WANTED -- TEACHERS WHO WRITE: From a press release: Scholarships and stipends are still available to Wyoming teachers wishing to enroll in the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Writing Project (WWP) Summer Invitational July 7-29. Registration deadline has been extended to Thursday, June 15. Open to teachers from all disciplines and grade levels, the Summer Invitational is an immersion in the writing processes that improves each enrollee's personal and professional writing abilities, teaches the value of a "writing community," and develops successful strategies to effectively incorporate writing in all classes from K-12 and beyond, says Connie Currie, WWP director. This year's invitational will open with a three-day retreat at the Elk Mountain Hotel beginning on Friday, July 7, with the remaining sessions at UW. To conclude the project, participants will write, produce and perform an original play, "Wyoming's Dinosaur Wars," directed by Wes Nethercott. This will be presented as a dinner theater performance at the Trading Post in Centennial on the evening of Friday, July 28. FMI: Connie Currie, 307-742-0350.
GIMME THAT OLD-TIME CUTTING-EDGE DRAMA: Actors' Mission of Rock Springs will present "Inherit the Wind" by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee, at 7 p.m. on June 2-3 and 9-10 at the White Mountain Library, 2935 Sweetwater Drive, Rock Springs. The Actor’s Mission will be serving its traditional food at 6 p.m. Admission is always free and donations are always accepted. “Inherit the Wind” tells the story of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, although the names have been changed to protect guilty and innocent alike. As always, Actors’ Mission has chosen a play that reflects life in these United States in the tempestuous (thus far) 21st century. For more details, contact the Mike Jeffery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATTENTION WYOMING WRITERS, INC., MEMBERS: If you’re attending the WWI conference this weekend in Rock Springs, check out the aforementioned Actors’ Mission performance. You can schmooze for awhile at the Friday evening “Meet and Greet,” dash off to the play, and get back to the Holiday Inn for the open mic reading which sometimes lasts until the wee hours.
WRITERS GATHER AT THE ROCK: Not too late to register for the 32nd annual conference for Wyoming Writers, Inc., on June 2-4 at the Holiday Inn in Rock Springs, Wyo. Presenters are Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt, whose newest book is Some Church from Milkweed Editions; Colorado's Margaret Coel, whose Wind River series of mystery novels are set among the Arapaho Nation in Wyoming; Jamie Lee, South Dakota author and documentary script writer; and New York literary agent Loretta Weingel-Fidel. You can register at the door for $135 (members) and $165 (non-members).
ZONA ROSA HAS ARRIVED: Rosemary Daniell, judge for the 2007 WAC creative writing fellowships, has notified me that her new book has landed on bookstore shelves. Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women’s Lives explores Rosemary’s distinctive Zona Rosa writing workshops. I can attest that they are not for women only. I participated in one in Laramie a few years ago and I’m here to tell you that it was good for my writing and it also engendered my inner sisterhood. You can purchase or order Rosemary’s book at your local bookstore. Or ask your library to order a copy. Rosemary will travel to Casper from her home in Savannah, Georgia, to read with the WAC fellowship winners and conduct a writing workshop at the Casper College Literary Conference and Equality State Book Festival Oct. 19-21.
ANTHOLOGY FEATURES TEEN WRITERS: “The Diverse Voices of Poetry” anthology is available for $5. It features work by teen writers involved in “The Diverse Voices of Poetry” workshop and performance held Oct. 13-14, 2005, at the Atlas Theatre in Cheyenne. Workshop leaders were spoken-word poets George Lee Miles, Akilah Oliver, and Jack Collom. It was sponsored in part by a Wyoming Arts Council grant. Make out your checks (do not send cash) for the anthology to Attention Homes, c/o Megan Oteri, P.O. Box 687, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82003. The anthology was funded by The Wyoming Center for the Book and proceeds will cover unpaid expenses for the workshop. Anthologies will be ready for delivery by May 26. FMI: Megan Oteri at 307-778-7832 ext. 38. You can also leave comments on this post.
GAGLIANO WHEELING ALONG: Buffalo-based writer Gene Gagliano has a new book, “Four Wheels West,” a Wyoming Number Book, from Sleeping Bear Press. It is a companion volume to “C is for Cowboy,” a Wyoming Alphabet Book. Buffalo artist Susan Guy illustrated both books. Gene and Susan will be signing books at the following locations: The Office, Buffalo, May 27, 10 a.m.-noon; Main Street Books, Lander, June 3, 1-2:30 p.m.; and the Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne, June 10 (time unconfirmed at present).
