Friday, June 30, 2006
POE MYSTERY DECONSTRUCTED: A new play by performance artist, actor, and puppeteer Thaddeus Phillips explores the final ten days of tempestuous American writer Edgar Allen Poe. Red-Eye to Havre de Grace is being staged as a “psychedelic light opera” on the proscenium stage in the Armstrong Theatre at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo. Phillips, a Colorado College grad, depicts Poe as a “schizophrenic who hears something on the train and goes insane. He goes through the wrong door, down the wrong street, and off on an existential adventure The Twilight Zone could never imagine,” according to an article in the 6/30 Denver Post. It portrays what might have happened to Poe during those missing days before he turned up unconscious and near death on a Baltimore street in 1849. The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1. Tickets are $5-$15. FMI: 719-389-6607.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
THE HISTORY OF SURFING IN WYO: On dry, sun-baked June afternoons in the Lower Piney Creek Valley, a writer’s thoughts naturally turn to water – and lots of it. Oceans once covered this place called Wyoming, leaving behind a rich legacy of fossils and ancient memories. Join writer Michael Shay (a.k.a. Your Humble Wyolitmail Editor) as he transforms archaeological memories into speculative fiction about a time when the seas return to WYO and surfers ride rad waves off the beaches of Big Horn Island.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
CHECK OUT BOOKFEST SITE: The Equality State Book Festival web site is up and running here. On the home page you can read bios of presenting authors, check out the schedule, and sign up for writing workshops by poet and WAC fellowship judge Rosemary Daniell and UW creative writing program faculty members Alyson Hagy, Jeff Lockwood, Vicki Lindner, and Craig Arnold. Writers still have time to sign up for 15-minute reading slots on Oct. 21 by e-mailing Kathy Coe at Casper College. Bookfest art was created by Casper's Zak Pullen; the site designed by AdBay. So what are you waiting for? Fly to the web site. Fly!
Monday, June 26, 2006
High Plains Press of Glendo has released the new book by Saratoga’s Lori Van Pelt. Capital Characters of Old Cheyenne is volume two in the “Dreamers and Schemers” series. Lori debuted the book June 16 at the massive members-only book signing extravaganza at the Western Writers of America conference at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. She will sign books on Saturday, July 1, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Saratoga Inn in Saratoga as part of the arts festival weekend. FMI: B J Farr or Susan Wallace, 307-326-5261. On Saturday, July 8, 1-3 p.m., she will sign books at the Wyoming State Museum in downtown Cheyenne. Get details from Beth Miller at the State Museum Store, 307-777-7022. On Oct. 19-21, Lori will join more than 40 other writers as a presenter at the Equality State Book Festival in Casper.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
FIREWORKS EXTRAVAGANZA AT UCROSS: The Ucross Foundation will host its 25th annual Independence Day Fireworks Extravaganza on Monday, July 3. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with an exhibition in the Art Gallery entitled Leaves and Light: Sunprints from the Ucross Ranch, which features photographs by Lindy Smith (see details below). The Jalan Crossland Band will perform from 7:30-9:30 p.m. The evening will culminate with a fireworks display just after dark, around 9:30 p.m. Parking is only $2 per car, with proceeds donated to the Clearmont Volunteer Fire Department. The Foundation is located at 30 Big Red Lane in Ucross, 30 miles southeast of Sheridan and 18 miles northeast of Buffalo, one-half mile east of the junction of Highways 14 and 16.

EXHIBITION FEATURES MCGUANE ESSAY: View the art of acclaimed photographer Lindy Smith and read the prose of award-wining writer Thomas McGuane from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, July 3, in Ucross’s Big Red Barn Art Gallery. Smith’s work has appeared in Orion, Big Sky Journal, Doubletake and other publications, as well in the book Straight West: Portraits and Scenes from American Ranch Life, published by Lyons Press in 2000. In the past two years, Smith worked at Ucross as an artist-in-residence, collecting plants from its 22,000-acre ranch and developing images in a process that dates to the 1840s, of printing under glass in sunlight. As she says, “I discovered that chemical interactions between the liquids in the plants and the metal salts on the papers yielded colors ranging from gold to brown to burgundy to black.” McGuane has contributed the exhibition essay. The Montana writer is the author of the novel, The Cadence of Grass, and the forthcoming story collection, Gallatin Canyon, among many other books.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
NEW SHEEHAN NOVEL OUT IN JULY: Aurelie Sheehan, former Wyomingite who's now the director of the University of Arizona creative writing program, sends word that her new new novel, History Lessons for Girls, will be released by Viking on July 10. The book has received advance praise, with a starred review in Kirkus and a "best summer read" recommendation in Oprah's O Magazine. This review from Booklist gives a snapshot of the story: "With her cumbersome back brace and bohemian parents, 13-year-old Alison is an outsider in her Connecticut town until popular Kate befriends her. At school, and on their horses, the girls find escape together. Against a backdrop of 1970s dysfunction (abusive new-age gurus; parental drug benders), the family secrets are sharp and shocking. In her second novel, Sheehan juxtaposes small moments the way an artist uses colors, creating potency and meaning with immediate contrasts. In her bright kitchen, Alison listens to Kate's voice--a dark thread in a dark hole--and realizes that her friend is in trouble. These subtle details amplify the seeming contradictions in larger events: a normal school day after madness at home; a child parenting a parent; the past reappearing in the present. And then there's the hope that surfaces after anguish: 'There was no reason that I couldn't live this way,' says Alison about her twisted spine. 'Like any imperfect but plausible thing, a tree growing around a telephone pole.' A tender,unflinching, and distinctive view of how girls grow up." Read an excerpt on Aurelie's web site.
