KATRINA’S FURY STRIKES THE LAND OF MANY WRITERS: We passed the hat for American Red Cross hurricane relief last night at the meeting of the Laramie County Democrats. I thought more of human tragedy than partisan politics, as Katrina didn’t pass over Republican homes to get to Democrats (or vice versa). I also thought of those writers from The Deep South who have stirred my imagination. Walker Percy of Covington, La., and his character Binx Bolling in “The Moviegoer.” He sits in darkened New Orleans theatres and hopes that movie magic will somehow banish his terminal ennui. I imagined failed hotdog vendor Ignatius J. Reilly in “Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole, possibly one of fiction’s greatest creations. I conjured Anne Rice’s vampires and Tennessee Williams’ tormented characters and Faulkner in the French Quarter, Yoknapatawpha County characters swirling in his head. I thought about the poetry of Louisiana-born Yusef Komunyakaa, set in the wilds of Louisiana and Vietnam. Katrina blasted Mississippi too, decimating places featured in stories by Eudora Welty and Rick Bass. I recalled the dark comic novels of Lewis Nordan and Patricia Henley’s striving characters in “Miss Firecracker.” I think about writing colleagues all across the South, from Maureen Seaton in Miami to Wendy Rawlings in Tuscaloosa. So I tossed some money in the hat as it passed. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
BOOKFEST REPORT, PART I: As the Literature Program intern here at the Arts Council, I, Lindsey Grubbs, have been merrily and diligently performing every assignment that comes my way (as becomes someone with my youthful vigor).Most recently, my task has been compiling a report for the use of the Literary Conference Board, the members of which have begun planning for the 2006 Wyoming Book Fest, which will take place in Casper on August 10-12, 2006.I have been contacting people from book festivals around the country, including ones in California, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah and Arizona, and am now prepared to share a little taste of what I found out with you, the faithful wyolitmail reader.
Wyoming Arts Council fiction fellowship recipient Geneen Marie Haugen of Kelly and nature writer Bill Plotkin will conduct the “Wyoming Soulcraft Intensive” on Sept. 1-5 at the Animas Valley Institute in Durango, Colo.
WHAT SHOULD FRESHMEN READ?: In the latest issue of The Village Voice, Theo Schell-Lambert explores the trend among universities (mainly the Ivy League variety) to assign summer reading to incoming students. The most common trend, he writes, is to assign the same book to all freshmen, who discuss it in small groups when they get to campus. He continues: “The college summer read tends to be challenging but not overtly controversial, smart but not wonkishly academic. Several categories have emerged to satisfy those criteria: There's the Still Relevant Classic ( Antigone), Cool Classic (Frankenstein, anything by Kafka), Identity Political (Life on the Color Line, Things Fall Apart), and the Actually Worthwhile Bestseller (The Tipping Point).” This got me thinking about what book would I assign to incoming freshmen at Your Typical Western State University (YTWSU). It could represent the contemporary West (Mark Spragg, Annie Proulx, Sherman Alexie), but there are great books about bygone times (think of books by A.B. Guthrie or Willa Cather). Maybe it should approach The West as in “western civilization.” In that case, something like Antigone or The Iliad would be appropriate. Some of my favorite novels have universal themes. I think of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Song of Solomon. If you were making the decision, what book would you assign to incoming freshmen at YTWSU? Click on "comments" below.
