Saturday, September 17, 2011

Want to schmooze with real-live writers? Go no further than Casper & Cheyenne & Laramie

I'm a writer who, in my middle-class youth, never met a living breathing writer until I went off to college at University of South Carolina, met James Dickey at a campus gathering, and said, "Who are you?"

That was after his National Book Award and his stint as poet-in-residence at the U.S. Library of Congress but a few years before "Deliverance."

Pam Houston
Now I'm a writer who works in the arts. I learn something every time a writer speaks. I'm always amazed when people don't take advantage of meeting and hearing from real live writers. Great talents such as Naomi Shihab Nye, Pam Houston, David Madden, Margaret Coel, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Craig Johnson, Mark Spragg, etc.

Next weekend in Casper, you can schmooze with some of these cool writers for free and take some workshops with them for a nominal fee. Here are some details:

You're invited to a free reading by Wyoming Arts Council creative writing fellowship winners on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2-4 p.m., in the lobby of the Goodstein Foundation Library at Casper College. This is part of the three-day Casper College Literary Conference.

The event gets underway at 2 p.m. Saturday with a presentation by WAC fellowship judge Pam Houston, "A Reading and Conversation about Places and Moving Among Therm." Pam knows a lot about moving among places. Two days before she flies into Casper, she'll be returning from a trip to Hungary. After the conference, she goes off to Colorado and then California. Pam is author of two short-story collections, including "Cowboys are My Weakness." Her new novel, "Contents May Have Shifted," will be out in 2012. 

At 3 p.m., Pam will join me at the podium to introduce fellowship winners Sam Western, Sheridan; Kathy Bjornestad, Sundance; and Stefani Farris, Lander. They will be reading from their award-winning fiction submissions.

At 4 p.m. in the lobby, Kristen Elias Rowley of the University of Nebraska Press will talk about "Book Business: Publishing with a University Press."

At 5 p.m., there will be a free public reception in the library. Everyone is invited to stick around for food and beverages provided by Casper College President Dr. Walt Nolte.

At 9 p.m., the literary conference hosts its closing session -- a raucous open reading and poetry slam at Metro Coffee Company, 241 S. David in downtown Casper. Poet George Vlastos will serve as emcee. Bring your prose and poetry. Musicians are also invited to get up on stage.

There may be slots remaining in some of the workshops. For more info on workshops, contact Jill Hughes at 307-268-2383 For general questions, contact Terry Rasmussen at or call 307-268-2480.

For full schedule, go to

To RSVP, go to event Facebook page.

If you're in Cheyenne and can't get up to Casper, you will have three fine writers coming to town Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Laramie County Community College. Margaret Coel, Lee Ann Roripaugh and Ben Mikaelsen will lead a free writing workshop on Friday at LCCC. They will lead a series of paid presentations on Saturday (lunch included). Book singing to follow.

LCCC's Literary Connection got its start a decade ago when faculty member Leif Swanson arranged an appearance by Robert Bly who, in Red-State Wyoming, had a few choice things to say in public about Dark Lord Dick Cheney, wars of convenience and reactionary dimwits in the Republican Party, among other things. Never shy, Robert Bly. He also led a writing workshop for a small group of 300 souls.

Ain't public funding of the arts a glorious thing?
Ed Roberson

Here are a few other upcoming Wyoming events that feature real live writers:

On September 19, at 5 p.m., the UW MFA program in creative writing in Laramie will host a reception welcoming poet Ed Roberson to campus, followed by a reading by Roberson at 5:30 p.m.  The reception and reading will be held at the UW Art Museum. This event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a book-signing. Tonight, Roberson is giving a reading in Jackson sponsored by the Teton County Public Library. In February, Roberson’s residency will be followed by that of nonfiction writer John D’Agata. D’Agata’s non-fiction book, “About a Mountain,” was one of the best books I’ve read in the past ten years. FMI: Visit the MFA website at or contact Gwynn Lemler at or 766-6453.

The Laramie County Public Library Foundation’s annual Booklovers’ Bash will be host to mystery writer Craig Johnson. The Bash, to be held on Friday, October 28 at Little America and includes dinner and silent and live auctions. For a preview of Johnson’s books, please visit his web site at Craig also will be featured at the Central Wyoming College Library Open House in Riverton on Nov. 2, 4 p.m.

I have enough experience as an arts administrator and arts presenter and writer to know that you can't make people attend arts events.

Craig Johnson
But there is one thing you can do. You can keep creating and arranging and planning. Doing is in the doing, ya'll. The audience does eventually arrive. When that prize-winning poet from Georgia walks in the door to talk about his craft, you might ask, "Who are you?"

He just might answer: "Sit yourself down. Open your mind. You might learn something tonight."

Read a few of Dickey’s best poems at

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