Writing the West at AMWA

A Collaboration with Lighthouse Writers Workshop

N. C. Wyeth, <i>The Lady Wins,</i> 1915.

N. C. Wyeth, The Lady Wins, 1915.

AMWA has partnered up with the Lighthouse Writers Workshop to offer monthly writing sessions!

At Writing the West we write within the gallery space of the beautiful Navarre Building, built in 1880, now home to the American Museum of Western Art. We respond to fun and interesting writing prompts and then read aloud what we wrote next to the paintings that inspired us. AMWA educators then give brief behind the scenes narratives of these chosen paintings and encourage questions of all sorts.

All are invited, not just writers interested in the western genre, but those feeling the need to continue the conversation of what it means to live in Denver. Also, those of us who don’t identify as writers are welcome to attend.

Date/Time Event
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Writing the West—Confidence Men
American Museum of Western Art, Denver Colorado

Writing the West – DIY Writing Prompts

Download writing prompts from previous sessions of Writing the West, and participate in this great collaboration on your own. The same prompts below are also available in the lobby of the museum.

Western Syntax

A very simple definition of syntax is: the word order of a sentence. One example of how a writer uses word order for her benefit is by having the sentence’s final word carry the most weight. (Ex: “Vini, vidi, vici.” ~Julius Caesar) But can a region possess a signature syntax? 

Download DIY Writing Prompt


Frontier Myths

Take a few minutes to look around the Museum. Choose a painting that catches your eye. Without looking at its title or who painted it or when, write a list of slogans you believe most captures the painting’s essence. 

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Hidden Symbols

In this painting we are witness to a sea of life. Hays was a known documentarian, so we can trust the accuracy of the depiction of the massiveness of this herd. Yet, amidst all this life we are forced to deal with a lone buffalo skull. Its symbol cannot be denied: death.

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Parlors and Tunnels

Visit one of the Museum’s three Victorian parlors and observe its contents. Traditionally, the Victorian parlor was a space dedicated to a property owner’s worldliness. It was filled with curiosities, international oddities, exotic book collections, and more. Write a scene describing a character’s parlor. What’s in it? Books and bird skulls, astrolabes and fine furniture? What’s its mood? Brooding, erudite, celebratory? What do we learn about this character through the story of his or her parlor? 

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Progress & Protest 

 Look at the image of Jessy Bushyhead and consider how Native Americans were asked/told/forced to assimilate to American customs. Then, turn that same lens inward and look at how you are asked/told/forced to assimilate to the West. Is it through the media, laws, food, clothing, religion, transportation, war? Is there a Way of the West? If so, do you subscribe to it?

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 Western Color Palette

 Think about the colors you’ve witnessed as being most prevalent in the Mountain West, Southwest, or West Coast and create a color palette of one of these regions. Then, pick a painting whose subject matter looks to be from the same region. Is its color palette similar or different than what you described? Write down your observations.

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 Working the Mine

Choose a painting that strikes you in some way. Mine the painting of its details, such as colors, composition, subject matter, theme, or all of the above. If it helps, make a list of your findings. Then, use the heat of your imagination to smelt out a piece of writing from this ore. If there’s time, use the same raw materials to write another piece, only this time use a different genre, or a different form within the same genre as your delivery method. For example, if you wrote a free verse poem first, write a formal poem second, such as a sonnet or haiku. What do you notice? What happens, if anything, when you switch forms using the same material?

Download DIY Writing Prompt


Learn more about Write Denver and Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

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