Friday, May 29, 2015

May 2015 Writing Roundup

Don't miss the Wyoming Writers conference June 5-7

Only two more days to register online for the Wyoming Writers Inc. 41st Annual Conference in Cheyenne June 5-7. Online registration closes May 31. Registrations will be accepted at the door, but meals will not be guaranteed. They have a fantastic lineup of presenters: Aaron Abeyta, poetry; Kent Nelson, short story; Laura Pritchett, novel; and Meghan Saar, magazine writing. Meghan is one of three editors, along with Tiffany Schofield from Five Star Publishing (Cengage) and Patrick Thomas of Milkweed Editions, who will be available for pitch sessions (check with president@wyowriters.org for available slots).  There are still plenty of spots at the Friday afternoon critique tables and the opportunity to get your story opening "paddled." See the registration page and schedule for details. You can also check out the story by Josh Rhoten in today's Wyoming Tribune Eagle for more on the conference. 


Submit now for the WAC 2016 creative writing fellowships in poetry

The Wyoming Arts Council now is accepting applications for the 2016 creative writing fellowships in poetry. Application deadline is midnight on Thursday, July 2. Applications accepted online via Submittable

Three $3,000 fellowships are given annually to Wyoming literary artists. Submissions are accepted annually in one of three creative writing genres: poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Winners also will receive a $500 travel stipend to read their work at the Casper College Literary Conference Sept. 25-26 in Casper.

Applicants must be Wyoming residents and at least 18 years old at the time of application. You must not be a full-time student pursuing high school, college, or university art-related degrees. Fellowship judge this year is California poet Rebecca Foust. For more information, contact Michael Shay, 307-777-5234 or mike.shay@wyo.gov, or visit the WAC web site.

Beautiful Things

Cheyenne writer Beth Howard had a lovely piece of flash nonfiction, "Inheritance," published on River Teeth's "Beautiful Things." It's well worth the few minutes to pop over and read it. River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative publishes essays, memoir, and literary journalism. Beth writes wonderful haiku, and is currently doing a 100 days of haiku practice on Facebook. One of her poems recently appeared in Three Line Poetry.


Miscellaneous happenings


Author Laura Pritchett will be reading from her new novel Red Lightning at City News Bookstore & Coffee House, 1722 Carey Ave., Cheyenne, on June 5 at 1 pm.

Our Place in the West...and Beyond is A conference sponsored by the Wyoming State Historical Society in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of Wyoming's statehood, June 10-13 in Laramie WY. See the website and Facebook page for details.

Publishing opportunities

The MacGuffin's 20th annual National Poet Hunt Contest is open through June 3, 2015. Judge: Laura Kasischke. Submit no more than three poems, $15 entry fee. Visit their website for contest rules.

The Black Hills Writers Group is calling for submissions for the 2016 edition of The Black Hills Literary Journal, to be published November 2015. Pieces selected will reflect the theme “Random Variables,” which may be interpreted as literally or figuratively as the writer chooses. Publication will be in both paper and e-format. Pieces will be considered in three categories: fiction, nonfiction (essay or memoir) and poetry. Entry fee of $5.00 for non-members; small payment for contributors. Learn more at www.blackhillswritersgroup.org/submissions.html. Deadline: June 30, 2015.

TulipTree Publishing is seeking essay/creative nonfiction submissions for a fundraising anthology to be titled: The Water Holds No Scars: Fly Fishing Stories of Rivers and Rejuvenation. This anthology will benefit the Platte Rivers program of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, an organization dedicated to supporting disabled military service personnel and veterans. Submissions should be 5000 words or less.  Visit www.tuliptreepub.com for complete details. Deadline: June 30, 2015.

North Dakota based journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, is looking for poets, artists, and reviewers currently living in North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, and Wyoming for this summer's regional issue, Prairie Mountain. Submissions can be of any topic. Check special issue guidelines for more information: www.upthestaircase.org/prairie-mountain.htmlDeadline: July 1, 2015.


More conferences, workshops and classes

The 2015 Story Catcher Writer's Workshop will be held June 12-14 at Chadron State College. “Writing Home: Capturing Your Place in the World,” is the theme of the event co-sponsored by the college and the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society. Visit the conference webpage for details at storycatcherworkshop.org or contact conference organizer Matt Everson at mevertson@csu.edu.

The Jackson Hole Writers Conference is coming up June 25-27. Learn more at jacksonholewritersconference.com. The conference offers a discount to anyone who is also registered for the Wyoming Writers conference -- contact them for details.

The Willow Creek Ranch Writing Workshop runs from Sept. 13-19, 2015 led by writers Tina Welling and Janet Hubbard (see Tina's guest post on our blog). Willow Creek Ranch, near Kaycee, Wyoming, is famous as the area where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid holed up. Learn more about the workshop on Janet's website, or contact Tina with questions at 307-413-0900 or Tina@TinaWelling.com. Discount of $200 for early registration by June 30.

Creative Nonfiction has 4-week summer online classes beginning July 6. Topics: The Art of the Pitch; Creative Nonfiction Summer Boot Camp; Experimental Forms; Food Writing; Introduction to Nonfiction Podcasting; Magazine Writing; Spiritual Writing; and Writing the Personal Essay. Learn more at www.creativenonfiction.org/online-classes.

And on a lighter note

As in actual daylight, which we've had precious little of in Cheyenne this rainy May. On a rare moment when the clouds cleared, I jokingly asked my husband, haiku-style:

Weeks of gray, wet sky
Now, a blinding yellow light
What is that thing?

To which he immediately replied, "Gamera!"

Happy writing, everyone!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

READING, RIDING AND WRITING

guest post by Deborah Nielsen
Photo by Deborah Nielsen
I’m a reader, motorcyclist, writer, and photographer.

In the order of my pursuits, this is it. Riding comes right after reading and just before writing. The three Rs - reading, riding and writing. And then there’s the camera. Or cameras. And lenses. They’re like potato chips; you can’t have just one. Same for motorcycles. They fill a two-car garage.

Motorcycling is my passion and motorcycles are my obsession. I love reading about motorcycles and motorcycling. I collect them. I ride them. I’ve been known to step into the garage on a cold, snowy day and run my hands over them, er, um, check on the battery tenders. 

And I really like photographing motorcycles. I’m drawn to the geometric lines and patterns in a row of dirt bikes and the overwhelming bursts of colors in a gathering of sport bikes.

Photo of Deborah & Senna, taken by a bicyclist
on a trip to the Snowy Range
What I really enjoy is riding a motorcycle on the open road. Across country, through the mountains, or along the back roads and two lanes, exploring places I’ve never been or revisiting favorite places. 

I prefer to ride alone most of the time. I have the freedom to wander wherever I want, stop whenever I want, or take whatever road beckons. 

The occasional day ride with a few friends is fun, too.  We pick a destination within about 100 miles and take the back roads. Somewhere along the way, we’ll stop for a leisurely lunch. 

Some of the best days are spent on a bike.

A few of my favorite places to ride are right here in my home state. WY 130 over Snowy Range; US 20 between Shoshoni and Thermopolis through the Wind River Canyon; US 26/287 from Lander through Dubois and over Togwotee Pass to Moran Junction. 

I’ve ridden through a cattle drive on Alt US 14 east of Powell, heading into the Big Horn Mountains. It can take me half a day to go from Cheyenne, over Snowy Range to Walden, Colorado, because I stop a lot in the Snowies to get off the bike and go exploring with my camera. Other times, I’m so enjoying the ride that I just want to ride. Stop? Only for gas.

Motorcycling has contributed to my independence, added to my education, and given me something to write about.

As a writer, I take classes and go to workshops to hone my writing skills. And then I write a lot, practicing the techniques I’ve learned in all those classes. As a photographer, I also take classes and go to workshops and then go out and shoot. A lot. Trying this technique or that, using one lens or another. Learning to see differently. 
Photo by Deborah Nielsen

As a motorcyclist, I take classes to become a better, more skillful rider. Periodically I go to an empty parking lot and practice the riding techniques I’ve learned so that I have the skills when I need them. 

