Laramie writer Jeffe Kennedy returns to the Cheyenne Family YMCA to conduct a writing workshop in memoir and creative nonfiction on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Free and open to the public. FMI: Chris, 307-634-9622.
WE CALL HIM "INDEFATIGABLE:" "I just wanted to carve something," said John Kellersman, an oil-field worker who has spent the past four years using a hammer and chisel to carve a 15-foot star and the word "freedom" into a sandstone cliff near the northern Wyoming town of Deaver. Kellersman's friends call him "Crazy John."
LOCKWOOD EXPLORES BUG WARS: The ancient plagues against the Egyptians chronicled in the Bible’s Book of Exodus is being examined in a biological sense by University of Wyoming professor Jeff Lockwood, who explores this in Swarm Wars, a book he’s writing about entomological warfare. A section examines Moses turning the NileRiver into blood and the resulting plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, livestock diseases, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and deaths of the first born set against an entomological framework. "What's interesting about Exodus is the sequence," Lockwood said. "There is as yet no ecological rationale to fully explain how the events followed one another; however, what happened in Exodus is reflected in the Book of Psalms and an Egyptian papyrus. So, it appears something did happen." This caught the attention of National Geographic, which recently sent a crew to film Lockwood for its Mysteries of the Bible series. The crew also used College of Agriculture and the USDA Agricultural Research Service facilities to film biting midges and stable flies, possibly part of the catastrophic menagerie loosed upon Egypt. Lockwood is working on his first draft of Swarm Wars and plans to complete it in 2006.
THE UNKINDEST CUT, BLOG VERSION: Writers curious about what bloggers say about their work now can search the web’s 80 kabillion (or so) blogs through sites such as Technorati, IceRocket, and Feedster. The comments may please you -- or make you want to jump off a building. In a Dec. 18 New York Times article, Amy Tan talked about a friend sending her a web link that led to an anti-Tan web site. One comment read, “Amy Tan must die.”She e-mailed her friends and told them not to send any more links to sites that critique her work. “You might hear some good things about yourself, but you may also hear something devastating," said told Times reporter Pamela Paul. David Marcus, author of What it Takes to Pull Me Through: Why Teenagers Get in Trouble and How Four of Them Got Out, discovered a blog insinuating he had been paid off by one of the schools he profiled. "My gut was to dash out a denial, but then I checked myself," he recalled. "I realized that all a response would do is spread this untruth from one electronic forum to another and give substance to the accusation." Some authors' interactions with bloggers prove fruitful. Cass Sunstein read a discussion of one of his articles about conservative judicial radicalism on The Volokh Conspiracy, a group blog organized by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, in which Sunstein was invited to respond. "We had an interesting exchange and there were a lot of comments," said Sunstein, a law prof at University of Chicago. The discussion caused him to make changes to his book Radicals in Robes. "There's no question that Radicals in Robes was affected by a kind of pre-publication review on a blog," he said. Inspired by these experiences, I searched Technorati for “wyolitmail.” I found seven hits from the last four months, none of which seemed related. I searched for WYO Poet Laureate David Romtvedt’s name and found a half-dozen listings, all but one from wyolitmail. While it feels good to have your blog noticed, I’m not clear on what gets listed and what doesn’t. Any thoughts from wyolitmailers?
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A DUST BOWL BOOK: After reading John Marshall’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer review of Timothy Egan’s new book about the Dust Bowl of the thirties, I plan to spend my Christmas holiday hunkered down with it. My parents’ families in Denver lived through those dark days. They were city folks, but the wind and the dust and the breadlines and predatory bankers affected everyone. I didn’t used to believe my mother’s tales of receiving Christmas presents of one apple and one potato. I discovered later that she was lucky to have that. The Shay and Hett families didn’t feel the displacement experienced by the Okies in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. But the memories live on in those who fled and those who remained, the ones that Egan says were “the people who stayed behind, for lack of money or lack of sense, the people who hunkered down out of loyalty or stubbornness, who believed in tomorrow because it was all they had in the bank.'' One of the book’s surprising facts is that some two-thirds of the Dust Bowl residents fit that category. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl is published by Houghton Mifflin.