TETON CO. LIBRARY OFFERS WORKSHOP IN SPANISH: Creative Writing Workshop in Spanish will be held Monday, Sept. 12, , at the Teton County Library in Jackson. Adults interested in poetry and writing are encouraged to participate in this ongoing monthly workshop for Spanish speakers. Cate Cabot facilitates the class, with Rod Cely as interpreter. "Exploring the Writer's Life" ongoing workshops provide a forum for creative written expression and discussion. No registration necessary. Usually runs the second Monday of every month. Cost: Free. Location: Ordway Auditorium. Contact: Margaret Thompson, 733-2164 ext. 112.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005
WHAT’S A POET LAUREATE FOR?: CSU writing prof David Milofsky asks (and somewhat answers) that question in his Aug. 14 Denver Post “Book Beat” column. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is looking for a poet laureate for the city to replace Lalo Delgado, named the city’s P.L. posthumously in 2004. It’s too bad Delgado was not named to this position while he was still alive. He was an energetic poet of the streets and barrios, and most of his work was self-published in chapbooks which he sold for five bucks. Over the years, he visited Wyoming to conduct residencies at Youth Alternatives in Cheyenne and in the state’s migrant schools. Anyway, a search committee has been impaneled and a new Denver Poet Laureate will be chosen some time this year. Milofsky notes that the state already has a laureate in CSU colleague Mary Crow. He asks: “One wonders how many poets laureate a state the size of Colorado really needs.” When Ben Jonson was named England’s Poet Laureate in 1616, pay consisted of “a butt (26 gallons) of canary wine,” says Milofsky. “This strikes me as an idea Denver could imitate, especially because we have a mayor who still owns an interest in a thriving brewpub. I can't speak for Denver's poets, but I would prefer a year's supply of pilsner to the salary they're offering.” Which is nothing, the same salary earned by WYO Poet Laureate David Romtvedt. Noting the tumultuous relationship between poets and The Powers That Be (Dryden v. British Government, Neruda v. Pinochet, Baraka v. New Jersey, etc.), Milofsky wonders where the Denver search committee will be able to agree on a candidate. He concludes: “Let's all look forward to the appointment of a new poet laureate for Denver as a means of building enthusiasm for the art in our town and giving us something new to argue about as winter comes on.”
THOMPSON CAN(N)ONIZED AT WOODY CREEK EVENT: Although it might get a bit lost in last weekend’s explosive Aug. 21 send-off, Hunter S. Thompson was first and foremost a writer. I read most of his work, right up to the 21st century sports musings and rants on ESPN’s web site. I also am pleased to see that his books have been reissued in cool new trade paperbacks. Thompson’s colleagues at last weekend's farewell event in Woody Creek, Colo. (located dangerously close to Aspen, wretched-excess capital of the USA), commented on his writing talents in a New York Times article. Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, whose early history was entwined with Thompson's early career, said that Thompson was "the DNA of Rolling Stone" and called him "one of the greatest writers of the 20th century." Douglas Brinkley, the historian and Thompson's literary executor, said that beyond Thompson's persona as an outlaw journalist, "Hunter wanted to be remembered as a writer." He called him "the Billy the Kid of American literature." (P.S.: I wish I could claim credit for it, but I stole the "canonized" pun from the NYT.)
Come to the Laramie Poetry Slam #7 on Friday, Aug. 26, , at the Trinity Coffeehouse, 113 Grand, in downtown Laramie. All poets are welcome and need to bring three original poems. As usual, no props, costumes, or musical instruments are allowed. FMI: Kris at email@example.com.
LIBRARIANS MEET IN JACKSON: The Wyoming Library Association and Mountain Plains Library Association (WLA/MPLA) 2005 joint conference will take place October 12-15 in Jackson, Wyoming. Wednesday's (Oct. 12) Author Night and Opening Night Reception, "Movie Takes: Writing For the Silver Screen" at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, will feature authors Bonnie Kreps and Charlie Craighead, Tim Sandlin, William Broyles, Jr., and Mark Spragg. Join Cody author Mark Spragg at a One Book, One Conference discussion of his memoir, “Where Rivers Change Direction.” Read the book ahead of time for the discussion on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 4 p.m., led by Hilery Walker and Kate Mutch from Natrona County Public Library in Casper.
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Friday, August 19, 2005
“BROKEBACKMOUNTAIN” SET FOR DECEMBER RELEASE: The film “BrokebackMountain,” based on an Annie Proulx story from her collection “CloseRange: Wyoming Stories,” will be released Dec. 9, according to the Focus Features web site. Here’s the film summary, co-written by the screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana: “A raw, powerful story of two young men, a Wyoming ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 sheepherding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming and form an unorthodox yet life-long bond--by turns ecstatic, bitter and conflicted.” The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger (as the two lovers) and is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Ride with the Devil,” probably the best movie ever made about the American Civil War. Strangely enough, this is the second major Hollywood film set for a fall 2005 release featuring contemporary cowboys and/or ranch hands and based on a Wyoming writer’s work. Mark Spragg’s novel “An Unfinished Life,” directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez, is due in theatres Sept. 9. Do I sense a hot new trend?
