BOOKS FOR ANNOYING 13-YEAR-OLDS: Parents know that the books they like may not always be the choices of their teen-aged readers. Indiana-based Tanglewood Press publisher Peggy Tierney has been “inspired by Ursula Nordstrom's statement that she published good books for bad children. We simply want to publish books that we think kids will love, that will make them want to read and that will help them realize that books can be one of the greatest sources of entertainment." Through her previous job at the Welfare League in Washington, D.C., Tierney met Audrey Penn, known best for her New York Times bestseller The Kissing Hand. Penn wanted to publish her teen book Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove, but knew characters such as 13-year-old Stefanie could be unlikable to adults – and probably mainstream publishers. "I didn't write the book for adults. If you've ever met a 13-year old girl, they're annoying as hell," Penn said. Tierney’s press chose Penn’s book as its first. Since then, Tanglewood Press has published two more books and has been profiled in Publishers Weekly. Tierney will publish two other books this year. The press’s most recent release was It All Began With a Bean, by Katie McKy, a story about what happens when everyone passes gas at once. “I like edgy,” concludes Tierney.
AUTHOR’S DAY AT STATE FAIR: The annual Authors' Day at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas will return on Saturday, August 20, at the Wyoming Products Pavilion. Cheyenne author Chip Carlson (“Tom Horn: Blood on the Moon”) has participated for many years and says it “has always been a good venue to sell books.” Authors should e-mail Chip firstname.lastname@example.org confirm a spot at Author’s Day NO LATER THAN Friday, July 22.
SANDLIN’S “HENDRIX” SET FOR A SUMMER 2006 RELEASE: Tim Sandlin has been busy directing the activities at the 2005 Jackson Hole Writers Conference which wrapped up last weekend in Jackson. But he’s also found time recently to write a few more of his quirky novels. According to his web site, Tim’s novel Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty will be out in the summer of 2006 and another novel, Troy in Paris, will be out in the summer of 2007. Find the path to his web site by going to "Wyolinks" on this blog's main page.
ATTENTION RADIOLAND LISTENERS: Jeffe Kennedy will grill me about the Wyoming Arts Council literature program and other assorted subjects on the KOCA (93.5 FM) show “Speaking of Writing” from on Thursday, June 23. On June 30 (same time), Julianne Marie Couch will interview Julie Sellers, who teaches Spanish at UW including a course in the Telenovella.
SPOTLIGHTON PATRIOT ACT AT LIBRARY CONFAB: Thousands of librarians (including many from WYO) will be traveling to Chicago this week for the annual American Library Association conference. Panel presentations and talks about the USA PATRIOT Act will be plentiful. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will address the issue on Saturday, June 25, at 5:30 p.m. Peter Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the North District of Illinois, and Colleen Connell, ACLU of Illinois director, will debate on Monday, June 27, following an 8 a.m. screening of "Unconstitutional," a documentary about the PATRIOT Act. Librarians and dedicated readers alike already are buzzing about the ALA survey (released June 20) “demonstrating the significant impact on the public of federal law enforcement activity in America's libraries. Based on the survey findings, ALA believes that public anxiety and librarian concern over law enforcement activity in libraries is justified.” More than a hundred authors will participate in the conference, including David Sedaris, Seymour Hersh, Ted Kooser, Francesca Lia Block, Cynthia Kadohata, and Kadir Nelson. Special guest will be librarian action figure model and "Book Lust" author Nancy Pearl.
COUTURIER TO JUDGE BLANCHAN/DOUBLEDAY COMPETITION (CONT.): Growing up in Boston, Lisa Couturier loved the outdoors. Her parents and siblings teased her about her affinity for animals, especially sick or injured ones. “Early on I knew about the intense relationships that develop between people and animals that need something,” she said. Another childhood influence was odd, consider that she’s spent most of her career as a writer or editor. “I’m a childhood survivor of not being read to,” she said. Her home lacked books so she had to depend on the school and the local library to meet her reading needs. But she did have a Irish-Catholic grandfather who loved to tell stories. “We all were storytellers,” she remembered. After college, Couturier worked as a New York City-based environmental writer and as a magazine editor. Writing assignments took her all over South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Her work has been featured in the American Nature Writing series, National Geographic’s Heart of a Nation: Writers and Photographers Inspired by the American Landscape, and in the New York Zoological Society’s Wildlife Conservation magazine. She’s written articles for E: The Environmental Magazine;Orion magazine; Isotope: A Magazine of Literary Science and Nature Writing; andTiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature. For full bio, go to her web site.