PINE BLUFFS LIBRARY READS DEEP WEST: Lisa Knowlton at the Laramie County Public Library branch in Pine Bluffs will launch the 2006 “Writing Wyoming” book discussion series with Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming. As one of the editors of this fine volume -- and slightly biased because of it -- I urge you to dive into Deep West and sample the work of 19 WYO writers. Read nature poetry by Cheyenne native B.J. Buckley or more experimental work by NEA fellowship recipient Dainis Hazners of Story. Sample one of Annie Proulx’s stories from CloseRange or an essay by Linda Hasselstrom about the wisdom of horses. Each of these writers wrote an original essay for the book on the topic “Why I Live – and Write – in Wyoming.” The book’s appendix includes a list of other books by WYO writers, a list that could occupy your imagination through several long winters. Register for the book discussion program at the library, 110 E. 2nd St., Pine Bluffs, or call 307-245-3646.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005
BUCKLEY’S POEM WINS PRIZE: Cheyenne native B.J. Buckley, now living in Lolo, Mont., sent some good news: “I just found out that my poem, ‘An Accident of Biology, Geography, and Time,’ won the first prize from Cutthroat Magazine, a wonderful new little magazine from Colorado; first issue due out soon, with publication of the poem plus the prize is more than a thousand dollars. I'm pretty happy on both counts, as you might imagine, especially at this time of year!” In 1989, when she still lived in WYO, B.J. won a WAC creative writing fellowship and her award-winning poetry was included in the anthology Letter from Wyoming. She also was one of the 19 writers with WYO ties featured in the 2003 anthology Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming. B.J. and Saratoga writer Dawn Senior are collected in a new book from Pronghorn Press, Moonhorses & the Red Bull.
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Saturday, December 17, 2005
GRANTS TRAINING SCHEDULE SET: Wyoming Arts Council staffers will join their counterparts at the Wyoming Council for the Humanities for a series of grants training sessions in January. I will conduct a session in Casper at the NicolaysenArt Museum from - on Wednesday, Jan. 4, and in Gillette at the AVACenter on Thursday, Jan. 5, noon-2 p.m. WAC has mailed postcards with the full schedule, and you can also find it on the web site. Call 307-777-7742 if you have questions.
YOUNG WRITERS CAMP ON THE WEB: Young Writers Camp now has a web site. YWC is held each August for students 14-18 at the Thorne-Rider Youth Camp near the aptly named town of Story, Wyo. Writer and SheridanCollege professor Micah Wyatt directs the camp and joins other faculty in teaching two workshops a day. It’s a great setting for contemplation and writing, and has produced a fine crop of writers, teachers, and feisty citizens. The camp was held at the Ucross Foundation from 1989-1993 and was directed by Jane Wohl and Dainis Hazners and featured visiting writers David Romtvedt, B.J. Buckley, Jim Rowe, John Lane, and yours truly. I remember my first visit to the camp in 1992. It was early June, storm clouds raced across the sky pushed by a brisk wind. Dainis warmed up the young crowd with rope tricks, and then moved into a writing workshop down by the creek. Later, in the Big Red Barn, Jane, with her youngest son at her side, conducted another workshop. My son Kevin, now 20, attended the camp for five years, beginning when he was 14. He still hauls around a journal and has written a couple screenplays that I hope will be picked up by Hollywood moguls and made into thoughtful yet compelling movies. Kevin (guy with big hair, third from left) poses with fellow campers in the accompanying photo. YWC traces its roots to an earlier summer camp directed by Tom Rea and held in SunlightBasin.
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Thursday, December 15, 2005
The MurieCenter in Moose presents a “Readers Circle” on Friday, Dec. 16. Ed Riddell and Terry Tempest Williams will present their book, “The Range of Memory,” a collection of black and white photographs and essays which document their combined personal histories in the Jackson HoleValley. At the Wort Hotel, downtown Jackson, FMI: 307-739-2240.
NEW NEWFIE NOVEL: I haven’t read anything by Canadian author Terry J. Harvey. But I will after reading about his latest book, The Town that Forgot How to Breathe. He somehow found me via the web. He said the novel “concerns what happens when the art of storytelling begins to die out in a small, coastal community.” Sounds good to me. So, as I look for Terry’s books, here’s a review excerpt of his latest from Publishers Weekly: “Harvey, a Newfoundlander himself, captures with his haunting voice the earthiness of an insular culture that's as distinct from the rest of Canada as small-town Southerners are from the rest of America. Comparisons with Stephen King's commercial power and Annie Proulx's literary warmth are apt but glib. Harvey is an author whose storytelling prowess can speak for itself.” I’ve read two fine novels by U.S. writers that are set in Newfoundland. One is The Shipping News, by Wyoming’s Annie Proulx, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Another was Howard Norman’s The Bird Artist, set in Witless Bay, Newfoundland, that was released about the same time (mid-1990s) and nominated for the National Book Award.
