Lori Van Pelt is an award-winning poet, nonfiction and fiction writer. A Western Writers of America Spur Award winner and three-time Spur finalist, she served for a number of years as the assistant editor of WyoHistory.org, the online encyclopedia of Wyoming history. She began writing in high school and was fortunate to have an excellent and encouraging English teacher at Banner County High School who championed her work, Beverley Edens. Mrs. Edens sent one of Lori’s poems to the National Poetry Press without telling her. One day, she came to class, opened a book, and read Lori’s poem aloud. Mrs. Edens continues to support her former student’s efforts and remains one of Lori’s dearest friends.
Lori was reared on a wheat farm/cattle ranch in Banner County, Nebraska. She worked in the banking industry for about a decade and then moved to Laramie, Wyoming, to attend the University of Wyoming, where she earned her bachelor's degree in finance, with honors, in 1993. She moved to Saratoga, Wyoming, and worked as a staff writer for the Saratoga Sun for about a year.
She became a full-time freelancer in 1994. She is the author of Amelia Earhart: The Sky’s No Limit (Forge, American Heroes series, 2005), named to the New York Public Library’s “Best Books for the Teen Age 2006” list and re-released in trade paperback. She is also the author of the Wyoming-based Dreamers and Schemers historical nonfiction series published by High Plains Press. Her award-winning nonfiction articles have appeared in a variety of national and regional publications, including WyoHistory.org, The Writer, the WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News), WWA’s Roundup, True West, and Aviation History.
Her short fiction has been published in a number of national anthologies, and the lead story in her own collection, Pecker’s Revenge and Other Stories from the Frontier’s Edge (University of New Mexico Press, 2005) won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Short Fiction in 2006. Her short story "The Day Delgado Rode In," published in Outlaws and Lawmen (La Frontera Publishing, 2013), was named a WWA Spur Award Finalist for Best Western Short Fiction, and her short story, “The Wild-Eyed Witness,” published in the anthology Lost Trails (Pinnacle, 2007), also earned recognition as a Spur Finalist for Best Western Short Fiction. Her short story, “River Watch,” first published in the anthology, American West, edited by Loren D. Estleman (Forge, 2001) and later included in Lori’s own collection, was one of eight contemporary westerns selected from a field of 100 for the Great Writers Series, sponsored by The Met Theatre, the Autry Museum, and Word Theater. Actress Wendie Malick read Lori’s tale for the event held in Los Angeles in June 2004 at the Autry Museum.
Lori was featured in the television documentary series, Cowboys and Outlaws, which aired on The History Channel in late November, 2009. She demonstrated how cattle are cared for in the present day, and discussed the severe winter of 1886-1887, also known as “The Great Die-Off,” and the hanging of Cattle Kate for cattle rustling in Wyoming Territory. Filming for this episode took place on the Walck Ranch near Saratoga, Wyoming.
She acted in a non-speaking role as a member of the ill-fated wagon train in “Investigating History: Mountain Massacre” (DVD 2011). She was interviewed on-camera in 2014 for the C-SPAN Book TV Cities Tour in Cheyenne, Wyoming, discussing her book, Capital Characters of Old Cheyenne (High Plains Press, 2005). She has recently shared information about her WyoHistory.org articles, appearing in August 2018 on Sirius XM Radio on Road Dog Trucking "Dave Nemo Weekends," broadcast throughout the U.S. and Canada. Lori was also interviewed on-camera for a program in 2019 on ARTE-TV Invitation au Voyage, hosted by Emmanuelle Menage.
In addition, Lori is a recipient of a 2010 Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the Wyoming Arts Council. She is an active member of WWA. Lori loves to sing and often performs locally both as a soloist and in concert with local community choirs. She also plays the flute. She currently lives in South Dakota.
Photo by Johnny D. Boggs
Photo by Candy Moulton
Photo by Candy Moulton