Tuesday, January 31, 2017

“Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone” tells stories of life in Wyoming

Many wonderful Wyoming writers are featured in the Sastrugi Press anthology, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, edited by Lori Howe. We spotted this wonderful story by Kelsey Dayton on WyoFile about the book and wanted to share it with our readers. WyoFile is a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

By Kelsey Dayton
Reprinted with permission from WyoFile

In the far reaches of Albany County, in the back pasture of the ranch where Oscar Lilley grew up, one finds a distinct line between civilization and wildness.

“It’s like that’s the end of the world,” said Lilley, who now lives in Laramie.

It’s like nothing else exists beyond that spot, he said. It’s a place that captured Lilley’s imagination and is the setting for his short story “Something’s Gotta Burn,” in which a veterinarian in an isolated but tight-knit community in Albany County loses his license and escapes to the wilderness to find the meaning of life, God and himself.

“Something’s Gotta Burn” is one of more than 70 pieces in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An anthology of Wyoming writers.

The book, which features poetry, fiction and nonfiction works from Wyoming writers, was edited by Lori Howe, an author of several poetry books, a doctoral candidate who teaches at the University of Wyoming and the editor of Clerestory: Poems of the Mountain West. Her time this past summer as the Wyoming Humanities Council’s Think Wy Road Scholar, where she traveled the state teaching creative writing workshops, inspired the book. When she realized the last Wyoming anthology was published about seven years ago, she pitched the idea to publishers, including Sastrugi Press which took on the project.

Howe wanted works that feature Wyoming’s landscape as a central character.

“What I was really looking for in submissions were pieces that got at the heart of what it means to live in Wyoming, in this place that has such a small population with an awful lot of land,” she said. “A place where you are so dependent on changes in the weather and the harshness of the landscape. It’s such a special place. I was really looking for writing that spoke to that connection we have, that relationship we have with the landscape.”

Howe received more than 1,000 submissions. She selected work by established authors like Alyson Hagy and Tim Sandlin, and several former Wyoming poet laureates like Rose Hill and David Romtvedt, as well as up-and-coming writers like Lilley, who writes under the pen name Jay Robbins.
Lilley’s story about the veterinarian takes place in an area his family has called home since the 1890s and explores values like sanctity of private property. The main character’s story is inextricably tied to the landscape, something true for most people who call the state home.

“The country forms the people,” he said.

The landscape has always inspired and intrigued Corinna German, who lived in Cody for about 12 years, before moving to Laurel, Montana. The fledgling writer’s nonfiction story “Death song just outside of Yellowstone,” is about the Absaroka Wilderness. It is a place often overlooked by visitors in the shadow of nearby Yellowstone National Park, but a place rich in wildlife, wildness and history. The story is an ode to the Native Americans who first called the land home and left relics like sheep traps and other artifacts behind, as well as to the state’s thousands of acres of public land that can easily be taken for granted, she said.

The works in the anthology are all bound together by a common thread, Howe said.

“It’s the scarcity of the population in Wyoming,” Howe said. “You can go long, long stretches without seeing a house, or even another car on the road. It brings us into this sense that we are really all in this together. If you get stuck off the road in Wyoming, someone is going to stop for you – probably the next person who drives by is going to stop and help you get out. There’s something very special about the Wyoming identity and how it’s formed around this isolation and the need to depend on each other.”

There are about 70 writers representing all areas of the state in the book, Howe said. While each piece is unique, they all tackle relationships — with the land, animals and each other, she said. That’s the theme. 

“It is the kind of harsh and beautiful landscape we live in and how closely we live to the land and how we are constantly reminded of our dependence on each other in the face of such weather and such extremes,” she said.

It is something Howe thinks will give the book appeal beyond the state’s borders, while also resonating with those who call Wyoming home.


About the Author
kelseydayton@gmail.com | @kelsey_dayton

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide and the Casper Star-Tribune. Contact Kelsey at kelseydayton@gmail.com. Follow Kelsey on Twitter at @Kelsey_Dayton

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


post by Lynn

“Hey Lynn,” my husband calls from the door that leads to our deck. “Come here a minute.”

I leave the bedroom where I am putting away the laundry and go to him.

We stand on the deck and watch the northeastern sky bubble and boil and flash in a late-season thunderstorm.


We follow a red tailed hawk as it circles the blue spruce where our resident flock of sparrows are hiding, hugging close to the trunk.


We marvel at the jackrabbit tracks marking up last night’s snowfall with crisscrossing trails and mussed up drifts: signs of midnight skirmishes.