HOW TO MAKE A KILLING ON THE INTERNET: Salt Lake City writer George Ouzounian’s book is No. 85 on amazon.com’s top-seller list, and the book won’t be out until June 6. Ouzounian, who goes by “Maddox” on his web site, has pre-sold 7,200 copies of his first book, “The Alphabet of Manliness.” He sold these via his rudimentary web site, e-mails to fans, and by word of mouth. It’s also helping that Associated Press and Maclean’s magazine in Canada have written features on him. In photos, “Maddox” looks like the hirsute, overweight computer nerd he is. According to the Maclean’s article, “Maddox is a master at a certain kind of writing -- the combination of mock anger and fake pomposity -- that has flourished on the Web: the deliberately bizarre, floridly written rant that attracts attention for dealing with subjects that are too weird or obscure for ‘conventional’ publications.” He’s built a following since he debuted his off-beat humor columns in 1997. With his newfound success, Maddox may soon flee SLC and his little downtown apartment. He told Maclean’s that living in Utah makes him feel "like I'm in a bad episode of ‘Star Trek’ where they get stuck in a time loop, i.e., every episode of ‘Star Trek.’ "
OHIO TEEN IS POETRY CHAMP: Ohio high school senior Jackson Hille explored the trials of aging in Billy Collins’ poem "Forgetfulness," which helped Hille clinch the title of Poetry Out Loud national champion. The finals were held May 16 at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC. Hille was among 12 finalists and 51 state champions from around the country who participated in the first national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Wyoming sent Kamaria Stephens from Cheyenne East High School to the finals. She was selected as the Wyoming champion April 11 in Cheyenne. Poetry Out Loud will launch its next round when the fall semester begins at Wyoming high schools.
WHAT’S IN A WORD?: Writers are wordmeisters, word maniacs, word mavens. Some of us stop just short of being “language scolds” who freak out at flagrant verbal or nounal abuse. Some keen new words are coined each year. Annoying ones, too. Here’s one: “othercott.” I saw is used in a 5/16 Denver Post article by writer Andy Vuong about a national boycott of The Da Vinci Code. “ ‘The people involved in this ‘othercott’ are really trying to send a message to Hollywood,’ said Father John Heckers, pastor of the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Denver. ‘If hundreds of thousands of Christians do this and wind up knocking The Da Vinci Code out of first place (in box-office receipts), then that will get their attention.’ " These groups recommend people go to see another movie, the animated PG-rated Over the Hedge. Maybe this effort should be called “anothercott?” Anyway, “othercott” may find legs or it may end up in the dustbin of language history. “Boycott,” of course, comes from Charles C. Boycott, an Englishman and former British soldier, who was the estate agent of the Earl of Erne in County Mayo, Ireland. The earl was one of the absentee landowners with land holdings stolen from the Irish. In 1880, Irish politician Charles Parnell zeroed in on Boycott to test his land reform policy. It said that any landlord who would not reduce rents or any tenant who took over the farm of an evicted tenant would be isolated by Parnell's supporters. Boycott refused to follow the policy. Members of Parnell's Irish Land League joined with servants, farmhands, and shopkeepers to deny service to Boycott. So his name entered the language as the term for this treatment.
WYO CENTER FOR THE BOOK WINS AWARD: From a press release: Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole recently announced that affiliated state centers from Alabama, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming were the 2006 winners of the Boorstin Award for innovative reading promotion projects. Each award includes a $1,000 cash stipend. Funds to support the awards were donated to the Center for the Book by Ruth F. Boorstin, wife of former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin (1975-1987), who established the Center for the Book in 1977… The Wyoming Center for the Book was recognized for its success in promoting Wyoming’s writers and literary heritage in a variety of ways, including the Wyoming Authors Database and through the pages of its handsome quarterly publication, “The Wyoming Library Roundup.” The WCB is located at the Wyoming State Library in Cheyenne. Director is Susan Vittitow, writer, editor, and blogger. I served on the WCB board for ten years and saw first-hand the agency’s excellent programs. Not to mention its excellent anthology “Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming.” I’m a bit biased as one of the book’s co-editors.
KUDOS TOO FOR IDAHO: The Idaho Center for the Book, located at Boise State University, was also honored for its creative book arts program, which includes “Booker’s Dozen,” a biennial traveling exhibition of contemporary artists’ and eccentric books designed and produced by Idahoans, and “Idaho Authors!” an educational family card game. The quirky and talented Tom Trusky heads up the ICB.
TRIBUTE TO LESLIE NORRIS: From Guy Lebeda in Utah: The Utah Arts Council is teaming up with the City Art Reading Series to host a "Tribute Reading" in honor of BYU poet-in-residence Leslie Norris at the Salt Lake City Main Library on Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. Readers will pay tribute to the poet by reading their favorite Norris poems. Featured readers include Joel Long, Jim Barnes, Lance Larsen, Mike Dorrell, Guy Lebeda, Scott Hatch and Danielle Dubrasky. Norris died at age 85 on April 6 from a cerebral hemorrhage following a stroke. Following his move to Utah in 1983, he taught creative writing at Brigham Young University, and retained the title of poet in residence after his retirement in 2003. Norris was considered one of the most important Welsh writers of the post-war period. Contact Guy at 801-236-7553 or email@example.com.
COMMENTS WANTED: The Wyoming Arts Council still is seeking comments to its 2006-2010 strategic plan. To read it, go to the WAC web site and scroll down to the “News” section. Follow the link to the PDF version of the plan. Print it out. Take it and a pitcher of iced tea out to the backyard hammock. Read a couple pages. Take a nap. Revive yourself with some iced tea. Read a few more pages. Take a nap. Revive with iced tea. Repeat as necessary. Write down your pithy comments. Put them in the mail to Strategic Plan, Wyoming Arts Council, 2320 Capitol Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82002. Find a fat summer novel. Return to the hammock. You know what to do.
IN PURSUIT OF THE MAD TRAPPER: If you’re not getting enough intriguing e-mail you might register for Clinton McKenzie’s periodic newsletter. Clinton’s most recent posting was about his February adventure in the Canadian Arctic. He and two friends retraced the steps of the Mad Trapper, a man who in 1933, murdered a Canadian Mountie and then eluded a Mountie pursuit by land and air for six weeks in some of Canada’s roughest and coldest country. This trip was a childhood fantasy of Clinton’s. A non-fiction book is in the works, so he’s taking a break from his suspense fiction series starring Antonio and Roberto Burns (“Edge of Justice,” etc.). He will be at the Equality State Book Festival in Casper Oct. 19-21, appearing on the mystery writers’ panels with C.J. Box, Craig Johnson, and Kathleen and Michael Gear. Clinton is a self-described surf bum from southern California who got bit by the rock climbing bug while attending UW Law School in Laramie. He later abandoned his job as a criminal prosecutor to write novels and go on Arctic adventures.
C.J. Box will talk about and sign copies of his newest book in the Joe Pickett mystery series, “In Plain Sight,” on Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m., at Chickering Bookstore in downtown Laramie; on Sunday, May 21, 2 p.m., at City Newsstand and Bookstore in downtown Cheyenne; and on Monday, May 22, 4-6 p.m., at Ralph’s Books, Casper.
TWELVE DAYS AND COUNTING: The postmark deadline for applications to the Wyoming Arts Council’s creative writing fellowships in poetry is Monday, May 22. You may apply if you’re a WYO resident 18 and older who isn’t a full-time student in a high school or college art-related degree program. Georgia writer Rosemary Daniell is this year’s judge. Get more info at the WAC web site.
BREAK A LEG, KAMARIA: I guess that’s an appropriate send-off for Wyoming Poetry Out Loud contestant Kamaria Stephens as she jets off to the national finals May 16 in D.C. The competition is, after all, part theatre, part forensics, part old-fashioned English class memorization. Kamaria, a Cheyenne East High School senior, will compete on D.C.'s Lincoln Theatre stage against winners from other state competitions. She honed her presentation skills during four years on East’s award-winning speech and debate team. Kamaria clinched the Wyoming POL title against reciters from schools in Cheyenne, Buffalo, Cokeville, and Lander. Wyolitmail will report the results of the POL finals next week.
OWR 2006 ON THE STANDS: I participated in a reading with other contributors to the 2006 edition of Owen Wister Review on Thursday, May 4, on KOCA’s weekly radio show, “Speaking of Writing.” Our interviewer was Julianne Marie Couch, also a writer. OWR Editor (and 2006 grad) Joan Bolander started off the show with a reading of Gaydell Collier’s essay “Bringing Nellie Home.” Next came poet Ryan Perry, a UW senior, with “Tearing Photographs,” and then Jeniel Vereline with her poem “Connor Battlefield (Wyoming Place No. 45).” I brought up the rear with a reading of part of my short story “Call Me Robert.” I had to leave listeners hanging, as the story was longer than my time slot. You can read the rest, and work by all the other fine contributors, by picking up your OWR at the UW store and bookstores around
"FALL" EXPLORES GRISLY WYO CRIME: Ron Franscell, one-time Gillette writer and newspaperman who’s now in Beaumont, Texas, sends this about his new book: " ‘FALL: The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town’ (New Horizon Press, ISBN 0-88282-279-9) is about the monstrous 1973 crime against two Casper girls who were terrorized for a night before they were thrown off the towering Fremont Canyon Bridge. One died and one lived. But that's just the beginning of a classic tragedy about how the past reverberates into the future… Maybe you remember the crime yourself. ‘FALL’ will be released nationally in January 2007, but the publisher will allow books to be sold by Wyoming booksellers starting Dec. 1. As a Wyoming native, I was absolutely insistent that Wyoming get something FIRST for a change! Many of you already know me, and I'm eager to meet the rest of you on a book tour in Wyoming Dec. 1-10 or again in spring 2007. If you'd like to set up a signing, please e-mail me (contact info on blog) and we'll see what we can work out."