CELEBRATING PINEDALE’S CENTENNIAL: From a press release: “The Sublette County Historical Society and Ann Noble proudly announce the publication of Pinedale, Wyoming: A Centennial History, 1904-2004.This beautiful volume is chock-full of photos and detailed information about how Pinedale was founded, grew and thrived -- not just as a town, but as a community.Thoroughly researched, the book includes fascinating arratives as well as facts, figures, and more than 550 images. Printed in a limited edition of just 2,000 copies, the 450-page book is hardcover with an attractive dustjacket, and full-color throughout. Two book signings are scheduled in Pinedale on Wednesday, December 14, at Rendezvous Pointe, and Thursday, December 15, at the Museum of the Mountain Man. Books are $65 each and can be picked up at the Museum in Pinedale, or shipped for $7.50 each.Orders can be placed on-line or by calling the Museum at (307) 367-4101 or (877) 686-6266. You can mail your request to the Museum at P.O. Box 909, Pinedale WY 82941.Checks are payable to the Sublette County Historical Society, or use your Visa or Mastercard. " Graphic designer for the project was Sue Sommers, a WAC visual arts fellowship winner from Pinedale. Noble calls her design "exceptional."
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Monday, December 12, 2005
GEORGIA REVIEW FEATURES ABBOTT’S FICTION: Lee K. Abbott’s seventh book of short stories, All Things, All at Once, will be published in spring 2006 by W.W. Norton. I just read “Gravity,” his eighth story to appear in The Georgia Review, and wondered when my first story will appear in TBR, one of the best in the litmag world. Abbott is one of those fiction writers from the Rocky Mountain states that have influenced an entire generation of short story writers, myself included. He grew up in Deming, N.M., that interchange along I-10 where drivers bound for Albuquerque, Denver, and other northbound locales exit for the Hatch cut-off. Abbott’s first book of stories, Strangers in Paradise, has N.M. and other Southwest settings. Its cover shows a wooden sign for “Deming, N.M., pop. 9064” above a bleached cow skull perched on tumbleweeds with the desert stretching out behind to rugged mountains. This sets the scene for the locale and Abbott’s writing, which is energetic and rich with detail. His new story in The Georgia Review concerns a divorced couple in Deming and how they confront the disappearance of their teen daughter. It opens with a killer lede: “They grab her – Tanya, my fourteen-year-old daughter – early in the afternoon from the sidewalk outside the north entrance to J.C. Penney’s at the Mimbres Valley Mall.” Suspense and the mundane mixed together to drag the reader into the story. Ginny, Tanya’s mother, and Lonnie Nees, her father, find out that they didn’t know their daughter. Asked Ginny: “Why didn’t we know, Lonnie? About Tanya?” Lonnie has no answer “except rage.” That leads to a thrilling climax, which solves nothing, as is the case with so many things in life and in parenthood. I recommend you buy the Review and read it your own damn self, as one of Abbott’s characters might say. Or delve into one of Abbott’s collections.
LARAMIE WRITER WINS NEA FELLOWSHIP: May-Lee Chai of Laramie has been awarded a 2006 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. May-Lee will receive a $20,000 stipend for her manuscript submission, which was an excerpt from a novel-in-progress. She moved to Laramie with her family in 1988 and has lived there on-and-off ever since. She taught writing at the University of Wyoming and participated in Laramie's literacy fair each spring. She taught last year at AmherstCollege in Massachusetts, and is taking this year off to finish a novel. May-Lee’s book include Glamorous Asians: Short Stories and Essays and the novel My Lucky Face. She and her father, UW professor Winberg Chai, wrote alternating chapters of the memoir, The Girl from PurpleMountain: Love, Honor, War, and One Family's Journey from China to America. A number of RockyMountain writers were 2006 NEA awardees, including Debra Earling from Polson, Mont., and Idaho's Lance Olsen, a recent visiting writer at UW. Writers from N.M., Ariz., and Utah also received fellowships. Go here for the complete list.
