Thursday, September 29, 2005

YOU MUST BE KIDDING: I did a double-take when I saw the submission fee charged by the Virginia Kirkus Literary Award: $150. First I thought it was a typo but checked two pages on the contest’s web site and there it was again: $150. Kirkus Reviews launched the annual award “to discover the best unpublished first novel or story collection.” Apparently it also launched it to discover new ways to rake in the dough for parent company VNU Media. Granted, Kirkus Reviews is a good publication and provides a real service for writers, publishers, and booksellers. But this big company can’t charge a reasonable fee to read manuscripts for its contest? I have heard of reading or submission fees up to $25. When I submit my stuff to contests, I usually draw the line at anything more than $15. What about you? The press release advised writers to “send all questions and comments" to them. I believe I will. In the interest of fair play, I have to say that the Wyoming Arts Council charges no reading fee for its two annual writing competitions. State and federal government funding offsets the cost for judges, printing costs, etc. I administer the contests and my salary is paid through our general budget. In this way, we have an advantage over a for-profit company such as Kirkus. While reading fees by little magazines and small presses have risen, you can still send your prose to places such as the New Millennium Writing Awards for $17 per story and take a chance on the publication's $1,000 first prize in fiction. Deadline is Nov. 17.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BOX'S MYSTERY MAN LIVES ON: Cheyenne mystery writer C.J. Box has announced that a new two-book deal was recently negotiated with G.P. Putnam's Sons for additional Joe Pickett novels in the series. This means there will be new Joe Pickett novels (eight in all) through 2008. The most recent book in the series, Out of Range, was released by Putnam in May 2005.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"CALENDAR GIRLS,” BIG TIMBER VERSION: Gwen Petersen, cowboy poet and long-time attendee at Wyoming Writers, Inc., conferences, has come up with a unique way to get attention and raise funds for a new arts center in Big Timber, Mont. She is one of the “wild women” behind the 2006 calendar I See By Your Outfit: A Toast to all Wild Women. Riverbend Publishing describes it this way: "This over-the-top, over-sized calendar presents real western women in real western scenes, but like nothing you've ever seen. These ridin' and ropin' ladies put ‘The Calendar Girls’ of Rylstone to shame, and all for a good cause: a Creative Arts and Visual Center in Big Timber, Montana. The photos are more fun than naughty, and each month features original humorous verses by the queen of western poetry, Gwen Petersen, author of Ranch Woman's Manual and one of the presenters from the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1986.”

AND WHAT ABOUT “CALENDAR BOYS?”: Rumors are circulating about a risque new 2006 calendar in Casper that features, among others, an unclothed Mike Sullivan (you may remember him as WYO governor way back when) and a strategically placed canoe. Any truth to these rumors? Sounds like the perfect Christmas gift.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

FOR WRITERS WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND A PUBLISHER: This great quote comes from a 9/25/05 New York Times article about the self-publishing capabilities of the Internet: "A. J. Liebling famously commented that freedom of the press belongs to those who own one," said Mike Godwin, legal director of Public Knowledge, a First Amendment group. "Well, we all own one now."

Saturday, September 24, 2005
Mystery writer James Sallis will conduct a master class, “Telling Good Lies: Where Fiction Comes From,” on Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m.-noon, at the Casper College Literary Conference, Casper. Fee is $25 for students, $40 for non-students. From 1:30-3:30 p.m., Sallis will join WAC fiction fellowship winners Geneen Marie Haugen, Alyson Hagy, and John English for a free reading. Reception will follow. FMI: 1-800-442-2963, ext. 2639. Here's a timely excerpt from Sallis's Eye of the Cricket spoken by New Orleans private eye Lew Griffin: “The storm came in over the lake, bowing the shaggy heads of young trees and snapping branches off the old, blowing out of Metairie where the white folks live. In my own back yard a hundred-year-old water oak at last gave in, splitting in half as though a broadsword had struck it, opening like a book.”
Friday, September 23, 2005