That’s it—a simple sharing. A call and a response, repeated again and again throughout the year.

My marriage is fueled by such moments.

So is my writing.

Because what is writing, really, but a call from the writer (Hey, come and look!) and a response from the reader?

Isn’t it our job as writers to bring the readers out of the muddied water of their lives and show them the one greenish pebble at the bottom of the cold stream?

To help them focus?

To help them SEE?


Lots of writers and writing teachers have discussed the importance of focusing in.


Writers like Adair Lara, who, in her book, Naked, Drunk, and Writing, speaks of the “luminosity of the particular” and goads me to write with images.

“When you trust images to do the work for you, much of what spills onto the page is unconscious… Writing is turning your thoughts, abstractions, generalizations, and opinions back into the experiences you got them from.”

As a tool, Adair suggests, ask yourself questions. If you want to write about running away from home at age seven, ask: What did I take with me? Find the details in that moment. Write the images.

You want to avoid the kind of “quick trick” techniques that keep you from really looking closely at the real world and focusing on the people in it. “How to Plot Your Novel in Thirty Days,” “Create Fabulous Characters in an Hour!” – these shortcuts do not usually produce very good work. What produces good writing is accurately noticing specific real living individuals and instances. Focus on the things you notice, and focus on the very small things you notice – the things other people, nonwriters, pass right over… build from the ground up using the true observed stuff of real life.
-- Heather Sellers, The Practice of Creative Writing

In Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual, he describes a deceptively simple activity that poet Linda Gregg assigns to her students:

Study closely six things each day. 

“What seems like a simple discipline turns out to be quite difficult,” Ted says, “because by habit, most of us go through our lives without paying much attention to anything… it’s observed details that really make a poem vivid.”


Tina Welling, in Chapter Six of Writing Wild, encourages me to slow down and chronicle the details of a moment. She describes a night where a momma moose and her twin calves bedded down in front of her bedroom window.

Excitement might have rendered Tina unable to notice all the details of this sight, but she has trained herself to slow down and observe deeply.

“My reward: I saw snowflakes in the eyelashes of the mother moose,” says Tina. “If I hadn’t broken my experience down into its separate pieces, I never would have seen that while trying to take in the whole wonderful event of moose in my yard.”


I have my marching orders for the day: Go forth and observe.

I have a small notebook with me to jot down the images. If I’m lucky, and observant enough, I may find something that makes me call out to you in future blog posts:

Hey, come and look!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Giving Up and Giving In

Force yourself to write, no matter what? Maybe... and maybe not. We spotted this post and loved its words of wisdom so much we wanted to share it.

By Kathryn Magendie
Reposted with permission from Writer Unboxed

The Law in The Land of Writers: “Real writers” never ever give up or give in. Writers (always no matter what) write, right?

Well, unless we don’t wanna.

Writers are an often discombobulated bunch and just as with any society we must have laws to keep us from running amok. If someone breaks the “writers write” law, then what? Will the entire system shut down? Will our society crash and burn to leave charred ruins that future generations dig up and place in museums, marked: “Writer. Extinct.” And there we are, frozen in time, hands petrified over our keyboards, vacant-eyed, hollow-boned.

I broke the writers always write law for over two years. The writing-life-is-killing-me feeling was insidious, a creeping up of discontent and dissatisfaction, and exhaustion. I chucked everything author/writing-related. I turned my back so fast and so hard I spun a hole to the depths below Writer Land.

And all the way down I screamed, “You’re dead to me, Writing! Dead to me!” And I became a—gasp—Regular Citizen of the Regular World, with a whole new dirt hole dwelling.

Writing searched me out, but I only heard its faint call—I shoved more dirt in my ears to drown out the whispers.

There comes a time in a writer’s life when it all is just too much. The writing life feels bastardized. The Iconic Writers of the past have done it, said it, written it, and what’s left for us? And while there may be a few modern-day writers who become icons for about a day or three, most of us swim in a vast ocean pushing wave upon wave upon wave onto a shore that accepts the wave and then immediately rejects it.

The pressure to write a great book, one that will be loved and make lots of money and win awards and allow us to be the darlings of the literary community as well as to be popular to the masses at large, creates a constant striving, constant hope, constant “failure” compared to these ethereal happy-go-lucky authors we think exist.

I became an expatriate. One who dirtied her authorial robes. You know what dirt tastes like? Dirt. There’s no good metaphor to hide behind. It’s simple and organic and somehow comforting. And it’s really quiet! You can hear the sound of your own voice—the one you forgot about? You know, that one?

