Sunday, July 31, 2005

BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A HOME?: In what might be an issue for struggling writers and artists, second-home sales in Wyoming have reached a fever pitch. As recounted in a Casper Star-Tribune series by Jeffrey Jacquet, WYO is one of the hottest markets in the U.S. for so-called second homes. Wyoming’s wide-open spaces and low taxes lure people here, as well as the real-estate gold rush sweeping the West. Problem is, many people can’t afford “first homes” because “extra-home” buyers keep forcing up prices and taxes. The series raises a key issue: Are second (or third or fourth) home buyers good citizens? Sure, they pay property taxes, but do they invest time in the community, get their hands dirty in neighborhood issues and assorted good causes? And do they support the arts? Mark Obringer, a member of Jackson’s town council, says he refers to wealthy part-time residents as “modem cowboys.” He added: “They bring a lot to the community – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We wouldn’t have 173 nonprofits without them.” (Read the second part of this story on Aug. 4.)

Saturday, July 30, 2005
WWI MEMBERS INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN DENVER TRADE SHOW: Long-time Wyoming Writers, Inc., member (and WAC roster writer) John D. Nesbitt is heading up the organization’s display at the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association (MPBA) trade show in Denver Sept. 23-25. WWI members are invited to attend and promote their books. John also invites members who can’t attend to send him promotional materials to feature at the table. Those items may be postcards, bookmarks, cover flats, brochures, of flyers. You may also send sample copies of your books. Mail to John D. Nesbitt, Eastern Wyoming College, 3200 West C St., Torrington, WY 82240 or e-mail to jnesbitt@ewc.wy.edu.
Friday, July 29, 2005

KUNITZ IS 100 TODAY: Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz was born 100 years ago today in Worcester, Mass. In a New York Times interview, Kunitz said this: “You have to fight for your poems. I write my poems in the middle of the night, fairly till dawn sometimes. In the end, you are so tired, exhausted, you just jump into bed.” His new book has just been released. “The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden” is based on conversations between Kunitz and Genine Lentine, his literary assistant, and focuses on their mutual love of gardening.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

AMERICAN HORSE IS MISSING: Darla Worden wrote in “New West” about her and her husband’s July visit to artist Thom Ross’s “Battle of Little Bighorn” installation at the Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyo. Worden was impressed by the exhibit but wished that its figures weren't being sold piecemeal.If I had the money and the space (most importantly the money) I would have written a check on the spot for the entire installation. We marveled about the show's significance, and my husband commented that he wished the pieces could stay together, that a wealthy benefactor would buy them all and station them at the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in Cody. Or, perhaps the pieces could be reunited years from now at a museum exhibit.” She notes with chagrin that the figure representing Lakota leader American Horse already was missing, having been stolen when the exhibit was in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

MONTANA’S LAST BEST SLOGAN: This comes from a 7/18/05 posting on the New West Network web site out of Missoula: “Robert Struckman of the Missoulian had a great scoop yesterday on the owner of the Paws Up Ranch, David Lipson, attempting to trademark the term ‘The Last Best Place.’ Since that phrase was invented by our friend and Missoula writer Bill Kittredge, and since it's been widely used for years to describe our great state, we find it more than a little offensive that a Las Vegas businessman would attempt to usurp it for his personal commercial benefit. And we're going to try and do something about it. We're planning to mount a formal opposition to Lipson's various trademark applications for the phrase, and we'll need your support to succeed.” The phrase “The Last Best Place” became the title to a well-known anthology of Montana writers. In a 7/21/05 response to the NWN article, Kittredge disputes his role as the sole coiner of the phrase. He says it was a group effort during a gathering of writers at Chico Hot Springs.

Monday, July 25, 2005

TO NOIR OR NOT TO NOIR: Walter Kirn investigates the “noir” influences in Cormac McCarthy’s new novel, “No Country for Old Men,” in the 7/2405 New York Times Book Review (“No Country for Old Men: Texas Noir”). Here’s an excerpt: “Like classic French cooking, the best American crime fiction relies on a limited number of simple ingredients (which may be why it's so popular in France). Too much temptation. Too little wisdom. Too many weak, bad men. Too few strong, good ones. And spread over everything, freedom. Freedom and space. The freedom (perhaps illusory) to make poor choices and the space (as real as the highways) to flee their consequences -- temporarily, at least….Cormac McCarthy's ‘No Country for Old Men’ is as bracing a variation on these noir orthodoxies as any fan of the genre could expect, although his admirers may not be sure at first about quite how to take the book, which doesn't bend its genre or transcend it but determinedly straightens it back out.” Noir and anti-noir seem to be in fashion these days. Check out “Mystery Noir,” the theme for this year’s Casper College Literary Conference Oct. 1 in Casper. Your noirmaster will be James Sallis. Call 1-800-442-2963 for tickets for Sallis’s workshop.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