WHO WINS THE GRADUATION BOWL?: During my recuperation from knee surgery, I read a lot and, when brain fatigue seeped in, switched on the TV and cycled through 500-plus channels. I was all set to watch the Florida-Wyoming football game on Sept. 3. I figured one of my many pay channels would carry the game (for a price). But I was wrong, so switched to football on radio. As I listened, I wondered how it came to pass that I have connections to both University of Florida and Wyoming. I graduated from UF in 1976 and have taught at UW and attended scores of campus events. As the score that day grew increasingly lopsided in favor of the huge SEC school where football is king, I began to wonder how UF and UW would compare in non-gridiron areas, such as athlete graduation rates, teacher-student ratio, creative writing programs, university presses, etc. I need to begin planning a four-year UW stint for my daughter, a WYO native. A few days later, roaming around on the web, I discovered to my horror that University of Nebraska graduated more football players than either Florida and Wyoming. How could this be? I knew NU had a respected creative writing program, the terrific University of Nebraska Press, and a top-notch litmag in Prairie Schooner. And the NU English Dept. office is marked by a plaque dedicated to Willa Cather. Were all the Husker linemen honing their learning skills through poetry workshops? Not bloody likely, but a majority of those linemen are going to class and getting diplomas. Both Nebraska and Colorado were recognized in August for reaching the 70 percent graduation rate, well above the NCAA’s average graduation rate for football players of 54 percent. Penn State has an 87 percent graduation rate, one of the best in the U.S. But Duke and Northwestern graduate 100 percent of their players. Here’s the bad news. Florida’s rate is a whopping 44 percent, according to figures compiled by the NCAA for athletes entering in the 97-98 academic year. Wyoming’s rate is 56 percent, a few ticks above the national average. So, on academic grounds, the Cowboys won their 2005 match-up with UF by 12 points. They should flash graduation rates on the scoreboard during games. This wouldn't be popular with most alums, who seem more interested in football prowess that academic achievement. On any given Saturday, you can include me in those ranks. On Mondays, I usually regain my perspective. The sordid state of college athletics was recently discussed by Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen. On 9/12/05 he wrote: “I'm one of those liberal-arts weenies who believe that big-time college football, even if it were run in perfect conformance to all known rules, is inherently corrupt and a perversion of a university's mission… I've heard too many interviews with college-grad athletes who cannot speak anything close to grammatical English. Football may be a fine sport. So put the training leagues somewhere else, and quit prostituting our universities with it.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF: We know that chain bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders have spent the past decade trying to take over the world. They haven't succeeded -- Wal-Mart beat them to it. But the main criticism I have about chain stores is that their staffers don’t know books. A gross generalization, to be sure, but that’s been my experience. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a book person like Jason Cooper making some changes at the B&N in Cheyenne, thus far the only one of its kind in the state. The UW grad and teacher at the annual Young Writers Camp held in Story, Jason sent this communiqué from the book-selling front: “I thought it might interest you to know that I -- as the head of the bargain department at Barnes & Noble -- have set up a new table in the store that sets the literary titles in bargain fiction apart from the pop titles. When you walk into the store & down the main center aisle, turn left into the second center aisle (the one that leads down toward the restrooms) & you'll see a table with a sign on it that reads LITERATURE AT BARGAIN PRICES. On that table (which shall be, I believe, a permanent fixture, with titles rotating on & off it as new books come in), at the moment, are books by Zadie Smith (Booker Prize-nominee), AS Byatt (Booker Prize-winner), Peter Carey (two-time Booker Prize-winner), LP Hartley, Douglas Coupland, Rose Tremain (Booker Prize-nominee)….as well books about books, books about the act of reading, biographical works on Ted Hughes & the Beats, etc. And all of them bargain-priced. In the near future, there may (if we get our way in the ordering process) be titles from Virginia Woolf, Andrea Barrett, Monica Ali, Mark Spragg, Annie Proulx, Graham Greene, Kent Haruf, a bio of Ralph Ellison & lots of others....Let your literary friends know, as well, that there's now a bargain table fixture in our local Barnes & Noble with the finest in world literature.” The store is located at 1851 Dell Range Blvd. in Cheyenne, sandwiched between Red Lobster and the new sushi place. Call 307-632-3000.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Wyoming authors will disperse to neighboring states this week for book festivals and other events. Here are some highlights:
Saratoga author Lori Van Pelt will be signing copies of her new book, Pecker's Revenge and Other Stories from the Frontier's Edge (University of New Mexico Press), on Thursday, Sept. 22, 6-8 p.m., at Copperfield Books in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Richard Maturi of Laramie County is a featured author at the South Dakota Festival of the Book in Deadwood, S.D., Sept. 23-25. Maturi will speak about his book, Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga. Sande was born in Groton, S.D., and was the jockey who won the Triple Crown in 1930 on Gallant Fox.
Publisher and rancher Nancy Curtis of Glendo will feature books by High Plains Press at the Mountains and Plains Booksellers fall trade show at the Marriott Denver Tech Center, 4900 S. Syracuse in Denver Sept. 22-25. New books by HPP include Beasts in Snow by poet Jane Wohl of Sheridan and The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand by Jerred Metz.
A Montana Book Festival panel entitled “Tough Guys,” featuring mystery writers James Crumley, James Lee Burke, Neil McMahon, Craig Johnson of Ucross, and Cheyenne’s C.J. Box, will be held 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Holiday Inn Parkside in Missoula.
Friday, September 16, 2005