URBAN NATURE WRITER TO JUDGE BLANCHAN/DOUBLEDAY COMPETITION: Lisa Couturier grew up in Boston, worked 15 years in New York City, and now lives inside the D.C. Beltway. You might find it odd that this denizen of the country's most densely-populated urban corridor is a nature writer. She doesn't. “Stories of animals, rivers, and landscapes are also about people,” Couturier said in a talk May 21 at The Literary Connection in Cheyenne, Wyo. Her observations of animal-human intersections are featured in her book, “The Hopes of Snakes: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape.” Although most of her neighbors in Bethesda, Maryland, seem to be too busy to notice wildlife, Couturier makes it her business. She ruminates on the differences between the dining habits of local vultures and eagles. “Vultures are like us – they eat what’s been around for a few days – and eagles kill and eat,” she said. After sighting a coyote in the area, she noted: “The eastern coyote is returning – they’re inching their way to the White House.” Couturier writes in her suburban studio. Her PC shares space with hundreds of animal artifacts: antlers, nests, and a falcon pellet in a glass box. Her other studio is the outdoors, where she spends a lot of time along the Potomac River and the RockCreekPark system. To be continued....
HOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLER: First, it helps if you ARE NOT a writer. My advice – become a hostage or a runaway bride. Hostage Ashley Smith and “runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks each recently received $500,000 advances for “story rights.” Smith’s book, Unlikely Angel (HarperCollins) will reveal the dramatic details when the 26-year-old windowed mother was held hostage by Atlanta courthouse shooter Brian Nichols (sample dialogue: “Don’t move or I’ll shoot.” “O.K.”). No word yet on whether Nichols has signed a book contract. A HarperCollins imprint also is negotiating rights to Wilbanks’ story. The 32-year-old nurse bugged out on the eve of her lavish wedding. Rumors run rampant that the jilted groom and each of the 600 jilted guests are planning their own books. Needless to say, the stories of the hostage and the bride will be movies and/or TV docudramas. Demand is increasing for these tell-all books, says Stephen Beer, an entertainment attorney who represents Britney Spears. “The demand is unprecedented,” he told AP. “We’re living in this media culture where general audiences crave personal stories of people who once were like them but now … are thrust into the public eye.” The lesson to writers is clear. If you want to get published NOW, thrust yourself into the public eye, preferably in an unpredictable or pointless manner. Forget about spending all that time and loving effort on your work. That’s for suckers.
THE PLAGUE YEARS REVISITED: Most of us pre-geezer Baby Boomers remember waiting in line in the 1950s for Jonas Salk's polio shots or, later on, Dr. Sabin's vaccine-laced sugar cubes. Our aged parents recall the polio panics in the 1940s and 1950s. A child might arrive home complaining of a stiff neck or sore legs. This once-lively child could be paralyzed and bed-ridden days later, dead by the end of the week. Polio outbreaks arrived in summer, and affected the middle-class kids as much as – sometimes more than – the kids who lived on the other side of the tracks.David M. Oshinsky revisits those not-so-good-old-days in Polio: An American Story. An odd, but fascinating, choice for summer reading. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, a private non-profit formed in the 1930s with President Roosevelt’s help, initiated the race for a polio cure. The Foundation invented relentless fund-raising in The March of Dimes, techniques that have since been expanded into modern-day media extravaganzas such as the 24-hour MDA Telethon. Unassuming guys in lab coats, medical “nerds,” were thrust into the media spotlight. The book excels in recounting the cutthroat race for the polio cure. There are grisly tales of experiments on monkeys, and then on unsuspecting institutionalized children. Oshinsky recounts how the fears about polio fed into the greater Cold War paranoia. The National Foundation conducted the first massive human tests of the Salk killed-virus vaccine in spring 1954. Media excitement about the vaccinations edged out other major stories: the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling on civil rights, the Army-McCarthy witch trials, and the fall of Dien Bien Phu. National Foundation Director Basil O’Connor insisted the human tests be conducted without U.S. Government funding which he said was part of a “Communistic, un-American…scheme.” Typical fifties rhetoric. But all part of Oshinsky's all-American tale. The Bookslut site has a less flattering review. Oshinksy's publisher is Oxford University Press. QUESTION: What are you reading this summer? Thrillers? Sprawling epics? Disease tales? Poetry? Big-fat-novels for beach reading? Let me know and I’ll make an unscientific wyolitmail summer reading list.