NEW CHILDREN’S BOOK FROM PAINTED PONY: A few months ago I wrote about John Washakie’s book, Yuse: The Bully & the Bear, published by Painted Pony, Inc., a Wind River Indian Reservation-based company. Its second children’s book is now out. Crazy Man and the Plums is by Arapaho tribal member William C’Hair. A Painted Pony news release says that the book will be distributed by Books West out of Boulder, Colo., and is being stocked at some Barnes & Noble locations (although I suggest you ask for it at your local independent bookstore). The company will publish three more books this fall. All are traditional American Indian stories told by Shoshone and Arapaho tribal members. The Wyoming Dept. of Education will distribute a copy of each book to students in some grade levels.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

HARUF’S BOOK BANNED IN VEGAS: In what may get the award for the most ironic moment in 2005, Kent Haruf’s tale of Colorado rural life has been banned in a Sin City high school. Here’s the scoop from the National Coalition Against Censorship newsletter: “Seniors at Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, must have been confused when their English teacher took away books they were still reading: Kent Haruf’s acclaimed novel, ‘Plainsong.’ At issue was a brief sexual passage. Without submitting challenges to the review to a review committee, the assistant principal ordered teacher Gerald McGee to ‘collect all the books, box them up, and put them away immediately.’ " To see what all the hubbub's about, read Haruf's book. Better yet, attend the "Reading Wyoming" session that discusses "Plainsong" on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 7 p.m., at the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette. Sponsored by the Wyoming Council for the Humanities.

Friday, July 22, 2005
“JENTEL PRESENTS” AUG. 2: Residents at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Banner will conduct readings and slide presentations at Sheridan County Library Inner Circle, 335 W. Alger, Sheridan, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6-7:30 p.m. Presenters include: Victoria Haggblom, writer from Berkeley, Calif.; artist Janet Schultz, Flagstaff, Ariz.; sculptor Raymond Ghirardo, Ithaca, N.Y.; writer David Ruekberg, Leroy, N.Y.; artist Chuck Webster, Binghamton, N.Y.; and composer and media artist Megan Roberts, Ithaca, N.Y. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments provided. FMI: Lynn Reeves, 307-737-2311.
Thursday, July 21, 2005

WYO ARTIST DOWN IN THE DUMPS: You can excuse Cheyenne writer Mark Junge for being proud of his son, Andrew. Andrew’s art career seems to be taking off now that he lives at the San Francisco Dump. Actually, he’s the artist-in-residence at the recycling center run by Norcal near the Bay Bridge. During his three-month residency, he created a 17-foot Hummer out of discarded Styrofoam. Andrew’s work will be on display at a free exhibit and reception this weekend at the center’s art studio. For the artist, a self-proclaimed “junk junkie,” scavenging at the dump was daunting. “For the first few weeks, I had a hard time actually creating anything simply because the scavenging process totally consumed me. The vast amount of rubbish produced by San Francisco contains so many shapes, textures and creative possibilities that it was initially quite overwhelming.” The program was launched in 1990 by San Francisco waste haulers who wanted to provoke people to conserve natural resources. They also wanted to give children and adults an increased appreciation for the environment and art. Junge joins more than 50 other artists who have completed residencies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

THE WRITER SON (Part III of the Tucson Chronicles): My 20-year-old son, Kevin, ate lunch with Aurelie Sheehan and me. My evil plan was to have Aurelie ply him with many compelling reasons he should enroll in college and stop futzing around with menial jobs, the kind I used to have both before, during, and after college. I also asked her about ways that 20-year-old writers like Kevin can get involved in the literary scene. She plied him with lots of details and loads of encouragement. Summer events are sparse, but readings bloom in September in local coffeehouses, indie and corporate bookstores, and on campus – at UA and Pima County Community College. Aurelie gave us directions to the UA Poetry Center, which we visited later. It’s an oasis on a sun-scorched day, and features a terrific poetry library and meeting rooms for summer classes and poetry groups. Faculty and visitors do research among the great poetry collection. The place even has a poet-in-residence during the summer. Kevin and I browsed the shelves. I settled in to read a rare book of early poems by Al Young. Then I perused a volume of contemporary Irish women poets. Kevin grabbed an anthology of Beat writers. Soon the UA will boast even more space for poetry when its new building is completed in (I think) 2007. It will add another great facility to a town/campus that already is a national literary center.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