INTERVIEW WITH VAN PELT: From Lori Van Pelt of Saratoga, who’s had a very busy year: "Just thought you might be interested in looking at the Bubba Girl web site, which features an interview with me about writing and Amelia Earhart and, of course, mentions the 'American Heroes' series. The book cover is displayed prominently as well. This web site has mostly featured pilots, but I am one of the first women in other careers to be featured here. Also, please note that photo credits are available at the end of the article. Candy Moulton [of Encampment] took the photo of me standing next to Amelia Earhart's Kissel car at the ForneyTransportationMuseum in Denver."
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
SON OF DEEP WEST: Annette Chaudet at Pronghorn Press in Greybull has notified me that “Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming,” is once again available for ordering, either through her press or your fave bookstore. Annette has filled orders this week for the Arts/Parks/History Store in Cheyenne at the Sheridan Fulmer Public Library, which is using it for a “One Book One Community” project. Thanks to Susan Vittitow, WyomingCenter for the Book director, for getting the book back into print. Proceeds go to help fund WCFB projects, including its “Letters About Literature” competition and a Cheyenne book festival set for the State Capitol Complex in Sept. 2007.
BOARD NO MORE: I have stepped down from the board of the WyomingCenter for the Book. The “Deep West” project did me in. Besides, it’s been a decade-long run and it’s time for others to step into the breech. The WCFB will make some announcements in the next few months about its new slate of board members. By the way, the Wyoming Arts Council was in on the WCFB from its inception in 1994. Guy Lebeda and John Coe helped launch the center along with former director Linn Rounds. Guy moved on to greener fields in Utah in 1995, John took his place on the board, and I replaced John.
WAC RECEIVES POETRY GRANT: The Wyoming Arts Council has received an $8,000 grant to participate in the Poetry Out Loud project co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The grant will help fund poetry recitation contests at high schools throughout Wyoming. Poetry champs from the schools will travel to Cheyenne in April for the state finals and a set of poetry writing workshops. That winner will represent WYO at the national finals in May in Washington, D.C. Teachers in grades 9-12 with Language Arts, Speech/Debate, and/or Drama classes are eligible to participate. FMI: Mike at 307-777-5234.
FILMFEST BENEFIT FEATURES “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN:” Director Ang Lee will travel to Jackson for the regional debut of “Brokeback Mountain,” the film based on a short story of the same name by Centennial’s Annie Proulx. According to the Planet Jackson Hole blog, the Jackson Hole Film Institute will host a benefit with the film’s Rocky Mountain premiere at the Teton Theater on Dec.10 at 2 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $25, but you can pay $100 for the show and the big bash to follow at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Annie Proulx are scheduled to attend. Call 307-733-8814 for tickets. The blog also asks for readers’ comments by asking: “Brokeback Mountain: How will Wyo handle the gay cowboy thing?”
Laramie Poetry Slam #11 will be held on Friday, Dec. 9, at Trinity Coffeehouse, 113 Grand Ave., Laramie. Sign-up at ; slam starts at 8. To compete, poets are urged to bring three original poems. No costumes, instruments, or props are allowed. Co-sponsored by the UW Creative Writing Program.
PLOUGHSHARES FEATURES BILLMAN STORY: Jon Billman’s story “Inkneck” is in the fall 2005 issue of Ploughshares magazine. The story revolves around an ill-fated trip to El Paso by a Laramie Inkneck and his pal. Jon is the author of the story collection When We Were Wolves. One of those stories, “Calcutta,” appeared in the 2003 anthology, Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming, and also won the Zoetrope/Sam Adams Short Story Contest. He and his wife Hilary (also a writer) lived for a number of years in Kemmerer, where Hilary served as director of the PioneerCountryMuseum. Jon documented their time living in Kemmerer’s old Assembly of God church in an original essay in Deep West. Wrote John: “The belfry houses a handsome working bell and the neighborhood kids are always knocking on the door to ring it. Pull the bell rope after , and the police show up…. When the snow melts or it rains hard the roof leaks. In summer, sip a beer and watch bats feed in the streetlights.” John and his family moved to Las Cruces, N.M., in 2004 and now live in Ames, Iowa, where Jon teaches at IowaState. And just what is an “Inkneck?” You have to read the Ploughshares story to find out.
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