Saturday, February 28, 2015

(Nearly Belated) February Writing Roundup

WOW the end of the month creeps up fast when you've only got 28 days to work with. We were nearly a day late and a dollar short, but just made it in under deadline by my watch.

A few tidbits and reminders this month:

Cheyenne Artspace "is conducting a study of the space needs and preferences of artists and creatively engaged individuals in Cheyenne, and the surrounding region.
This study will assist in the development of affordable new space where artists and creatives of all disciplines may live, work, create, and share their works with the public." Take the survey at

Alethea Williams will appear at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs on Sunday, March 8 at 2 p.m. to present "Orphan Trains," the story of children sent by rail out West to new homes during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The talk is sponsored by the Sweetwater County Historical Society. Alethea will draw on research she did for her book, Walls for the Wind, a fictional account about these children searching for a new home in Wyoming.

Laramie County Library System's central library in Cheyenne is holding a Non-Fiction Writing Workshop for adults and teens on Monday, March 9 from 6-9 p.m in the Willow Room. Also at LCLS in Cheyenne, C.J. Box will be signing his new Joe Pickett novel, Endangered, on Wednesday, March 11 from 7-9 p.m. in the Cottonwood Room. Copies will be available for purchase. Go early and get a cup of coffee -- this award-winning library has an amazing cafe.

The Wyoming Writers 2015 Contest March 15 deadline is coming up fast. Entry fees range from  $10-$25, depending on genre and membership status. Also on March 15, online registration will open for the June 5-7 Wyoming Writers Inc's 41st Annual Conference at the Cheyenne Holiday Inn. Meet the presenters and learn about scholarship opportunities (Deadline April 30) on the website

There's still time to register for the Northern Colorado Writers conference,  "Ten Years of Writing with Abandon" on March 27-28 in Fort Collins, CO. Attendance is limited to 130 participants. 

Brochures for the April 17-18 WyoPoets Annual Workshop in Casper went in the mail in February! If you do not have one, you can request one from or print your own from the WyoPoets website. Come and enjoy a poetry reading Friday night at the Natrona County Public Library and a full-day workshop with Rock Springs poet Rick Kempa on Saturday. 

It looks like March is coming in not so much like a lion, but more like a polar bear this year. Stay warm!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wyoming Historical Resources Online

by Susan

As the joke goes, I have on my desktop a device, my computer, that can access the vast sum of all human knowledge. I use it to pick fights with strangers and look at cats.

And I use it to do research for writing. It amazes me how much historical material held by libraries and archives is going online. Where once I might have had to travel to a research library and handle frail documents with white gloves, I can now pull up the same items with a few clicks.

Wyoming has a slew of these resources through the Wyoming State Library Digital Collections. Here's a sampling of what you'll find:

Wyoming Newspapers
 No more scrolling through yards and yards of microfilm, for those of you who remember doing that. At least not for Wyoming newspapers published before 1923. The State Library digitized every Wyoming newspaper they could get their hands on, all the way back to a hand-written 1849 Chugg Water Journal.

The text is fully searchable, so go ahead and look for that notorious relative of yours who went on trial for fraud in 1918. You can also browse by year, place or newspaper title.

Why do they stop at 1922? Copyright issues. There are a handful of papers in there from later years, but the bulk of them are older. If you have a need for newspapers from 1923 forward, your best bet is the Wyoming State Archives or University of Wyoming Libraries.

Wyoming Places

Would you believe that some of the most frequently asked reference questions in the past at the Wyoming State Library were about the state's place names? Wyoming Places answers those questions. This resource brings it all together -- names, photos, histories. Find ghost towns and post offices galore.

Use the search box at the top of the search by names page for quickest access, or browse the map.

Wyoming Inventors
A lot of great things were invented here! The Wyoming Inventors database indexes U.S. Patents from 1867 to the present where one or more of the inventors came from Wyoming. Every record links to the original patent files on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.

Wyoming Trademarks 
This database currently covers state trademarks issued between 1906-current located at the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office. New applications and renewals are added monthly. This database will ultimately include the inactive applications and mark images for Wyoming trademarks located at the Wyoming State Archives, back to the first state trademark in 1881.

Wyoming Legislation
Ah, politics and sausage. Most of us don't want to watch the making of either, but a lot can be learned about the history of the state through the legislative records. Wyoming Legislation contains the digitized bills and journals back to Territorial Days.