THE (ARIZONA) WRITING LIFE (Part II of the Tucson Chronicles): Tucson is home to fine writers and scads of literary events. One of the writers is Aurelie Sheehan, who spent some years in Sheridan, Wyo. Aurelie is the author of the short-story collection “Jack Kerouac is Pregnant” and the novel, “The Anxiety of Everyday Objects.” Her new novel will be in summer 2006 or January 2007. Over lunch, I insisted summer '06 publication date would be ideal, that way she could bring it to the Wyoming BookFest in Casper. She agreed but acknowledged, somewhat faceitiously, that it's sometimes difficult to get major publishers to do your bidding. Still, she loves to travel to WYO, especially during the summer, and misses her friends and the rugged landscape. Aurelie, once the director of the Folger Shakepeare Library reading series in D.C., has a new assignment at UA: chair of the creative writing program. She called it one of the top ten programs in the country and I had no reason to disagree. The creative writing program’s web site touts its top-ten status in the 2002 edition of U.S.News & World Report’s edition of “Best Graduate Schools.” I couldn’t find the numerical ranking, so had to scroll back to the 1998 edition and there is UA at number nine, behind numero uno Iowa and number 20, cross-state rival Arizona State. My CSU M.F.A. program was rated 51 which, unfortunately, makes me a 51st-rate writer (I apologize for wasting your time!). UA alumni have written some great books. I’ve read work by Alberto Rios (featured at last year’s Casper College Literary Conference), Maud Casey, the late Agha Shahid Ali (one-time WAC fellowship judge), Tony Hoagland, Stephen Schwartz (fiction writer and head of the CSU program) and David Foster Wallace. Aurelie inquired about the University of Wyoming’s new writing program and I told her the basics. I knew that it was unrated (unfairly, in my view) by the experts at U.S. News, mainly because the first class doesn’t enter until next month. I also told her of the push by faculty and interested writers around the state to start a University of Wyoming press. WYO desperately needs more presses. A university press would be a boon to writers and scholars all around the West.

Monday, July 18, 2005

THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT (Part I of the Tucson Chronicles): We rolled into Tucson during the hottest part of the day which, in early July, comes any time between noon and sundown. In the morning, just before sunrise, the temp plunges to 83 degrees, the day’s low which is close to the average July high in my home turf of southeastern Wyoming. By 10 a.m, it's 92 in the shade; at noon it’s 100, and the thermometer keeps climbing. This is why most sensible travelers go to southern Arizona in January, or maybe March, when baseball’s spring training is in full swing and the Colorado Rockies (who train in Tucson) still have hopes of a non-losing season. We were there to visit my son Kevin and his fiancé, spending their first summer in Tucson. They work nights, sleep through much of the day’s heat. Daytime hibernation seems to be a key survival element. On July 3, we joined other nighthawks for a professional women’s softball game (Arizona Heat vs. Phoenix Flames) and fireworks display at Hi Corbett Field. On July 4, we explored Tucson and then took an evening stroll in Tucson Mountain Park, which butts up against Saguaro National Park. That night we watched the big Fourth of July fireworks display on “A” Mountain. Thousands of gawkers lined the roads and watched from the Waffle House parking lot, which is where we parked. Afterwards, we ate ice cream and went for a swim in the hotel pool, crowded with holiday revelers. That’s how I spent five days in Tucson: partially submerged in the hotel pool or fully immersed in A.C. You have to wonder how pre-A.C. residents spent their days. Probably the same way I survived my formative years in Florida without air conditioning: get a fan. One obvious difference between summers in Florida and Arizona: rain. In central Florida, afternoon thunderstorms are a daily event. It temporarily washes the air and provides a respite from the heat if not the humidity. Clouds are a rarity in Arizona, during this record-breaking year, before the midsummer monsoons blow in from Mexico.

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