Monday, June 19, 2006
“Jentel Presents,” featuring work by the artists and writers at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Banner, will take place at The Book Shop, 117 North Main, Sheridan, on Tuesday, June 27, from 5:30-7 p.m. Presenters include: Nancy Bowen, Brooklyn, N.Y. , mixed media artist; Kate Budd, Akron, Ohio, sculptor; Sue Johnson, Lexington Park, Md., installation artist; Frances Peebles, Chicago, novelist; Gina Ruggeri, Brooklyn, N.Y., painter; and Michael Shay, Cheyenne, short story writer. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. FMI: Lynn Reeves, 307-737-2311.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
BLANCHAN/DOUBLEDAY APPLICATION ON THE WAY: The application for the 2007 Blanchan/Doubleday writing awards will be mailed Friday. You can also find it online now at the Wyoming Arts Council web site. Must be a WYO resident to enter. Laurie Wagner Buyer, a poet and essayist from Woodland Park, Colo., will serve as a judge for the 2007 awards. Her newest book, Across the High Divide, was released in February by Denver’s Ghost Road Press. Postmark deadline for Blanchan/Doubleday applications is Aug. 8, 2006.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
BEARLODGE BOOK: Members of Bearlodge Writers have been meeting bi-monthly in and around Sundance since 1979. Not many writing groups – in WYO or elsewhere – can claim this kind of continuity. Bearlodgers such as Page Lambert, Gaydell Collier, Jamie Lee, Andi Hummel, and Patricia Frolander have published widely. New books are scheduled this year from Jeanne Rogers (the history of Devils Tower National Monument) and Renee Carrier, whose collection of essays, “A Singular Notion,” is being published by Pronghorn Press in Greybull. Now the group has collected their work in a new book, “In the Shadow of the Bear Lodge: Writings from the Black Hills.” Publisher is Many Kites Press in Rapid City, S.D. I’ve already plunged into my copy, reading “Keeper of the Fish” by Shelly Ritthaler of Upton. This essay about ranch life answers this question: “Will a rooster eat a 40-year-old frozen fish?” You have to read it to find out. The cover illustration is by another talented Black Hillsian: artist Sarah Rogers. Order copies of the book by visiting the Bearlodge Writers web site or write Backpocket Books, 364 Farrall Rd., Sundance, WY 82729-9520. The book is $15 plus $3 shipping and handling.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
“WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?” -- “Butch Cassidy in Wyoming and Beyond” will be held July 20-22 at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs. Sessions include “They May Have Been Wild but They Weren’t Much of a Bunch” by Washington, D.C., writers/historians Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows, and “Butch Cassidy: The Early Years” by Bill Betenson of Utah. A vendor marketplace, featuring history books and other conference-related items, will be located in the WWCC Atrium. There will be a tour to South Pass City on July 22. Early registration (before June 15) is $130; $150 after that. FMI: Ruth Lauritzen, Sweetwater County Historical Museum, 307-872-6435 or swchm@sweetwater.net.