HOUSE VOTES FOR "READER-FRIENDLY" PATRIOT ACT: On June 15, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block a provision of the USA Patriot Act that makes it easier for federal investigators to review the records of libraries and bookstores on national security grounds. Read article from NY Times.
PERFORMANCE POETRY WORKSHOP SET FOR CHEYENNE: Attention Homes, Inc., invites language arts teachers to sign up now for “The Diverse Voices of Poetry,” a celebration and exploration of performance poetry (a.k.a. spoken-word or slam poetry). Dates are Oct. 13-14 at Cheyenne’s Atlas Theatre, 211 W. 16th St. It includes a two-day workshop with Jack Collom and Akila Oliver from NaropaUniversity, Boulder, Colo., and George Lee Miles, performance poet, teacher, and actor from New York City. These guest writers will read their own work and preside over the slam at the end of the two-day event. Workshop will be free and open to the public. Tickets will be sold to the Friday evening performance. FMI: Megan Oteri, 307-433-8179; Gail Pacheco, Attention Homes, 307-778-7832; or e-mail me at email@example.com.
FINALLY – AN IPOD-FRIENDLY “ULYSSES:” On the eve of Bloomsday comes this news from The Independent in the UK: “Sales of audio books for beach and poolside are soaring and the UK publishing industry is about to be hit by the same revolution that has overhauled the music world - the iPod-friendly download. Best-selling writers such as Dan Brown, Bill Bryson and even James Joyce have proved to be a hit for the bookworm who prefers not to lift a finger on their hols - even to turn a page….The audio market is now worth more than 70-million pounds annually and continues to expand thanks to increased demand in the summer months.” My question: what’s a “hols?” Read full article here.
WRITE ON THE RIVER WITH PAGE: Here’s some hot news from Wyoming Writers, Inc.: If you didn't make it to this year’s WWI conference (June 3-5), you didn't miss out on the chance to bid on the writing trip of a lifetime! Page Lambert is pleased to announce that Bonnie Sargent has donated another River Writing Journey for silent auction to benefit Wyoming Writers, Inc. Bonnie is graciously donating not only the $940 cost of the trip (professionally outfitted by Sheri Griffith River Expeditions), but also is donating airfare and two night's lodging.The entire proceeds from the high bid for this trip go to Wyoming Writers, Inc. This five-day, women-only rafting and writing trip through WestwaterCanyon is Aug. 8-12, departing from Moab, Utah. Enjoy an outdoor adventure while exploring the creativity of your own inner landscape -- all under the mentorship of Page Lambert, author of “In Search of Kinship” and “Shifting Stars.” Bids will be accepted through June 19 by Andi Hummel, 307-467-5697.
MATTER SEEKS SUBMISSIONS: Matter Journal, published by Wolverine Farm Publishing in Fort Collins, Colo., seeks submissions for “Issue 07: Patterns,” due out in November. Matter is produced twice a year to "bring together new and emerging writers and artists from along the Front Range in Colorado and Wyoming, in addition to providing a forum for established writers to experiment with themes integrating art, activism, social movements and critiques, and natural history. Seeking fluency between the written word and visual images." All submissions fore Issue 07 are due by September 1. Get full guidelines here.
IT’S POETRY, NOT THERAPY: It’s always a pleasure to announce a successful grant in front of an appreciative crowd. On June 2, I went to the Attention Home, Inc., facility with WAC’s new intern, Rebecca Brazzale. The focus of the trip was a poetry slam staged by the teen residents, supervised by writer/teacher Megan Oteri. Teachers, administrators, and residents crowded into the community room to hear some fine work by April, Stephen, Josey, and other teens who, thus far, have led tangled and traumatic lives. During an intermission, I took the mike to announce a successful $1,495 WAC grant (written by Oteri) to bring three spoken-word artists to Attention Home in October for workshops and readings. I also thanked the writers for sharing their work. I’ve conducted a writing workshop at Attention Home and worked with these kids. I’ve also been a judge at several of their slams. They’re getting better every time, and I told them so. As I sat back in the audience, I remembered some words of wisdom from poet Jane Wohl. She said she approaches workshops with at-risk teens the same way she approaches any group of aspiring poets. It’s poetry, not therapy, she says. If it has a therapeutic effect, that’s fine. Her goal is to help kids find their voices. My goal, too.
RAP THE CASBAH: Johnny (Snap) Batista and Richard (Ten Gram) Bachellor patrol Baghdad with a unit of the U.S. Marine Antiterrorism Battalion. They are working with a gunnery sergeant in Baghdad to record a CD of their combat raps. Here’s an excerpt: I'm a pit bull at night, I'm out to gitcha Devil Dog mentality bitin' whoever's witcha I taste blood, I'm tired of marchin' in the mud I throw down my 9 and now I'm pumpin' slugs. “Rap is becoming the pulse of the Iraq war, as the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were for Vietnam,” says an article in the current Newsweek. Reporters Scott Johnson and Eve Conant note that the big difference is that new technology allows G.I. rappers to cut CDs on site, and then sell them on the Internet. Neal Saunders, a First Cav sergeant, tacked up a tarpaper shack in Iraq, soundproofed it with mattress pads, and recorded “Live from Iraq” featuring the 4th25 (“fourth quarter”) rappers from his unit. Watch the video now.
AND ON THE POETRY FRONT: A few weeks back, I wrote about poet and Iraq vet Brian Turner, whose book, "Here, Bullet," will be released in November by risk-taking publishers Alice James Books. He wrote the book during a year-long tour with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Here is an excerpt from Turner's poem “A Soldier’s Arabic:” This is a language made of blood. It is made of sand, and time. To be spoken, it must be earned. Turner has an M.F.A. in poetry from University of Oregon. Read excerpts at Voices in Wartime. Wyolitmailers know of any other Iraq vet books -- poetry, prose, creative nonfiction?
FILM SET FOR SEPTEMBER RELEASE: “An Unfinished Life,” the oft-delayed movie from Miramax based on Mark Spragg’s novel of the same name, will hit theaters Sept. 9. He and his wife, Virginia, wrote the screenplay together while Mark was writing the novel. “It was an interesting experiment to see if we could advance the narrative in another medium,” Mark said at during a talk at the Literary Connection conference in Cheyenne May 21. Spragg, who lives in Cody, praised director Lasse Hallstrom. “It’s like working with a theatre director,” he said. “He’s very attentive to the written word.” Hallstrom kept them involved in the process, even calling them at home to consult on script changes. The Swedish-born director may be best-known for his 2001 film “The Shipping News,” also based on a Wyoming author’s (Annie Proulx) book. He also directed “My Life as a Dog,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules,” and “Chocolat.” The Spraggs visited film sets in British Columbia (standing in for WYO) and met the lead actors, including Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez. Listen to the book on CD, narrated by Tony Amendola and Judith Marx, as you travel this summer. Its seven-hour length is just about perfect for that drive from Cheyenne to Cody’s Park Co. Library, Mark’s favorite childhood hangout. Check out a copy from your local library.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005
: I don’t write much poetry (it’s too hard!) but I read it and appreciate it at readings and other presentations. I attended Kenneth W. Brewer’s workshop on the creative process at the Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference in Cheyenne June 4. Ken, Utah’s poet laureate, discussed in-depth the writing of a new poem entitled “.” He says he wrote it in “a Brewer form, kind of like a sonnet.” His original inspiration for the poem came from the fact that “in the 1880s, when you traveled by train from D.C. to San Francisco, you would go through 200 time zones.” And there was no consistency. It could be at one spot, at the next, then at the one after that. The advent of the telegraph helped the U.S. create standardized time, which removed some of the guesswork from train travel. Brewer combined that info with his fascination with his railroader grandfathers’ pocket-watch with the sighting in his backyard of a cat-faced spider to create “.” “When I have a poem going, everything I experienced gets synthesized into it,” he says. Brewer then read the poem, holding his journal in his left hand, his right hand gesticulating like an orchestra conductor’s. To read some Brewer poems, buy his collection, Sum of Accidents: New and Selected Poems, or read a few online at the Utah Arts Council site. Ken travels to the Utah Valley State College conference in Orem June 9-11.
