Friday, September 09, 2011

Wyoming's Snarky Slacktivists hit the road to Vermillion in October

I'm pleased to announce that the John R. Milton Writers’ Conference Oct. 27-29 at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion will be featuring the roundtable, "Snarky Slacktivists or Online Outlaws? Leftie Blogging in Red State Wyoming”

Panelists include Cheyenne's Rodger McDaniel, Jeran Artery and Mike Shay and Laramie's Meg Lanker-Simons (see their links on the right sidebar blogroll).

We are definitely snarky slacktivists. One has only to look at my sitting-in-front-of-the-computer-all-day waistline to deduce that. But outlaws? Probably not. We are progressives in a decidedly non-progressive state. Putting us in the same camp as Butch Cassidy and Wild Bill Hickok automatically gives us some Wild West creds.

Bang, bang!

We first began thinking about pitching a panel to the Milton conference back in July. Lee Ann Roripaugh, director of the creative writing program at USD, put out the call for proposals early in the summer. Lee Ann is a Wyoming native, offspring of Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming Poet Laureate Emeritus, and Yoshiko Roripaugh, native of Japan and one of the nicest people in the universe. As often happens, Lee Ann escaped her home town of Laramie to do some amazing things. She earned a music performance degree from Indiana University and went on to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing at IU working with Yusef Komunyakaa, a prize-winning poet, Vietnam vet and Colorado State University (my alma mater) grad.

So had did we make the case for outlaw online slacktivism? Read this:
In 2008, Wyoming voters went for John McCain over Barack Obama by a 65-33 percent margin. This was the lowest percentage of “blue” voters in any state, outdoing even neighboring Utah and Idaho (34 percent). In 2010, Republican Matt Mead was elected governor by a 3-to-1 margin. All five elected offices were swept by Republicans and the GOP-dominated Legislature upped its “R” margin to 76 out of 90 seats. 
Democrats are an endangered species in Wyoming. This is a state where sporting an Obama bumper sticker is a radical act. Many Democrats are afraid to speak up in public because they are so tragically outnumbered. In some cases, jobs are on the line. 
The four bloggers in this proposal are not the state’s only outspoken progressives, but they represent voices unheard in Wyoming’s mainstream media. They have been active in Democratic Party politics, and one has served in the legislature as a Democrat. But they are not party functionaries. They often find themselves at odds with a party structure that is timid in the face of Republican onslaughts. It may be a stretch to label them “virtual outlaws.” But they do represent voices that fall into four of your suggested conference categories:
Outlaw as Other
Gender outlaws, and/or queering the American West
Borders, border crossings, and boundary transgressions
Virtual outlaws, and/or outlaws in the “new frontier” of cyber-space 
In our roundtable session, we will speak about our prog-blogging journeys. It will include a multimedia presentation of our work. All of us will be blogging from the conference.

Jeran Artery, Cheyenne, blogs at Out in Wyoming, LGBT activist and Director of Social Change for Wyoming Equality, actor and visual artist, a native of Wheatland in very conservative Platte County, Wyo. Blog:
Meg Lanker, Laramie, blogs at Cognitive Dissonance, hosts a radio show by the same on KOCA FM every Friday night. Meg brought a successful lawsuit against the University of Wyoming when it refused to let 1960s radical turned education reformer Bill Ayers speak on campus. She also organized a fund-raiser for LGBT groups when ultra-conservative commentator Ann Coulter spoke in Laramie earlier this year. She’s a member of the National Writers Union. Her web site is included in Tumblr's featured politics and government directory at and her site has over 3,000 followers. Blog:
Rodger McDaniel, Cheyenne, former Wyoming state legislator, one-time director of Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua, retired director of Wyoming Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division, ordained minister, Blowing in the Wyoming Wind blogger. Sponsors a Monday night “Beer and Bibles” get-together each week at a Cheyenne bar where Bible stories are explored from a social justice angle. Rodger is a frequent guest columnist for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Blog: 
Michael Shay, Cheyenne, fiction writer, essayist and blogger on hummingbirdminds since 2005. One of Michael’s short stories is featured in the 2010 anthology “Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams” from Coffee House Press. Other poets, writers and musicians in the anthology include new U.S. Poet Laureate Phil Levine, Wanda Coleman, Diane DiPrima, Bob Dylan, Eminem, Li-Young Lee, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan. One of Michael’s essays is in “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise,” due out in November from DRT Press. Michael’s blog was recently named by the Washington Post as one of the top state-based political blogs in the U.S. Blog:
Go read the blogs. What would Judge Roy Bean think: snarky slacktivists or online outlaws?

Find out more about the Milton conference at

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