Monday, June 12, 2006
BOOKFEST GETS GRANT: The Casper Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Wyoming Community Foundation, has awarded a $2,500 grant to the Equality State Book Festival, set for Oct. 19-21 in Casper. This is the third major grant to the bookfest. Already announced was a $6,000 grant from the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and a $7,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The event’s major funder is the Casper College Foundation. The bookfest web site should be up and running soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
TETON LITFEST IN JACKSON: Sign up now for the "Teton Literary Festival: Where Readers and Writers Rendezvous," a four-day event of author readings and interviews, visual exhibits, book art workshops and social gatherings June 28-July 2 in Jackson. All events and workshops are free and open to the public. Pre-register at the Teton County Public Library's Front Desk. On Saturday, July 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., join artist Thomas Stimpson for "The Art of Handmade Books." Previous experience not required. Although supplies will provided, participants are encouraged to bring their own papers, ribbons, lace, buttons or other novelties to personalize their creations. Also starting on Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, and continuing on Sunday, July 2, 9 a.m.-noon, will be "Writing Life with Teresa Jordan: Memoir & the Personal Essay." During this two-day workshop, participants will study some of the best creative nonfiction authors writing today, as well as working with Jordan on the application of various aspects of the craft through a series of in-class exercises. Registration for both days of the workshop is required. Jordan's award-winning memoir, Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album, tells the story of growing up in a fourth generation ranch family in the Iron Mountain country of Southeastern Wyoming. Workshops are limited to 15 participants 15-years-old and up. Spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. FMI: Juli Smith at 307-733-2164 ext 229.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
ROMANCING THE RAIN: Dancing in the Rain, an historical romance by regional author Amanda Harte, is the June 20 selection of the Tuesday Night Book Club. The author will be on hand to discuss her book and answer questions. Sponsored by the Laramie County Library System and Starbucks, this reading and discussion club (now in its fourth year) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Starbucks, 3610 Dell Range Blvd., Cheyenne. Adults and teens are welcome to join any of the monthly sessions. In July, the Tuesday Night Book Club will discuss The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. FMI: Jennie Fowler at Starbucks, 307-634-3433.
Friday, June 09, 2006
JUDGE ANNOUNCED FOR BLANCHAN/DOUBLEDAY AWARDS: Laurie Wagner Buyer, a Woodland Park, Colo., poet and essayist, has agreed to serve as a judge for the 2007 Blanchan/Doubleday writing awards. Her newest book, Across the High Divide, was released in February by Denver’s Ghost Road Press. "This book opens with a searing narrative lament called ‘Selling Guns’ and by the time you finish the final sequence you will know that Laurie Wagner Buyer is the real thing, a writer who has lived hard and worked at her trade,” says poet David Mason. “Across the High Divide is both a record of survival and a triumph of writing.” Laurie’s other books include Side Canyons, Red Colt Canyon, and Glass-Eyed Paint in the Rain, published by Wyoming’s High Plains Press. Look for more bio info on her web site. Writer and crackerjack WAC summer employee Lindsey Grubbs (you’ll remember her as the lowly literature program intern from last summer) is working on the application and we plan to mail it next week. It also will be in downloadable form on the WAC web site. Deadline is Aug. 8, 2006. E-mail me for more info.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
WAXING POETIC ABOUT INTERSTATES: Many Wyoming writers have stories and poems of the road. No surprise -- we spend half of our time driving. We’ve been stranded during the winter along I-80 near Elk Mountain. We’ve marveled at thunderheads rising out of sun-baked prairies. Breakdowns along lonely county roads and wild road trips with college friends populate our memories. A few weeks ago, I read one of my Wyoming road stories (“Road Kill”) at the Teton County Public Library. Last weekend in Rock Springs, Barbara Smith read her much-anthologized poem “Interstate 80” at the WWI conference. Later this month, Barbara will read her poem to a caravan of people driving cross-country to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Eisenhower Highway system. This is on June 19, when the group stops for lunch at Western Wyoming College. On June 20, 5 p.m., Cheyenne will fete the interstate caravan at the Historic Train Depot. Emcee will be Milward Simpson, newly named director of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources. The Chugwater Philharmonic String Quartet will perform some road songs. WAC roster artists Jeffe Kennedy and Chavawn Kelley will read some of their road-oriented writing, and WAC Manager Rita Basom will read work by some other WYO writers. It’s free. Come out and celebrate all those writers who’ve been “on the road” in Wyoming, such as Beat writer Jack Kerouac, novelist Ernest Hemingway, and humorist Mark Twain, who wrote about the state’s roadways when they were mere trails. The highway caravan will split into two groups when it leaves Cheyenne June 21. One will go east across I-80 into Nebraska and the other goes south to Denver along I-25, and then east into Kansas, on their way to the Eisenhower home in Abilene.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Your wyolitmail editor (left) and Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt sign copies of their books at the 2006 Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference June 3 in Rock Springs. David's newest book is "Some Church," published by Milkweeed Editions. Mine is "The Weight of a Body: Stories" from Ghost Road Press. We also signed a few copies of "Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming," the anthology that David and I co-edited in 2003. Thanks to Misty at Book & Bean for her efforts as conference bookseller. (Photo by Chris Valentine.)