When you hide away from your writer’s society after you dig your dirty hole, magical things may happen. Consider that you not only hear the voice you forgot about, but you recognize that you have nothing left to lose—you’re hiding in a hole, for goodness sakes! You are a law-breaking non-writing writer! You’ve lost income, your identity, your citizenship.

Everyone has moved forward to fame and fortune and success, while you munch dirt.

And one fine morning you finally recognize that it is you who created a weird society where laws restrain you. Then, there you are, the wiggly dirtied creature, rising up out of the primordial muck, blinking away at the bright wonder of the calling voice you once heard so clearly.

And you listen. And you hear. And you consider how: you aren’t on the New York Times best-seller list; have no viral book that people are snapping up so fast the head spins; no call from Hollywood for your book’s movie rights; no Oprah’s book club; no perfect-storm novel that soars above all others and makes you an icon of the ages. It is just you and the writing and the remembered joy of your fingers flying across the keyboard as you create words and worlds.

Like it used to be, back before you placed so many conditions on your writing that all you could see were conditions rising up and blocking out reason, and joy.

The society of writers opens its arms to you and you cautiously but unapologetically step back into its embrace. Did you think they would throw stones at you? Nope. They do not. Will not.

I didn’t die from not writing; you won’t either. I didn’t cut off my right arm; you won’t either. I didn’t lose my mind (well, maybe a little); you won’t either (except a little). No one called me a loser dirt-mouthed non-writing has-been; you won’t be called those things either—and if someone does hurt you? You’ll find an open community of writers who will rally around you, heal you from the hurt, and give you renewed strength.

And guess what else? Your reader believes in you even when you no longer believe in yourself. They’ll rally around you, too.

If you declare, “You’re dead to me, Writing!” So what? You’ll be fine. Your voice will return once you spit out the dirt you’ve been feeding on.

You owe nothing to anyone and no one owes you a thing. Writing is yours to give freely, or to take away freely. You will survive, and maybe thrive.

I believe that sometimes we have to shut it down, hibernate, and then come out hungry.

Allow yourself to grieve any lost dreams. Then say: “So what? This is my reality. Dirt tastes like dirt.”

You aren’t a New York Times best-seller. So what? Your royalties aren’t what you envisioned. So what? You haven’t won an award you desired. So what? You don’t feel like writing for a day/week/month/2 years. So what? Your last book didn’t live up to expectations. So what?

Hole feels safe? So what? Either you will come out or you will not—taste the comforting organic freedom from conditions. Maybe you were meant for something else and your new journey is only a sideways dig ahead.

Writing will wait for you. Writing will always love you. Writing will always be a part of you. If you want it, writing will provide the words and the love of the craft again.

Never ever give up? Well, I say, yes, sometimes do give up. And after you give up, see how it feels. Find out in the giving up if you do indeed really want this life.


Kathryn Magendie is an Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of five novels and a novella, as well as short stories, essays, and poetry —Tender Graces was an Amazon Kindle Number 1 bestseller. She’s a freelance editor of many wonderful author’s books and stories, a sometimes personal trainer, amateur/hobby photographer, and former Publishing Editor of The Rose & Thorn Journal (an online literary journal published with Publishing Editor Poet/Songwriter Angie Ledbetter). Magendie’s stories, essays, poetry, and photography have been published in print and online publications. Born in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, her family moved her here-there-yonder until her feet were for many years stuck in the murky strange swamps of South Louisiana. Then! One fine morning over twelve years ago, her long-but-not-forgotten dreams came true and she unglued her feet, leaving behind those moss-filled grandfather oak trees, and returned to the mountains to live in a little log house in the Cove at Killian Knob in Maggie Valley, Western North Carolina. Here, she spins tales, edits manuscripts/books and websites, drinks strong dark black coffee, and from her porch over-looking the Great Smoky Mountains contemplates the glow of Old Moon—Cove Crow and his family speak to her and she listens.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


post by Lynn

We were visiting my stepson and his family in North Bend, Oregon. The kids were napping so I stepped outside. Georgie and Razzy, the family dogs, bounced around my feet, begging for a walk.

Up the road that looped through the hilly neighborhood we went. Georgie, the alpha matron, ran in front and Razzy followed, nipping at Georgie’s tail like the annoying teenager he was.

I slowed on a downhill, trying to see through the dense foliage to the ocean that lay just beyond, but from the road there was no view or access.

Georgie dove off the road into the undergrowth. She turned and looked back at me with a question in her brown eyes:

Are you game?