Riding is not for the faint of heart. I’ve also taken motorcycle maintenance classes because I want to be able to deal with the trials that travel can throw in the way of a good trip. Who wants to be stuck on the side of the road waiting hours for a tow truck because of a flat tire? 

I’ve also taken some women’s self-defense courses over the years. Just knowing how to be aware can keep you out of bad situations.

Somehow all of my enthusiasms, for reading, riding, writing and taking pictures, seem to work together even if they sound like they’re worlds apart. I like a good challenge. I like to have fun. And I enjoy being creative. 

Lately, though, it’s been a challenge to get any riding in. This cold, rainy weather has stymied my fun. 

I think I’ll wander out to the garage and check the battery tenders.


Deborah is an avid motorcyclist who occasionally tears herself away from the bikes long enough to write or take photographs. She’s a member of Northern Colorado Writers, GWRRA, the AMA and a charter member of Front Range Riders. She lives in the land of howling winds (and cold rainy Mays) aka southeast Wyoming.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rules for My Kitchen

by Susan

RULES FOR MY KITCHEN
Banana-oat-blueberry-pecan muffins. Fresh at 4 a.m.
The middle of the night snack of champions.
Coffee first, then food.
Live dangerously. Lick the batter off the spoon.
Eat what you want. Listen to your body.
Make a mess. Clean it up.
I love you, but stay out of my kitchen when I cook.
Food is forgiving. Create recklessly.
Recipes are mere suggestions. Experiment.
You can never go wrong starting dinner with sizzling onions.
Although there are limits. Sizzling onions over ice cream? Doubtful.
On the other hand, I could be mistaken. Try onion ice cream if you want.
When in doubt, err on the side of too much butter.
Vanilla, too. Measure it over the bowl so the extra spills over.
Garlic makes life complete.
Fresh is better.
Invest in good knives. Chop with confidence.
There are no rules.

RULES FOR MY WRITING
Coffee first, then writing.
Live dangerously. Release the muse.
Write what you want. Listen to your soul.
Make a messy first draft. Clean it up.
I love you, but stay out of my room when I write.
Words are forgiving. Create recklessly.
Writing guides are mere suggestions. Experiment.
You can never go wrong finding the sizzling, red-hot core of your story.
There are no limits to that sizzling core.
I am not mistaken on this one.
When in doubt, err on the side of too much writing time.
Self-care, too. Fill yourself until you overflow.
Words make life complete.
Fresh is better.
Invest in your editing. Chop with confidence.
There are no rules.





Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BREAK A COCONUT ON YOUR HEAD?

Post by Lynn


When I was in the Peace Corps, in Mali, West Africa, I used the gathering of proverbs and colloqualisms as a tool to learn Bambara, the local language. Turns out the Malians are big on proverbs, especially the elders who use them as ways to offer advice to the young.

Examples:

Dooni, dooni, kanoni be so dila. 

In English: Little by little, the bird builds his nest.

Meaning: The Malian version of “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

And

Dow be dow don, tow be dow don.

In English: Some people know one thing, others know another thing.

Meaning: You can’t know it all and that’s okay.

I always got excited when I discovered a proverb or phrase in Bambara that correlated with one in English. I remember learning that “to put your foot in your mouth” was exactly the same in Bambara and English—meaning that you had said something really stupid.

Cool! I knew that was a phrase I could use often.

The first time I used it (hoping to impress with my Bambara language skills) I got the word for foot (sen) mixed up with the word for breast (siin).

Close, right?

You should have seen the look on that guy’s face.


I’ve been collecting proverbs for a long time. Not surprisingly, they have intertwined with my writing life in a lot of ways.

PROVERBS AS WRITING PROMPTS

When I get stuck during my journaling time, with no idea what to write next, I reach for a proverb. There’s always something there that gooses my muse and gets the words flowing.

I have several books of proverbs that I keep close by:

 - African Proverbs from Peter Pauper Press;

- “When the Road Is Long, Even Slippers Feel Tight” A Collection of Latin American Proverbs, by Roberto Quesada.

