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Q&A with author, Virginia Simmons

CCM: Did you attend college? If so, where?

VS: After attending school in New England, where regional history is pretty hard to escape, I headed west to Oberlin College, where I majored in history and discovered the fun of examining the often misleading minutiae that reveal what really happened. When I moved to Colorado in 1954, the same curiosity and tendency to pry came with me in the American West, and I also got to enjoy the great scenery and some adventures besides.


CCM: Have you ever worked as a newspaper or magazine journalist?

VS: To set the record straight, I never have been a journalist, although I worked for a newspaper and a magazine in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years as a feature writer. Those experiences were unforgettable privileges – traveling, learning and writing even in Bedouin areas and other Middle Eastern countries. The historical and travel articles I have written for newspapers, magazines and books in this part of the world have been part and parcel of the same urge to my curiosity while relating facts as truthfully as I could.


CCM: Have you always had an interest in history? If not, what prompted that interest?

VS: For five years I taught a full load of English classes – summer, spring and winter – at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and earned an MA in English. Understandably perhaps, I did no writing during those years. Other than that period, I have been doing regional history for nearly 60 years.

For a few years I was also an editor for book publishers and for the state’s history journal, still focusing on regional history. Otherwise, I was a freelance writer, mainly writing regional history and loving it, but not getting conspicuously rich and famous that way.


CCM: How many books have you published? How long have you had your “Rambler” column?

VS: My tally of titles for books and booklets is 14, all inspired by the same desire to satisfy my curiosity and hopefully that of readers. The titles started with Ute Pass, then South Park, San Luis Valley, Upper Arkansas Valley, Ute Indians, and a series of social studies books for Colorado Springs schools. The weekly newspaper column known as the “Rabbitbrush Rambler” began 36 years ago in the Valley Courier (Alamosa) when the editor invited me to try it, and I’m still doing it because I enjoy doing it.

My nonfiction writing entailed a lot of time for research and a lot of out-of-pocket expense for travel. A major publisher will pay advances and buy splashy advertising that attracts a wide audience with broad interests to make cold cash, but I never did business with them. For me, the reward has been to have small audiences who want to know what really happened, instead of sweeping myths they can’t relate to.

National magazines have published some of my articles, but I have done more writing for the regional magazine Colorado Central, whose objectives, past and present, I have supported. I also do occasional book reviews here and there.


CCM: How did you end up in Del Norte?

VS: Because of the San Luis Valley’s history and its people, its college, open space, public lands and scenery, I chose to move to Alamosa in 1979. I have also enjoyed living in the small towns of San Luis and in Del Norte.