Monday, September 26, 2016

Autumn a good time of year for Wyoming literary events

Did you know that Wyoming has a variety of gatherings devoted to writing and the book?

Maybe you did. In case you did not, here is some illuminating info.

First, you still have some time to see the book that gave us Shakespeare -- the First Folio at the State Museum in Cheyenne. Wyoming is on the tour of the book from the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C. It's exhibited under glass on the museum's second floor where you can read passages written in Early Middle Englifh [sic]. "To be or not to be..." Etc. On exhibit through Friday, Sept. 30. Get more info: 307-777-7021. For more on Shakespeare in Cheyenne, see my earlier blog at

On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Literary Connection returns to Laramie County Community College. A local book club launched the conference more than 10 years ago after attending the excellent Literary Sojourn put on by the public library in Steamboat Springs. I have attended some amazing presentations at LitConn. Talks and readings by Tim O'Brien ("The Things They Carried"); Annie Proulx, whose stunning short fiction collection "Close Range" gave us "Brokeback Mountain;" mystery writer and WYO native C.J. Box; Poe Ballantine, whose true-crime book "Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere" explores a mysterious death in Chadron, Neb.; and Pam ("Cowboys are My Weakness") Houston. This weekend, you can hear from Alexandra Fuller and Craig Childs. Not sure if Alexandra still lives in Jackson Hole but she is a fine writer, author of a chilling nonfiction account about her time in the bush during the civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Craig lives in western Colorado off the grid and writes about human interaction with the landscape. His latest book is "Apocalyptic Planet." A $30 admission buys you presentations from the authors, lunch and a book-signing. FMI: Lisa Trimble, LCCC, 307-778-1285, or go to

I just returned from the 30th annual Casper College Literary Conference. I am especially fond of this conference because I've been attending on-and-off for 25 years as the literary arts coordinator for the Wyoming Arts Council. That time, Terry Tempest Williams stunned the crowd with a reading from her masterpiece "Refuge." Terry's reading addressed the incidences of cancer in her Utah family that was caused by fallout from nuclear tests. This year, another westerner, Doug Peacock, talked about his experiences with grizzly bears in Montana and Wyoming. Doug sought healing from tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret medic by venturing alone into the wilderness. "I needed something more dangerous that fishing and camping," he said during a Friday talk at Casper College. He found it. Read about it in "Grizzly Years."

I picked up two of his books at the conference: "Walking it Off: A Veteran's Chronicle of War and Wilderness" and "In the Shadow of the Sabertooth." Doug has intriguing things to say about "war sickness" (a.k.a. PTSD) and left us by noting that "a recovering vet in the wilderness" isn't looking for data but for stories. It's great to know the causes and possible cures for PTSD. It's the stories that heal.

Thanks to Casper College for featuring so many stories by Peacock and Linda Hogan and Mark Spragg. It takes a village to put on one of these events. In this village are Terry Rasmussen, Joseph Campbell, Julia Whyde and others at CC and Carolyn Deuel of ARTCORE, Casper's very active arts council. As a retired government arts worker, I know how much work this takes. As a an elder of the clan, I urge all of you to support your local arts council through time or money or through messages of support to your local legislator. It all helps.

One complaint ("you kids get off my lawn!"). I miss the Equality State Book Festival, which used to be held in tandem with the literary conference during even years. The bookfest began in 2004, planned by the same committee that put together the conference (plus me down in Cheyenne). It was our only statewide bookfest where we once had two, the other one in Cheyenne during odd years through 2007. It's possible that the events have outlived their usefulness in the age of e-books and self-publishing and mega-bestsellers by celebs. But I was in the Black Hills earlier in the week and saw ads for the South Dakota Book Festival, held at three sites -- Sioux Falls, Brookings and Rapid City. And Montana has at least two bookfests. I admit that I did no volunteering for the cause during my first year as a retiree. Perhaps that will change once I get a handle on this novel. My focus now is on my own community. Perhaps the bookfest can return to Cheyenne, site of the first statewide version in October 2001. Attendance could have been better. It followed on the heels of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks and Cheyenne's first casualty in Afghanistan. But a replay is not out of the question.

The Jackson Hole Writers' Conference is held each June in Jackson. It's one of the best of its kind in the U.S. The JHWC features prize-winning authors from all over the world and an impressive roster of agents and editors. Local faculty includes comic novelist Tim Sandlin, who also runs the conference with assistant Connie Weineke, who just won a poetry fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council and read her work in Casper. Tim is a dogged organizer. He shows the same inventiveness finding event funding as he did surviving as an aspiring writer in one of the West's most expensive resorts. He washed a lot of dishes while conjuring cool characters and fantastical plots. Get more info about JHWC by going to

Wyoming Writers, Inc., has been putting on annual conferences since Hector was a pup. I've attended many, most of them for the Arts Council. Last year's conference at the Wind River Casino in Riverton was my first as a civilian writer. The only gambling I did was during pitch sessions to an editor and an agent ("we don't do short stories!"). I'm a member in good standing and will be at the gathering in Gillette in June 2017. More info at

Other writing events take place all over the state. Writing critique groups aren't for everyone, but most larger communities have one or several. Look to your local library and community college! UW, too.

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