Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gathering of writers and fellow travelers in Cheyenne

Last night the Wyoming Arts Council held its annual Governor’s Arts Awards event. A record crowd was on hand in the Little America ballroom in Cheyenne to celebrate the awardees and to hear Gov. Matt Mead’s first “State of the Arts” speech.  For more on that, go to Karen Cotton’s article in this morning’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle at

It also was old home week for artists and arts supporters from around the state. This was especially true for writers because Nancy Curtis, proprietor of High Plains Press, was one of the awardees.  Nancy runs the press from her working ranch near Glendo. In the video that accompanied her award, Nancy is shown tending to her books and her cattle, not always in that order. She also showed off her and her husband Doug’s homestead, including the room where she grew up. I never knew that Nancy lived in the same house she grew up in. She showed off the old sign on the bedroom door that said “Nanci” in big letters. Underneath that was “Press.” Guess she always knew she was getting into the publishing biz.

Nancy has been a huge supporter of writers in Wyoming. This is through her press but also through her early work organizing the statewide organizations for writers – Wyoming Writers, Inc., and WyoPoets. Both organizations have annual gatherings that are energizing, informative and fun. WyoPoets will meet during the last weekend in April in Casper and WWInc will meet the first weekend in June, also in Casper. I’ve been a WWInc member for at least a decade and plan my summer schedule around the conference. I just volunteered to run the late-night open mike sessions which are a blast. Last year in Cody we heard some intriguing new voices, one of whom (Jayme Feary) won a Wyoming Arts Council creative writing award later that summer. Another newbie, Reid Rosenthal, just published the first in his “Threads West” series of historical westerns.  To see the line-up of presenters for this year’s conference, go to

Last night, Nancy and Doug were surrounded by long-time friends from around the state. Among them were Pat Frolander, Gaydell Collier, Katie Smith and Jeanne Rogers from Sundance, Midge Farmer from Gillette, Barb Smith from Rock Springs, Wyoming Poet Laureate Emeritus Bob Roripaugh from Laramie, Linda Hasselstrom from Hermosa, S.D. (lived in Cheyenne for a decade), Page Lambert, a one-time Crook County resident and Bear Lodge Writers members who now lives in Colorado. I know there were more but you can’t see everybody at an event with 500 people.

I sat with my wife Chris and daughter Annie. Also Joy Thompson, who hired me at the Arts Council 20 years ago and was my first mentor in the world of arts administration. She now lives in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver, and hope we can visit again soon. One thing’s clear – it’s great to see old friends. I’ve lived in so many places during my six decades. I’ve met many people and had some good friends that I’ve let drift away.

We connect occasionally via e-mail and Facebook. But it’s a real treat when you get to sit down with someone and just talk. It may be a sign of age or a byproduct of our frenetic e-lives (or both). We all ache to spend time with family and friends and even colleagues. I find it strange that this shy and withdrawn kid now has a public life. Chris will tell you that one of my catch-phrases is “I hate the living.” Yes, it’s a movie quote, this one by the quirky woman coroner in “Men in Black.” I usually say it in relation to some talentless media star who materializes on the plasma TV screen. I’ll have to amend that to “I hate or at least strongly dislike some of the living.” That means you, Lindsay Lohan and Glenn Beck!  

No comments: