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Welcome to the website of author Lesley Poling-Kempes

It gives me great pleasure to speak with readers and historians about the women chronicled in my new book "Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest." The book was an adventure to research and write, and it is a privilege to bring to light the remarkable stories of women who a century ago loved and lived upon the same landscape I call home.


In 2020 "Ladies of the Canyons" was given the New Mexico Book Association's Harris Award for outstanding contribution to the understanding of the Southwest's people and cultures. 

The Museums at Ghost Ranch have opened an exhibit devoted to the remarkable lives of Carol Bishop Stanley (Ghost Ranch founder) and her friends. Photographs, letters, clothing, furniture, maps and other historic items bring the stories of the Ladies of the Canyons to life. Visit this exhibit at beautiful Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu.

My love affair with the high desert of Abiquiu and northern New Mexico began when I first came to Ghost Ranch on a family vacation as a child in the 1960s. Like my "Bone Horses" protagonist, Charlotte, I was born and raised in New York, specifically in Westchester County. I loved the wild vast empty desert and wide blue sky of the Southwest on sight. After college I moved full time into the Indio-Hispano world of Abiquiu and began to write the real and imagined stories of my adopted community.

For several decades my primary work was as a writer/historian. For my first 3 books ("The Harvey Girls," "Valley of Shining Stone," and "Ghost Ranch") I interviewed and talked with literally hundreds of old-timers all over the Southwest. I heard remarkable tales of the early days in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.

I have completed the "The Cloud Blower," the sequel to my novel "Bone Horses." With my co-writer Robert N. Singer we are nearing the completion of "Gallup," an historical novel set in WWII New Mexico.

Lesley’s work has won the Reading the West Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, the WILLA Award for both Scholarly Nonfiction and Contemporary Fiction, the Tony Hillerman Award for Fiction, and has twice been WWA Spur Award finalists. Her book about the Harvey Girls and the Santa Fe Railway, based on seventy-six interviews Lesley conducted in the early 1980s, is considered the definitive work on the subject and era in women’s history. The Harvey Girls was given the Zia Award for Excellence from the New Mexico Press Women.

Lesley's work is represented by Elizabeth Trupin-Pulli and JET Literary Associates, Inc.

The stories of the Ladies of the Canyons now featured in an exhibit at the Museums of Ghost Ranch