Wyoming State Publications
Do government documents sound about as exciting as watching snails race? Stay with me here. You might be surprised at what insights you can gain about different eras and places from state government documents, such as those on mining and mineral resources.

This database is still very much a work in progress, and materials are being added as it progresses. Still definitely worth a look-through.

And the best thing these all come with:
Librarians. If you have questions about finding the information you need in these resources, your local librarian can help, or you can contact the Wyoming State Library at 307-777-6333 or

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


post by Lynn

As I lean against the wall in my bedroom, my hair gloms on to the surface in a static-charged frenzy.

When I step outside, the “active air” of Wyoming wallops me in the face, and when I throw the ball for Luna, it does a boomerang spin and drops at my feet.

It’s February.

It’s Wyoming.

February is the month when I get antsy, in a general way. Antsy for more light, less wind, and for, I don’t know--something different.

It’s a month when I must amuse myself or I get horribly irritable.  

So, my friends, let us amuse ourselves today with some literary trivia, with a few facts on some writers with connections to our beloved state of Wyoming:


First thing that comes to mind when you hear that name, I’m gonna bet, is a naughty little book he wrote. Well, he actually wrote quite a few books.

"Stack o' Nabokov" by Martin Kalfatovic
via Flickr Creative Commons
AND he was a lepidopterologist. Say that five times fast. In case you don’t know (I didn’t), a lepidopterologist is an entomologist (studier of bugs) who specializes in the collection and study of butterflies and moths. 

Nabokov and his wife Vera traveled throughout the western U.S. and visited Wyoming in the 1950s, all for the sake of chasing butterflies. During these trips, the author reportedly gathered small town details that ended up in Lolita.

Hmm… I’m from Lusk and back in the 50s and 60s we had these funny little hotels... I wonder?

Here’s something from good old Vlad’s writing process that you might find interesting.

He kept a stack of 3 X 5 note cards under his pillow so he could jot down things during his nocturnal ramblings (apparently he was a bit of an insomniac).

He originally started using the notecards for his lepidopterological studies, then adapted their use to creative writing. It’s said that the book Lolita started out with a pile of these note cards. 

In an interview with Playboy magazine, Nabokov said that he gathered observations on notecards and then waited for all the information to come together in some way. He called the notes “…known materials for an unknown structure.” He arranged and re-arranged the notecards compulsively to find the form of the story.

This writer was born Patricia Pritzkau on March 3rd, 1938 in Cheyenne. She was an only child, raised in Minnesota by parents who were teachers.

You might know her best as the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, a story about a mail-order bride who comes out west. That little book won her the coveted Newbery Medal, and quite a few other awards.

MacLachlan wrote lots of stories for middle-grade readers, all of which bring to life quirky, lovable-in-spite-of-themselves characters. Most of the stories are centered around the family.

MacLachlan was an avid reader, but didn’t start writing until age 35, after her children were older. Take that, all you writers who think you have to start early!

I like how MacLachlan describes the birth of Sarah, Plain and Tall, in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech:
“My mother told me early on about the real Sarah who came from the coast of Maine to the prairie to become a wife and mother to a close family member… So the fact of Sarah was there for years, though the book began as books often do, when the past stepped on the heels of the present; or backward, when something now tapped something then.”
Wow! That’s quite an image on how the past and present interact and mingle and become story. Food for thought, eh?


Ever heard of this fellow?

He’s another Wyoming native, born in Cheyenne on July 10, 1929: Science fiction and fantasy writer, screenwriter (television and film) and actor. Oh, and coffee house proprietor.

If you’re not familiar with the name, I’m betting you are with his work. He wrote and co-wrote episodes for Twilight Zone, Kung Fu and Star Trek.

He even wrote “The Man Trap”-- the episode that became the premiere for the first Star Trek series.

Here’s an excerpt
Photo by Wil Wheaton, via Flickr Creative Commons
“Okay, you three, let’s see you petrify.” 
“Sir, would you mind explaining that statement, please?” 
“I want to see you turn to stone. Put your hands over your head, or you ain’t going to have no head to put your hands over.” 
-          Kalo and Spock, as Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive on Sigma lotia II
Johnson also wrote (with William F. Nolan) the classic science fiction novel, Logan’s Run, which was made into a movie.

As if that wasn’t enough, he wrote the story which was the basis of the 1960 and 2001 films Oceans Eleven, and co-created (with cartoonist Jay Allen Sanford) Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology, a comic book series.

This guy is all over the place! And what an imagination! He also obviously likes to collaborate with people.