“NUNS’ SIGHS” ON THE MENU IN NEW COOKBOOK: The recipe for Buñuelos, o Suspiros de Monjas (Puffy Fritters, or Nuns' Sighs) is one of 300 offered in the new book “Encarnación's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California,” edited and translated by L.A. librarian and food writer Dan Strehl. Strehl has taken selections from Encarnación Pinedo's “El cocinero español.” It was first published in 1898 in San Francisco and is recognized as the first cookbook ever written by a Latino in the U.S. Latina magazine calls it “a fascinating testament to the lost culture of the Californios and a precursor of fusion culture. . . .Originally dedicated to her six nieces, this book is now [Pinedo's] gift to 21st century Latinas." Pinedo included tips on preparing Basque, Spanish, and Mexican cuisine. Some are variations on traditional dishes, such as chilaquiles, chiles rellenos, and salsa (she offers 15 versions) and even some Anglo favorites, such as ham and eggs (she labels it "huevos hipócritas"). The book is $24.95 from the University of California Press. Happy Mexican Independence Day!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, HIDDEN DRAGON: From the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) web site Sept. 11: Brokeback Mountain won the Golden Lion for top film at the Venice Film Festival Saturday, beating 19 other films in the main competition. Ang Lee's "tale of homosexual love in the wilds of Wyoming" was adapted from a short story by Annie Proulx of Centennial, Wyo., and stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as love-struck cowboys whose forbidden affair begins in 1963 and ends 20 years later. Lee, director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, described Brokeback Mountain as a story of love against adversity. Independent and low-budget, like several U.S. entries at the festival, it was filmed in Canada to save money. EDITOR’S NOTE: See the Sept. 10 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle article about Wyoming-written movies being filmed in Canada.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I read books but don't review them. For that, you have to turn to the many litblogs that do (see Web del Sol's "House of Blogs"). I recently read Sky Bridge by Laura Pritchett. She is part of the burgeoning field of fiction writers who lovingly yet realistically delve into the lives of High Plains people. Many are natives. Colorado's Kent Haruf and Wyoming's Mark Spragg leap to mind. Others are like Wyoming writer/editor Gaydell Collier who were raised in other places "but got here as soon as I could." Kent Nelson (Colo.) comes to mind, as well as South Dakota's Kent Meyers (what's with the "Kent" trend?). Laura Pritchett grew up on a small cattle ranch in northern Colorado. His book of short stories from Milkweed Editions, Hell's Bottom, Colorado, earned her the 2002 PEN USA Award for Fiction. To experience Pritchett's work first-hand, attend her writing workshop at the Cheyenne YMCA Writer’s Voice on Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m. Cost is the same as for other Y events: $15 for members, $20 for non-members. Pritchett will sign copies of her books at 2 p.m. that day at City News, 1722 Carey Ave., Cheyenne. You can sign up in advance by calling Chris Shay, 307-634-9622. Yes, Chris and I are related by marriage and are members of the Clan of Committed Readers.
Monday, September 12, 2005

This is the third and final part of a report on book festivals prepared by WAC summer intern Lindsey Grubbs. This segment provides an overview of staffing concerns (who does the work?) and the dicey issue of pay for writers. For previous installments, see posts of Aug. 30 and Sept. 9. If you would like a copy of the full report, e-mail me and I’ll send you one.

Most book festivals begin by organizing the substantial workload among existing paid staff of its planning committee. This is particularly true of those run by state humanities councils. In almost every case, this proves to be too much for one or several staff members, who also have other responsibilities. A few festivals have tried to get the event up and running with just one part-time person. You can imagine how difficult that is.