SPEAKING OF WRITING: From Juliane Marie Couch in Laramie: “Some folks might like to know about a radio program in Laramie called “Speaking of Writing.” It is broadcast from a low-power community radio station, KOCA LP 93.5 FM, which can be heard in Laramie and the Laramie Valley. "Speaking of Writing" has been broadcast weekly since January. It is sponsored in part by UW English department's creative writing program, but was actually dreamed up by a few people in town interested in writers and radio. Our guests have ranged from nationally and internationally known writers who come to UW as guest writers (Gerard Donovan, Emily Fox Gordon), to statewide and local writers who've made a name for themselves (Rick Maturi, Chavawn Kelly). Everyone we have on the program is a published writer, although we'll probably do some shows this summer featuring young Laramie writers. Program hosts are Jeffe Kennedy, Suzanne Bopp, and myself. is a bilingual community radio station offering mostly satellite programming through Radio Bilingue. It also offers some local programming, mostly music, but some talk shows like “Speaking of Writing.” The show airs each Thursday from Any of your readers passing through town might give it a listen. Anyone wishing to appear as a guest on the program, chat about writing, and do a little reading, could contact us. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org. EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeffe Kennedy will interview me June 23 on “Speaking of Writing.”
NEWS (THUS FAR) FROM WYOMING WRITERS, INC. , CONFERENCE: When the emergency sirens blared Friday night about 10:30, writers at the conference's open mike reading thought this was the signal they had gone on way too long. They were relieved to learn it merely signalled a flash-flood warning that could sweep them into the raging torrents of Cheyenne's Dry Creek. Duly warned, the writers carried on. On Saturday, relieved that the Plains Hotel still stood, about 80 conferees gathered for breakfast and a WWI membership meeting. John Beach said farewell as president and Cheyenne's Barbara Wild, a new member, was voted head of the statewide writers' org that boasts more than 100 members. Bob Townsend, who did such a smashing job as co-editor of the 2005 Owen Wister Review at UW, signed on as V.P. The 2006 conference will be held in Rock Springs and in 2007, WWI heads to Thermopolis. Writers and editors held presentations all day and, at lunch, the annual writing award winners were announced. More conference news to come....
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Friday, June 03, 2005
CHANGES IN PLATITUDES, CHANGES IN ATTITUDES: Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt had some new things to say about platitudes at the University of Wyoming/Casper College Center’s recent commencement ceremony. According to a UW press release: “Romtvedt discussed the usual platitudes that are typically offered at commencement: do your best and treat others with respect. Although platitudes are true and useful, he claimed that they are usually tuned out because they have been heard so often. According to Romtvedt, platitudes need fresh new language so that the idea is viewed from a new angle. "I just wanted to try and give a commencement talk that would give people something useful to think about, that might be mildly memorable, that might help them to stay awake and celebrate the event." So Romtvedt offered platitudes with "fresh new language" and advised the students to "hang tight to the places you come from" and to "find out who you are and be that person." Romtvedt included the graduates in a rhythm exercise, where they drummed their hands on their thighs, clapped their hands together and tapped their feet while Romtvedt played a melody on the accordion. He said that the experiment in rhythm was what 19th-century poet John Keats called negative capability, a necessary skill for a poet. The activity showed how "a person (can) hold two conflicting views in the mind without the need to resolve the conflict, without the need to reject one and embrace the others. I think it's a necessary skill for one to be a full human being, too," Romtvedt explained.
THE MERITOCRACY MARCHES ON: As my son closed in on college age, I warned him about the super-competitive application process. I sometimes joked: “I doubt if my alma mater, HumongousFloridaUniversity, would admit me now.” Not so funny. A report in the New York Times continuing series “Class Matters” says this: “Colleges have come to reinforce many of the advantages of birth. On campuses that enroll poorer students, graduation rates are often low. And at institutions where nearly everyone graduates -- small colleges like Colgate, major state institutions like the University of Coloradoand elite private universities like Stanford-- more students today come from the top of the nation's income ladder than they did two decades ago.” My son is planning for two years at a community college. Which may help him avoid being one of these statistics: “Only 41 percent of low-income students entering a four-year college managed to graduate within five years, the Department of Education found in a study last year, but 66 percent of high-income students did. That gap had grown over recent years. ‘We need to recognize that the most serious domestic problem in the United States today is the widening gap between the children of the rich and the children of the poor,’ Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard, said last year when announcing that Harvard would give full scholarships to all its lowest-income students. ‘And education is the most powerful weapon we have to address that problem.’ “ Fine. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the grades or the dough to get in.