In the late fifties and early sixties, Johnson and his buddies, Burt Shonberg and Doug Myres (both artists), ran a coffee house in Laguna Beach called Café Frankenstein. The place got quite a reputation for being a hang out for beatniks, surfers, folkies and druggies. It is reported that over a two year period, undercover cops frequented Café Frankenstein, attempting to get evidence for a bust. Instead they ended up being fans of the place.

 I think I like this guy.


Well, I am. Now I can go on with my life and my writing. I can face the wind again.

Thanks for coming along on my self-amusement ride. The good news is that the month of May will be here before we know it. 

As if that means the wind will stop :-)

Sources for these amusements:

Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors, by Celia Blue Johnson

Wyoming Almanac, 7th Edition by Phil Roberts, David L. Roberts, and Steven L. Roberts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's Talk Copyright

by Susan

In the delightful book by William Kotzwinkle, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, a bear finds the manuscript of a novel a writer squirreled away in a hollow tree in the woods for safekeeping. The bear reads the manuscript, thinks it's good, and decides to head into town and pass the work off as his own and pass himself off as its author.

He didn't know about copyright "because after all, he was just a bear."

We creative sorts need a bit more knowledge on the topic. We don't want our stuff we devoted so much butt-in-chair time stolen. And we have an ethical obligation not to steal others' stuff, not even inadvertently.

I'm going to preface this by saying I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. This is not legal advice, just a few tips.

First of all, the basics
Copyright is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to those who create "original works of authorship." The Founding Fathers apparently thought it important enough to write it right into the U.S. Constitution, giving Congress the power:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (Article I, Section 8)

Under current copyright law, your work is protected when you put it in fixed format. Period. A copyright notice is not required, nor is registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. That said, when it hits actual publication, a copyright notice has its advantages and should be included. Registration with the Copyright Office does, too. More on that later.

What rights are you giving away when you get published? 
Copyright is actually a bundle of rights. For example, in agreeing to publication in a literary journal, you might be giving away your First North American Serial rights, but keeping your rights to subsequent reprints, online publication, etc.

Be cognizant of which rights you give away and which ones you retain. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America's (SFWA)  Writer Beware is rife with shady publishers who bury items in the contracts that take way more of your rights than you should give away for far too little in return. Think never being able to publish it yourself with no guarantee they'll ever do so, either. Educate yourself and read the agreement or contract carefully.

What is the advantage of registration?
Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office doesn't affect your inherent right to own and control your own work, but it does give you a better day in court. Registration establishes a public record of your claim. If your copyright has been infringed, and you haven't registered, you'll have to do so before you file that lawsuit. If you didn't register within three months of publication, or before the infringement occured, you're only eligible for actual damages, not statutory damages or your attorney's fees.

There's paperwork involved and, of course, a fee. There's little point in registering unpublished works, but it's important if you're publishing a book.

What if I'm doing an anthology of others' work?
It's a good idea to get a signed agreement with each contributor that the work is original and either unpublished or that they actually own the rights you need to publish. It should specify that if the author gives away rights they already gave away, or has plagiarized, that's their legal problem, not yours. The last thing you want is to get a bill from a publisher for reprinting their material. (It happens. I've seen it.)

There is a reason why a huge proportion of literary journals only take unpublished work -- it's easier. A great resource, including sample agreements, is Nolo Press's Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyrighted Materials Online and Off, available at fine libraries everywhere.

What about stuff on the internet?
All protected. Text, images, video, music are all protected by copyright. Does most of the world ignore this? Pretty much. In a sharing and sampling society where copying is as easy as a click or two, reuse without permission is rampant. There's probably not a lot you can do about it. Few of us are able to pull off anything like the epic takedown (language warning, be sure to scroll past all the links for the full story) that The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman pulled. But as writers who want our work respected, it's best to not participate in it ourselves.

A relatively recent innovation is Creative Commons licensing, available since 2002. Creative Commons "is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools" (from website.) If you want to allow people to use your work, or if you want to find photos and other materials you may use legally, this is a great resource. You can place restrictions on use, such as requiring an attribution or allowing only non-commercial use.

Are there exceptions to copyright?
Yes. Probably the biggie is Fair Use. Fair Use is what allows the high school teacher to copy two pages of your Great American Novel so his class may discuss the brilliance of your writing. Fair use is a set of criteria, not a set of hard and fast rules. If someone tells you fair use means you can use up to some number of words, or so many lines of a poem -- say for those little quotes that begins chapters or sections -- no such rule exists. Fair use depends on four tests:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Other exceptions include works in the Public Domain, where copyright has expired, mostly items published before 1923. Titles, facts and ideas (versus explanations) cannot be copyrighted. Common knowledge, such as calendars, cannot be copyrighted.

