PERSONAL: Female. Education: Earned honors degree, California State University, Sacramento. Hobbies and other interests: Volunteering for public access television and for art organizations.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—KNCO Radio, 1255 East Main, Suite A, Grass Valley, CA 95945. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Globe Pequot Press, P.O. Box 480, 246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: KNCO Radio, Grass Valley, CA, reporter, news anchor, talk show host, assignment editor, 1979—. Graphic designer, author, public speaker.
(With Chris Enss) With Great Hope: Women of theCalifornia Gold Rush, TwoDot (Helena, MT), 2000.
(With Chris Enss) Love Untamed: Romances of theOld West, TwoDot (Guilford, CT), 2002.
(With Chris Enss) Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West, Globe Pequot Press (Guilford, CT), 2003, published as Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West: A Postcard Book, in perforated postcard format, Falcon (Guilford, CT), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Radio news reporter and anchor JoAnn Chartier teamed up with screenwriter Chris Enss in 1995, and the two women have since shared their fascination with the women of the early American West through electronic media, through public speaking in period costumes, and through coauthoring books, beginning in 2000 with the publication of With Great Hope: Women of the California Gold Rush. With Great Hope tells the stories of twelve brave women who, at great risk and enduring many hardships, found or lost their fortunes during this period of American history. Included are Nevada City gambling-house owner Eleanora Dumont and gold rush diva Emma Nevada. Others are wives, often pregnant or with young children, who supported their husbands as they risked everything in search of a gold strike.
Chartier and Enss's second book, Love Untamed: Romances of the Old West, chronicles the lives and romances of thirteen nineteenth-century couples, ranging geographically from Texas to Alaska. They include the famous, such as sure-shot Annie Oakley and her devoted husband and vaudeville touring partner, Frank Butler, and the obscure, such as a fur trapper and his love who were separated for fifteen years and then rejoined after an Indian attack on her wagon train. Alaskan gold prospectors Frances and Tom Noyes, Wyoming lynching victims Cattle Kate and Jim Averill, Doc Holliday and his ornery lover Big Nose Kate, and an English preacher's daughter and her Rocky Mountain desperado heartthrob add to the comedy, angst, and fulfillment found in Love Untamed. Penelope Power, in a review for Kliatt, praised the book's photographs and sketches and the chapter-by-chapter bibliography, which she called "useful and sometimes intriguing."
Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West, also published in picture-postcard format, tells of fifteen women entertainers of varying fame who were so valuable to the mostly male audiences of the Old West that they often showered them with coins and rewarded them with bags of gold dust after a performance. Included are such famous entertainers as Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, Lillie Langtry, and Lillian Russell, as well as the beloved but obscure "gals" who performed in mining camps, rodeo arenas, and small-town saloons throughout the American West. These women "burned brightly in out-of-the-way places," according to a reviewer for Gypsyfoot. Singers and musicians, dancers, actors, equestrians, orators, and slapstick comedians kept miners, railroad workers, and homesteaders entertained throughout the nineteenth-century West. In a review for Library Journal, Roy Liebman said he found the writing "choppy and prosaic" and better for a young audience. However, he complimented the authors on their thorough research using newspaper accounts from the period.
Chartier told CA: "I like to provide information that is interesting, entertaining and potentially enlightening. When I was in school in the 1950s and 1960s there was little information on women except for glancing references to famous folks like Abigail Adams or Florence Nightingale. The school books my four children read had little more information, and it wasn't until I moved to the Gold Country of California that I found people proud of the stories of real women whose courage, practicality and dreams of a better life were remembered.
"I write on weekends and early in the morning, before going to my day job. I sit at my computer with a cup of coffee, and once I get started the coffee often gets cold and I forget to eat breakfast until I've completed what I set out to do or time runs out and I have to head for work. I write a rough draft of each chapter, put it away for a few weeks, then go back and clean it up, add or subtract information, then put it away again until it's time to turn it in, when it gets a final read (which can mean a complete re-write).
"Writing with two authors in the mix is no harder than writing alone. Each chapter is distinct and does not depend on a narrative line carrying through from beginning to end of the book. Chris Enss and I divide the names of people we will include, then each of us goes off and does the necessary research. I can't write anything until I have found newspaper stories, letters, journals or historical sketches that give me a picture of the personality of my subjects. I like to go to the places they have been, see the color of the sky, walk a street or wade in a creek to get a sense of their environment. I like to know what it cost to buy potatoes or ride the stage, even if that never makes it into the book.
"We rarely pass our chapters back and forth while writing. Because writing is a business that depends almost entirely on promotion, we meet about once a month to go over progress, share gems of information we've found and make plans for publicity, radio and television interviews and speaking engagements.
"I've been writing for newspapers, magazines and for broadcast for so long that I can't recall any real surprises about writing per se—but there are numberless surprises when searching out historical information. The biggest surprise: while researching in Montana I entered the university archives and asked for information on a nineteenth-century trapper. I filled out forms, sat down at a table and waited for a student to deliver a box, which, when opened, sent a shiver up my spine. Inside was the actual journal, covered in heavy canvas, corners bent and worn, lined pages filled with surprisingly clear handwritten accounts of that trapper's daily activities. The first entry was dated New Year's Eve, 1850.
"The economic, social and national freedoms we enjoy today are inextricably linked with the past. I hope the successes and failures of the real women we write about will remind people that the dream of a better future for our children and grandchildren can be achieved by building on the best of the past and learning from the mistakes made by our ancestors."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kliatt, November, 2002, Penelope Power, review of Love Untamed: Romances of the Old West, pp. 35-36.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Roy Liebman, review of Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West, p. 116.
New Yorker, April 24, 2000, Nicole LaPorte, review of With Great Hope: Women of the California Gold Rush, p. 48.
Gypsyfoot,http://www.gypsyfoot.com/ (October 24, 2003), "Books by JoAnn Chartier and Chris Enss."
KNCO Radio Web site,http://www.knco.com/ (February 15, 2004), "Our Local KNCO Personalities: JoAnn Chartier."