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
WYOMING WRITERS, INC. -- YEAR 32: So much territory is covered during each Wyoming Writers, Inc., annual conference. This past weekend in Rock Springs, I scribbled notes from many of the sessions. I translated my distinctive shorthand (unintelligible to the untrained eye) and found some entries worth sharing. At the members’ meeting, outgoing President Barbara Wild shared some thoughts about her tenure – and future of WWI. In the org’s 32nd year, membership remains flat, and registration for the conference was a little less than last year’s event in Cheyenne, which was a bit less than the previous year’s. She diagnosed the problem as lack of outreach by the membership. “The longer we keep internal and don’t give of our talent and money and go out of our way to encourage young people, we can’t continue,” she said. “We will either adapt or perish – it’s a simple biological fact.” She encouraged the membership to consider alternative venues for conferences (i.e., community college campuses) and scholarships and mentoring for young writers. WWI could also provide funds to young writers to attend non-WWI workshops and pay for critiquing of their manuscripts. But her main message: “externalize.” This is a challenge for any organization, especially one with a successful 30-plus-year history (and a Governor’s Arts Award under its belt).

You could look at this as the challenge Wyoming (the state) faces in the 21st century: “adapt or die.” We often have to look outside of ourselves for answers, not an easy task when you’re an independent cuss – or an all-volunteer organization with 100 or more strong-minded individuals. WWI always operates in the black and only recently did it apply for WAC grants and do it successfully each time.

As the meeting continued, members offered their thoughts about keeping the conference in one place every year, or taking it to different communities. Some liked the idea of college campus venues; others didn’t. I stood and asked them to really take a leap of their imaginations to 2015. By then, WWI has tapped into the Wyoming Cultural Trust for funding for a paid staff person and a central HQ, possibly in Casper. The new Casper Arts Center is the site for the annual meeting and hundreds of writers are there, including scores of young people and even some out-of-staters. The room was quiet as I took my seat. Crickets chirped; tumbleweeds blew through the room. Then the conversation resumed about where to hold future annual meetings, in 2008 and 2009. Central location or not. College campuses or not. Nobody seemed to want to make the leap to 2015. I’ll be 64 that year, about the age of many of the members now. That means they’ll be even older. I just hope there are scads of younger people at the 2015 conference, wherever it may be. As Barbara said: “Adapt or die.”

The Wyoming Arts Council has been faced with that reality more than once. And we’ll mark our 40-year anniversary in 2007 with some major changes. I’ll keep you posted on further developments.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
AT THE WWI CONFERENCE: During a break at the Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference in Rock Springs at around 3 p.m. on Saturday. Needed a little fresh-air, walking-around (driving-around) time after eight hours schmoozing with other writers. Also attended two very good panels. Some pointed questions were aimed at literary agent Loretta Weingel-Fidel at the tail end of her afternoon session. It always comes up: How comes New York editors hate and/or ignore writers in the West? Or something to that effect. Loretta had lived in Arizona for seven years. "I always wondered why no great book came out of there," she said. Noting that the big book markets are in N.Y., Wash., D.C., Chicago, etc., she said that "book people tend to zero in on markets where people buy books. How many books did you buy last week? I bought eight, including two at the Denver airport on my way here." I wondered how many books I bought this past week. Just one, although I will buy some books at the conference. But on average, I probably buy only a book a week. I get some from the library, but lack the disposable income for eight books a week. The West is also a car culture. We drive and drive and drive. I drove seven hours to get here after a two-day meeting in Denver. I listened to a Michael Connelly audiobook. But the only thing I read was the McDonald's menu in Rawlins while I waited in the slow line at this fast-food joint. "We're a subway and bus culture," Loretta said. "We live differently than you. Everyone on the subway is reading a book." So, more public transportation equals more books? True enough. I read an hour each way when I rode the D.C. Metro from Rockville to the NEA when I worked there. I made more money, went to more readings, bought more books. Some final thoughts from Loretta: "Ask yourself why Wyoming isn't producing more writers." And "Ask yourself how I can write about the West to make it appealing to people in the East." Fair questions. Any answers?
Thursday, June 01, 2006
VEGEMITE, ICE CREAM, AND PAUL TAYLOR: The Teton County Library’s Alta Branch will sponsor WAC roster artist Paul "Walking Stick" Taylor on Friday, June 9, 7-8:30 p.m. for “Didjeridoos and Kangaroos: An Evening of Australian Music and Stories.” This is a free kick-off of the library’s Australian-themed summer reading program. Bring a picnic and enjoy vegemite and ice cream from 6:30-7 p.m., followed by Taylor’s performance. At the Alta School Gym, 15 Alta School Rd. FMI: 307-353-2505.

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