The annual Authors' Day at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas will be held on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Wyoming Products Pavilion. Get a signed copy of your favorite book by a WYO author, and then participate in the Rubber Chicken Relay at 2 p.m. and the wrap-up of the PRCA rodeo at 7. FMI: E-mail Chip Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAMBERT TEACHES IN MOAB: Former Wyomingite (and WAC fellowship winner) Page Lambert will conduct a writing workshop entitled "New Directions: In Our Lives and Our Creative Work" on Aug. 26, , at the MARC in Moab, Utah. It is open to members of Moab Poets and Writers and their guests. Fee is $10 for members, $15 for non-members.
VAN PELT EXPLORES EARHART’S WYO LEGACY: Saratoga writer Lori Van Pelt will be signing copies of her book, “Amelia Earhart: The Sky’s No Limit,” at the Storyteller, 528 Broadway, Thermopolis, on August 18, FMI: 307-864-3272. Van Pelt will also be a featured speaker at the Meeteetse Musem in Meeteetse on August 19 at , and on Saturday, August 20, during the annual trek to Kirwin. This is the site of an old mining town near the place where Amelia Earhart and her husband, George Putnam, were building a cabin at the time of her 1937 disappearance. Van Pelt also will be signing copies of her book. FMI: MeeteetseMuseum, 307-868-2423
MORE ON FELLOWSHIP WINNERS: From Lindsey Grubbs, WAC Literature Program intern: The results are in for the 2006 Creative Writing Fellowships!The three fellowship winners this year are John English, Alyson Hagy, and Geneen Marie Haugen. English is a professional non-fiction writer and has been the editor of several woodworking publications such as “Woodworker’s Journal”.He is also the author or co-author of four books and approximately 500 magazine articles.John is currently the editor of Woodezine, a monthly online magazine for woodworkers.His winning entry was, “A Terrible Beauty,” an extract from a mystery novel. Alyson Hagy, author of three short story collections and a novel, took a fellowship with her short story, “Border.”This story comes from a collection that she is currently assembling, which she says “attempts to explore conflicts that ‘haunt’ the West as images of cowboys and outlaws fade.” Geneen Marie Haugen is a “writer, wilderness explorer and guide for contemporary vision quests, and other programs designed to facilitate a more engaged relationship between the individual story and the story of the world.”This passion was clearly a driving force behind her entry, an excerpt entitled “Emergence,” which follows the daughter of a high-profile marriage in her quest for a connection with nature.In the past, Haugen has won the Neltje Blanchan Memorial Award, and her work can be found in several anthologies. The three fellowship recipients will read from their entries at the Casper College Literary Conference Oct. 1.They will read with James Sallis, the judge for the 2006 Fellowships.
SHAMELESS PROMOTION: I will join Casper folk-rock band Tom Coryell & the Incorrigibles at the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper for ARTCORE’s 2005 Music and Poetry Series finale at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 15. I'm reading "Go, Ray, Go," a story from my upcoming fiction collection. Tickets are $7. You can get a free ticket by purchasing a five-admission pass for the ARTCORE 2005-2006 season. Call 307-265-1564.
HOT TIME IN OUR NATION’S CAPITAL: The last weekend in September will be a bit crowded on the National Mall in D.C. The National Book Festival, hosted by Laura Bush, will be sharing space with a big protest against the war in Iraq. Bookfest events will be held from Sept. 24 in tents along the mall. At the same time, a protest march is schedule through downtown D.C., followed by an anti-war fair and “Operation Ceasefire” concert on the WashingtonMonument grounds. I suggest you dress sensibly in order to mix and mingle with the disparate groups thronging D.C. that day. No word yet on whether concert emcee and First Amendment champ Jello Biafra (formerly of the Dead Kennedys) will be trading quips with Bookfest panelist and political activist Lynne Cheney. That I’d love to see.