Where may I learn more?
I'm glad you asked! The first and most basic resource is the U.S. Copyright Office ( Check their factsheet page for the best rundown of what you need to know.

Nolo Press puts out great legal guides, including the previously mentioned Getting Permission and The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know. The laws can change, so find the most recent version of these books that you can.

SFWA has some great resources on the Writer Beware section of their website.

Find the most recent and reliable resources you can. Know your rights, stay within the law, enjoy the fruits of your labor and let others enjoy theirs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Zachary Pullen: Working with a Picture Book Illustrator

Guest post by author and illustrator Zachary Pullen

“Oh, you are the illustrator?”
“Yep, sure am.”
“What fun that must be.”
“It is a lot of fun, a lot of work, but yes fun as well.”
“Can I get your card or do you have an email?”
“Great. My (fill in your relationship), wrote a children’s book that is to die for, better than 90% of the stuff out there. I’ll give him your card and maybe you could work with him.”

This is a very poor way to start any relationship. Doesn’t it feel a little creepy? Kind of like a speed dating for “Creatives” that ends up being a blind date situation.

Insulting? Maybe.

Chance you’ll ever hear from that relative? Slight.

That percentage is getting higher and that conversation has moved from an awkward relative getting my number to actual authors sharing their number. Publishing is changing, and it’s apparent in the conversations during signings business meetings, and social events.

I love illustrating books and taking a story and telling it in my own way. That way is for me to deconstruct it, find the strip playing in my head and try to capture it. Sometimes these images aren't a literal translation of the text, other times much closer. Give the reader something more in the image that isn't there in the text.

One of my biggest dreams was to illustrate picture books. That dream came true and I have worked with a lot of major publishing houses. Living the dream as the saying suggests.

The most satisfying books that I have been part of were of the self-publish variety. They are also the hardest due to the lack of support and infrastructure to rely on. Since the shift in publishing, it is as important as ever to be flexible:

1. Are you going to send your story out to major publishers? 
If so, don’t have your family member, local illustrator, or anyone for that matter do the illustrations. Hardly ever does it work out for the illustrator, if a major house accepts the script. They’ll find their own illustrator "thank you very much."

2. Have you decided to self-publish? 
Please think this through from editors, proofreaders, contracts, printers, designers, marketers, warehouses, distributors, booksellers, and finally we come to the illustrator.

3. Have you decided to move forward with an illustrator on your project?
Manage the project or have someone do that. Put some contracts in place and be aware of the industry. Illustrators would like to get paid for the work that they do. If you want the work done on spec with a payout of percentages of future sales, I would recommend to every illustrator to run away. If you believe in the project enough, as an author, you should invest into your book. This means doing the right thing and paying for the services.

4. Is this your first book?
If so, I understand. It is like child order. The first one is always nurtured to a fault and watched over like a hawk. Please know, the more relaxed you are with an artist’s work you trust, the better the end result will be.

5. Does the story resonate with the illustrator?
The illustrator is going to be the person other than the author to spend the most time with the story. I personally need to love the story. I have done a few where I didn't and it shows not only in the product but also the attitude I take into the project from the start. Have the conversation in the beginning about the longevity of the story arc.

6. Are you willing to let go?
As parents we all remember the first time we left out child with a sitter. Sometimes it’s not a great experience for anyone but most times it is. Your child gets a different perspective maybe listens to different music, eavesdrops on something not of their norm. This is the same thing you do with a story that you hand over to a professional illustrator. We bring our life experience to it and the words and arc become ours.

By the end something YOU have done, or that I have done becomes something WE have done.


Zachary Pullen's picture-book illustrations have won awards and garnered starred reviews. He has been honored several times with acceptance into the prestigious Society of Illustrators juried shows and the Communication Arts: Illustration Annual, best in current illustration. Pullen's character-oriented picture book illustrations have been well received since first being published in 2004. His titles include: The Toughest Cowboy or How the Wild West was Tamed, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Friday My Radio Flyer Flew, Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize, S is for Story: A Writers Alphabet, Finn McCool and the Great Fish, Life and Spectrum: A Revealing look at High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, and many more. Zak lives in Casper, Wyoming with his wife Renate and son Hudson.