In almost all of the festivals studied, a director was contracted who could devote most of his/her time to the book festival. For many of these festivals, the paid staff member was responsible for general organization. Many of them delegated tasks to volunteers, which were often organized into volunteer councils, each with different areas of concentration.

None of the festivals contacted said that they paid large honoraria to the authors that came to the festival. Many utilized local talent, enlisting authors who live within a reasonable driving distance. This reduced travel fees, lodging costs, etc. Some festivals have the policy that they never pay the authors. However, they may encourage other people or organizations in their regions to contact authors that they would like to see, and do not discourage separate organization or groups from paying an author to appear.

Some festivals do pay the authors. The organizer of the Great Salt Lake Festival said that this was the hardest part of the event because payment is determined on a case-by-case basis. Some of the authors received no payment, while some had only room and board covered, and still others had additional payment on top of this. The GSLBC organizer also said that she tries to find authors already on tour. When this happens, their publishing company will usually pay expenses.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

SPOKEN WORD AND HYPERTEXT COME TO WYO: During the next month, Wyomingites can get a glimpse into some of the newer forms of literary expression. “Spoken Word” poetry has roots in the ancient oral traditions. We see it in cowboy poets and hip-hop artists. Its latest incarnation is mainly an urban art form. You can see some of its best practitioners on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam." For the past few years, Megan Oteri has been working to bring Spoken Word to Wyoming, a place where Cheyenne and Casper are as urban as it gets. Oteri, a writer and a teacher at Attention Homes in Cheyenne, has organized “The Diverse Voices of Poetry,” a two-day poetry workshop on Oct. 13-14 at the downtown Atlas Theatre. Students and teachers, K-12 and college, can sign up for workshops with New York’s George Lee Miles, Colorado performance poet Kiblah Oliver, and Jack Collom, a former factory worker with 20 books of poetry to his credit. To sign up for the workshops, e-mail Oteri at megan@attentionhomes.com. On Sept. 22, the UW creative writing program hosts a visit by hypertext author Edward Falco. He has published a hypertext novel, “A Dream with Demons,” a collection of hypertext poetry, and has several works of digital writing available online. Falco’s noon talk at Hoyt Hall about "Print vs. Digital Writing and Publishing: Issues for Writers" is sure to generate a lot of interest. Authors everywhere are publishing in new forms and in new venues. One of the challenges faced by traditional publishers and old-school arts administrators such as myself is how to welcome these forms and not draw back in horror. How can the Wyoming Arts Council incorporate hypertext and digital work into its fellowship programs? Many writers are breaking down barriers among literary genres and other arts disciplines. Are the WAC’s categories outdated? How can writing competitions be flexible yet still have clear standards? All good questions for Falco after his 6 p.m. reading on Sept. 22 at Chickering Books. FMI: Kris DeForest at 307-766-2867.

Friday, September 09, 2005

EDITOR’S NOTE: Part II of a report on book festivals prepared by WAC intern Lindsey Grubbs. This segment looks at the organization and budgets of select festivals (see list in Aug. 30 post). If you would like a copy of the full report, e-mail me and I’ll send you one.

Who sponsors and organizes book festivals? The vast majority of the festivals are sponsored by state or government arts/humanities organizations, such as arts councils, humanities councils, and Centers for the Book. Additionally, many of the festivals are sponsored by a grouping of these organizations, all working together.

The budgets of festivals come from a variety of sources. The larger festivals tend to have a lot of corporate sponsors. They also get support from the media, whether radio stations, TV stations, or newspapers. In almost every case, media sponsorships for festivals consist not of a monetary exchange, but simply of free advertising for the festival. This could range from a small newspaper ad or radio promo, to a large newspaper section, such as the one that The Missoulian sponsors for the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, which normally costs about twenty thousand dollars to produce. These partnerships have a significant effect on turnout, with no additional outlay of the festival budget.

Smaller festivals also used this “in-kind” support from media organizations, but typically had less corporate funding. As a general rule, the amount of funds raised from local businesses depends heavily on the amount of effort that is put into contacting them. This is very labor-intensive, and used effectively only by the larger festivals. It does not seem to be a constructive use of time for others, especially those that receive most of their money from state arts councils, humanities councils, and Centers for the Book.

Next week’s wyolitmail will feature the final segment of the condensed report. It discusses festival staff and payment of the writers.

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