WRITER’S VOICE ANNOUNCES FALL LINE-UP: The Cheyenne Family YMCA has announced the presenters for its Writer's Voice fall reading series. On Sept. 15, Colorado fiction writer Laura Pritchett will read from her new novel, “SkyBridge.” Pritchett’s 2001 novel, “Hell’s Bottom, Colorado,” won the PEN/USA West Literary Award for Fiction. On Oct. 11, Cheyenne writer of young adult novels S.L. Rottman will read from and discuss her work. On Nov. 8, Cheyenne mystery novelist C.J. Box will read from and discuss his work. His latest Joe Pickett novel, “Out of Range,” has earned great reviews all over the world. All of these free public events are at at the YMCACommunity Center, 1426 E. Lincolnway, Cheyenne. The events are BYOB (Bring Your Own Book). Buy your copies at City News, 1722 Carey Ave. FMI: Chris Shay (a terrific wife and a colleague in the world of arts administration), 307-634-9622.
FELLOWSHIP WINNERS ANNOUNCED: Casper’s John English, Alyson Hagy of Laramie, and Geneen Marie Haugen of Kelly have been named the winners of the 2006 creative writing fellowships in fiction. They each will receive a $3,000 prize as well as a $500 honorarium to conduct a reading of their work at the Casper College Literary Conference Oct. 1, , in Casper. They will be joined on stage by fellowship judge Jim Sallis, a mystery writer in Phoenix. Sallis chose to writers for honorable mentions: Chavawn Kelley, Laramie; and Barbara Gilbert, Cheyenne. Upcoming posts will have more info on the writers and their work.
TRICKLE-DOWN COMMUNITY SUPPORT (continued from July 31 post): But writing a check to a non-profit is different than actually “showing up,” which Woody Allen once insisted is 90 percent of life. Audie Blevins, a demographer and UW professor of sociology, has studied community development issues in Pinedale and Saratoga, other areas experiencing a boom in second homes. As he told the Casper Star-Trbune: “We are finding there are substantial increases in the tax base, but with a lack of community commitment,” he said. Traditionally, second homes in WYO were owned by second or third-generation owners “with a strong commitment to the area,” Blevins said. “But the aging Baby Boomers with sizeable incomes who are not even from the state (which I believe we are seeing now) don’t have that commitment. They are in the community but not of it.” Another reason to hate Baby Boomers, at least those with means. This issue is important to the arts. New residents equal new energy in many communities. It also equals more potential funding to build places like Jackson’s new arts center. But where do the rest of us – artists and non-artists – live? Consider Forrest Neuerberg, director of the Teton County Housing Authority. He tackles housing issues every day. First, he has to commute over TetonPass from Driggs, Idaho, because he can’t afford a house in TetonCounty, where the median home price is approaching $700,000. Says Neuerberg: “It’s pretty clear it is hard for people with regular, normal jobs to live here.” Read the entire series by Jeffrey Jacquet, who’s writing his UW master’s thesis in sociology on second-home ownership in WYO.
LINE-UP SET FOR NATBOOKFEST: From the Washington Post: Novelists John Irving, Tom Wolfe and Jonathan Safran Foer are among 80 writers and artists scheduled for the fifth annual National Book Festival.... Organizers hope to draw 100,000 book lovers to the Mall during the day-long festival Sept. 24; attendance has climbed steadily since the first festival was held in 2001 with a crowd of 25,000…. The festival is “a pet project of first lady Laura Bush, a passionate reader who started a similar event in Texas when her husband was governor. She is the official hostess and suggests to the organizers which authors to invite.” Among the scheduled writers are astronaut Buzz Aldrin, biographer David McCullough, and novelist E.L. Doctorow, the renowned author of "Ragtime" and "City of God," who, according to the Post, “was nearly booed off Hofstra University's commencement podium last year for making anti-Bush statements.” Replied Doctorow: "I thought we were all supposed to speak out. Isn't that what this country is about?" Obviously he was misinformed. I have a question for NatBookFest organizers: what about including more writers from the Rocky Mountains? A quick glance of the presenter list shows New Mexico writers George R.R. Martin and Tony Hillerman and a fiction writer from Arizona, Diana Gabaldon. WYO native and UW grad Lynne Cheney is a presenter in the “teens and children” category, but her official bio says nothing about her home state. Surely not all the best writers in the U.S. of A. are based on the East Coast. (And don’t call me Shirley!)