 - Japanese Proverbs & Traditional Phrases, from Peter Pauper Press;

- The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs, by Guy A. Zona.

PROVERBS ARE GOOD FOR ARM CHAIR TRAVELING

Proverbs are almost as good as world travel, because through them you can learn about a people and their beliefs. Every culture and religion has embraced the pithy proverb as a way to express values and share advice.

“You can tell a people’s character from that people’s proverbs. Therefore any friend of the Japanese will know already what he will find here: a sentimentality about flowers and a cynicism about people; a confidence in the eternal and a distrust of the immediate…” 
- From the preface to Japanese Proverbs 

Proverbs are time-honored sayings that pack a lot of meaning in a small space. For example:

Proverbs are reminders of the universality of human experience: 

A loose tooth will not rest until it’s pulled out.
- Ethiopian proverb

They can shake a finger at you: 

It’s a fine sermon about fasting when the preacher just had lunch.
- Ecuadorian proverb

Or encourage caution: 

First we drink the wine
Then the wine drinks the wine
Then the wine drinks us.
 - Japanese proverb
Proverbs can be funny:

He on whose head we would break a coconut never stands still. 
- African proverb 
Or offer encouragement:

If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. 
- Arapaho proverb 
Some proverbs can be really obscure:

There are old men of three: children of a hundred. 
- Japanese proverb 
Huh?!

Sometimes a proverb seems to speak directly to the issue I am currently struggling with in my writing life, like revision:

If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building or do you change the nail? 
- Rwandan proverb 

To me, proverbs are a poke in the ribs, a slap up side the head and sometimes a stab in the heart.

What about you? Have you ever been affected by a proverb? Ever used one to spark your writing?


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eat the Frog First?

by Susan


Mmmmm ... tasty.
Many people advise to eat the live frog, or at least the raw one, first thing in the morning, to knock out the toughest task before you go to the easy ones.

I tend to put it last on the tasting menu, after a few appetizers of varying appetizingness. Kermit sushi (with a dab of wasabi, followed by a slice of pickled ginger) is often last on the list.

Oddly, this works for me most days. Winnowing from too many tasks to one big one takes away a few distractions. Plus, I am never so efficient at one task as when I'm avoiding another one.

SQUIRREL!!
I've heard it referred to as "stack order:" the optimum number of projects a given person can juggle without boredom or anxious meltdown. Too many things on my to-do list and I jump from one to the other like a squirrel with ADHD. Better to knock one or two of the smaller ones out. Clear the desk, clear the mind.

A kitten ... about to be hit
by an asteroid
One caveat: I am a morning person. If it takes brain cells, it better happen before lunch because an increasing number of neurons go into hibernation as the day wears on. By late afternoon, I'm good for little more than watching videos of cute kittens and earth-ending asteroids.

Sadly, though, the frog I most often put off eating, often until tomorrow or the next tomorrow or the day after that is my personal writing. It's the one most tastily prepared. Soul-feeding frog.

I need my frogs. They're part of a healthy diet of challenge and accomplishment. Unfortunately, frogs with deadlines go bad after a few days. I still have to eat them.

Creative writing is the one frog, though, that never gets slimy around the edges before the meal. It's always the tastiest. It needs to go first on the menu.

I have been blessed with non-creative deadlines lately, which has kicked the creativity into high gear as I avoid the rest of the to-do list. Why do I usually put it off? I don't know. Fear that I will write badly. Fear that I will write powerfully. The distraction of ... SQUIRREL! My job now is to develop a writing routine that makes sure the best dish is on the menu.

We all develop our own work styles. What's yours? Frog first? Is frog not just for breakfast any more? And where does your own writing land on the menu?

Photo credits: "Red Eyed tree frog" from the Swallowtail Garden Seeds collection of botanical images and illustrations. This image is in the public domain. "Squirrel" by John Morgan and "Kittens" by Jennifer C. licensed under CC BY 2.0. Source: Flickr Creative Commons.