I peered into the gloom to see where she was headed and spotted a small path – well, not a path, really, just some trampled leaves and ferns. The dogs had probably done the trampling. It didn’t look like humans used the route.

Georgie wagged her tail and sat, as if to say that she would wait for me to decide. Razzy plopped down beside her. I stood in the road. The dogs panted.

Then I thought, why not?

For the next half hour I followed Georgie and Razzy through an obstacle course of long-limbed trees, leviathan ferns, and lichen-splashed boulders.

At one point, I had to slide down a muddy slope on my butt. More than once I panicked – I’d never find my way back and had no cell phone with me. I might fall or sprain an ankle. Neither Georgie nor Razzy struck me as a Lassie kind of a rescue dog, and nobody knew where I was.

I could be in a heap of trouble.

Finally, a blue vista, spangled with light, opened up before us. The dogs splashed into the water of a rocky cove.

It was the perfect secret spot.

I straddled a giant slick-skinned log and soaked up the scene.

I pulled smooth stones and shells, tinged with pink, from the silky sand and stuffed them in my pockets.

I sucked salty air deep into my lungs.

I hummed along to the tune of the tide.

When at last I said, “Time to go home,” Georgie led us back to the house where my husband took one look at my muddy shoes and pants and asked, “Where have you been?”

“On an adventure!” I said.

An adventure I would never have experienced had I not given control over to a brown-eyed mutt and just followed.

I try to remember this often in my writing life. Not everything about writing will come in a familiar package. Not everything I need to learn will be taught by a workshop leader or a writing book. Sometimes I will need to stray from the route I have planned for myself.

If I keep an open mind and a willing heart, life will present me with learning detours and unusual guides who'll take me to magical places.

So that's my question today: 

Are you game?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tips for Entering Poetry Contests

by Susan

It's been my great pleasure this year to chair the 2017 WyoPoets Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest. Going through the entries has given me a few lessons in what to do and not do. If you're planning to enter a poetry contest, you may wish to keep these things in mind. Some are applicable to prose contests, too:

Who's holding this contest?
Before you fork over an entry fee, make sure the organization holding the contest is reputable. (I can vouch for WyoPoets, mind you.) In particular, read to make sure that you do not lose rights to your work simply by entering. Believe it or not, it happens.

Some contests announce who the judge(s) will be. If they do, take some time to learn more about who will be choosing the winners. This may influence which poems you choose to submit.

Read the guidelines and follow them carefully
I tossed out some fine poems because they exceeded the line length specified. Accepting over-long poems isn't fair to our judge, nor is it fair to the many poets who abided by the rules. Another poem was set aside because the poet failed to include the blind judge's copy. Don't let your poetry get tossed aside on a technicality.

A cover letter is probably not necessary
Unless requested in the guidelines (you read them, right?), a cover letter is not needed. The judge typically will never see it, as it's common for judges to receive nothing but the "blind" copies with no identifying information. 

If you're sending it by mail
Although many contests use electronic submission, some still want your entry by mail. You can generally trust your envelope will get there if you send it plain old USPS First Class. If you're nervous, you can get it tracked for an extra fee. Do not, however, get "signature required," forcing some poor soul to make a trip to the post office to retrieve it.

Your poems are considered individually
Unless it's specifically a chapbook contest, your poems will probably not be considered as a collection. Do not include a table of contents, number your pages, or include a name for your collection on your poems. And whatever you do, don't staple your poems together. 

Follow standard manuscript format
For poetry, this will be single-spaced, with an extra space between the title and poem and between stanzas. Bold your title, or put it in ALL CAPS. Left-justify your poem unless you have a specific reason, such as a shape-poem, for not doing so. (Centered poems are harder to read.) Keep in mind that most word processing programs will automatically capitalize the first letter of each line, so if you do not want them all capitalized, you will need to correct that.

Cool it on the fonts. You can't go wrong with 12-point Times New Roman. It should be plain and readable: no script fonts, no poems completely in italics, and, for heaven's sake, do not use Comic Sans. Make sure it's printed cleanly. A copy of a copy of a copy tends to get too faint to read easily.


BE IT RESOLVED! If one of your writerly resolutions for 2017 is to put yourself out there more and enter a few contests, there are many places to find them. Wyoming Writers, Inc. is accepting entries now. We'll try to put the word out here when WyoPoets and holds theirs. Find more opportunities from National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Aerogramme Writers' Studio, and Poets & Writers, or consider a paid subscription to Duotrope (there's a free trial version.) Happy writing, and good luck!