, and so down to earth and said, “I gave you my card.”

I was like, “Yeah, OK, what does that mean?”

She laughed kindly and looked me dead in the eye (this time I wasn’t about to cry like after the rejection from the last two agents), and said, “I want to see the first 30 pages.”

I think I could have hugged her.  I really wanted to.  I was on top of the world.

I have several drafts, and as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, I certainly have a shitty first draft.  And a shitty second draft.  I am working on the second two chapters. I finished the first chapter.

So I have a tangible lead — but I get caught up in the get-discovered-via-the-all-mighty-internet scheme very easily. I know it happens — Julie and Julia, the lady who makes stuffed animals from children’s illustrations, and Justin Bieber.  Granted I don’t have a YouTube channel and I don’t write about food (hell, I hardly cook) and I couldn’t sew a button on a jacket to save my life.  I write. I take photographs. I am memomuse.  That should be enough.  But I really do want to get discovered.  Fast. Like now.  But I am doing what I do and eventually it will take where I’m supposed to go.

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”
― Natalie Goldberg

And I am taking baby steps to figure out the rest, or sometimes I jump into the internet pool and Cannonball!  Sorry if I have splashed you while you were relaxing and sunbathing quietly.  I just have no idea what I am doing.

In 100 years, I want to know I gave it 100%.

Have a great weekend.  Voting starts for the photo of Chris LeDoux on Talenthouse on Monday.  I will put a link in the Monday Museletter.  I will also be posting a story about meeting Chris LeDoux at Cheyenne Frontier Days.  Those sparkly Wyoming cowboy eyes sure can make a cowgirl blush!