EURIPIDES UPDATED: A 2,500-year-old tragedy by Euripides has been transformed into a play about the war in Iraq. “The Bacchae of Baghdad” recently played at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre (founded by poet W.B. Yeats) amidst the Samuel Beckett Centenary Festival celebrating the famous Irish writer. The play is an updated version of Euripides “The Bacchae” set in occupied Iraq. Here’s a short description by Hadani Ditmars writing in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The play drew some interesting parallels between fifth century B.C. and the present day. Pentheus, ruler of Thebes, is portrayed as an uptight Evangelical American military commander in Baghdad's Green Zone. His ordered, Apollonian extremism is countered by the manic, anarchic energy of Dionysus -- whose cult some ancient Greeks saw as hailing from the "barbaric" orient -- and who, in the play assumes the guise of an insurgent. While the play does not quite work literally (Dionysus travels through Baghdad with his band of Bacchae more like some Rastafarian punk than an Islamist) it manages to capture the emotional reality of Iraq. The more Dionysus is punished (he is led manacled in an orange jumpsuit to his jail cell) the more his followers retaliate -- ending with the violent dismemberment of Pentheus, the fallen tragic hero who has been felled by his own hubris.” Playwright was the Abbey Theatre’s Conall Morrison.
CONNECTING WITH WRITERS: Cheyenne’s Literary Connection gives readers the opportunity to hear from -- and visit with -- noted authors. The two-day event begins with a free writing workshop and ends with a gala book signing. As in past years, I bought books from all of the presenters and stood in line to get personalized signatures. This year my selections were “The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer; “90 Miles” by Virgil Suarez; “The Problem with Murmur Lee” by Connie May Fowler; “Tales of a Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman; and “Walking the High Ridge” by Robert Michael Pyle. Four of these writers have numerous books to choose from. Virgil has 20-some volumes of poetry, memoir, and fiction. Robert has penned numerous non-fiction books about Bigfoot, Western water issues, and butterflies, including a guide for kids and the illustrated version of Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly book (much of Nabokov’s lepidoptery took place in WYO). J.R. was the only one of the writers with a single published book. City Newsstand & Bookstore is one of the sponsors and the official bookseller for the Literary Connection. Buyer Teresa Burke said the store sold all 85 copies of “The Tender Bar.” I bought one, a first edition, and dove right into it Sunday night. Always a mistake, starting a book before bedtime. I had to pull myself away from his story of a kid raised in the aptly-named “Dickens” Bar in Manhasset, New York. It is funny and “tender” (thus the title) and too darn readable. The characters include JR’s large extended family that live in his grandfather’s one-bathroom “Shit House;” his estranged radio deejay father, known only as “The Voice;” and the numerous barflies and philosophers at Dickens. I guess the only drawback to the book is my lingering doubt, stoked by recent fake memoirs, as to the veracity of the work. No such flap has erupted over “The Tender Bar,” but curse you, James Frey, for your transgressions. J.R. is national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and lives in Denver. He’s also a wonderful speaker, as he showed during his LC talk on Saturday.
WORKSHOPS AT BOOKFEST: The Oct. 19-21 bookfest in Casper has a whopper of an official title: “The ARTCORE/Casper College Literary Conference presents the Equality State Book Festival.” That’s a mouthful, so “bookfest” will do in a pinch. The literary conference (“litconf”) part of the three-day event features writing workshops on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 19-20) by members of the University of Wyoming M.F.A. creative writing program: Alyson Hagy, Vicki Lindner, Jeff Lockwood, and Craig Arnold. These four writers have published scores of books and have received many honors, including NEA and WAC writing fellowships, and the Rome Prize. If that weren’t enough, on Saturday morning (Oct, 21), WAC fellowship judge Rosemary Daniell will conduct one of her lively Zona Rosa Writing Workshops. I’m an alumnus of one of these workshops held a few years ago in Laramie. Rosemary has a way of encouraging writers to dig deep for those themes and impulses that can radically improve any piece of writing. Zona Rosa boasts a fine list of alumni, mostly from the South and a few of us who claim mixed heritage (Western and Southern). She also conducts workshops annually in Europe. Keep all this in mind as you register for the litconf workshops that you’ll have to pay for but will be well worth it. Also look for Rosemary’s book, “Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives,” set for release later this month. FMI: Michael Shay, WAC, 307-777-5234.