Tuesday, January 30, 2018

LOOK OUT BELOW

post by Lynn

I learned recently that the Tiangong—an unmanned Chinese space station weighing 19,000 pounds—is careening around out in space and will likely come down to earth sometime between now and March. The Chinese lost control of the station two years ago.

It’s unclear exactly when it will plummet to earth, and even more unclear where. Scientists say the drop zone will probably be between the 43 degree North and 43 degree South latitudes. That range includes every inhabited continent on our planet.

“Even shortly before reentry,” says Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office (wait… there’s a Space Debris Office?!), “only a very large time and geographical window can be estimated.”

So much for expecting a heads up beforehand.

Well, hell, if the Tiangong decides to pancake my house, with me in it, I just hope it finds me writing.

If I’m in the middle of journaling, drafting, researching, editing, reading, revising or freewriting, I'm in my happy place.

And what better way to go?



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Expanding Possibility: A Writing Manifesto by Katie Stover Kelly

Susan here: In my online travels, I spotted the #TeachWrite Chat Blog, "a gathering place for thoughts about writing for teachers who write." It might be primarily for teachers, but there is plenty here for writers in all professions. I've been particularly enjoying their series of writing manifestos. This one, by Katie Stover Kelly particularly caught my eye, but they're all excellent. They were kind enough to let us repost it here.

Enjoy! And if you're on Twitter, join their #TeachWrite chat every Monday at 5:30 Mountain Time. 


Guest post by Katie Stover Kelly


The scratching of pencil on paper.
The tapping of the keyboard.
Voice memos on the phone.
Technology allows us to craft our writing in new ways.
Combining modalities and expanding our possibilities.

I believe choice is fundamental to writing. Not only choice of topics but choice of genres, formats, and tools are essential.

I believe our role as educators is to help all writers find their voices and their identities.

I believe we must create spaces in our classroom communities that value authentic meaningful writing experiences.

I believe that as teachers of writing, we must be writers ourselves.

I believe anyone can be a writer.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.
Just do it.
Why you might ask?

I believe writing allows us to find ourselves.
I believe writing expands our thinking.
I believe writing deepens our understanding.
I believe writing opens the world of possibility.
I believe writing helps us process, ponder, and be present.
I believe writing is a way to share our joys, sorrows, and journeys.

Writing is a unique and personal process.
Tinker on the page.
Tap on the keyboard.
Speak into your voice memo.

Breathe life to your own canvas and enjoy the journey.

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Katie Stover Kelly is a former elementary teacher and literacy coach. She is currently an Associate Professor of Education at Furman University in Greenville, SC. She has written numerous articles and published two coauthored books: Smuggling Writing through Corwin Press, and From Pencilsto Podcasts with Solution Tree. Katie is writing a new (yet unnamed) book with Lester Laminack which is due out in 2018. You can connect with Katie on Twitter @ktkelly14.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

CONCUBINES, BUFFALO WALLERS, STRING AND SUCH

guest post by Chaurisse Anderson 

Lynn here -- This is the second blog post written for us by a student in Laramie County Community College's Poetry and Creative Nonfiction class. 

I think you're going to enjoy it--I sure did!



You would think writing would be easy and the words clearly understood. After all, it’s right there in black and white and I know what I’m trying to say, so others should understand too. But it’s not always that simple.

For example, when I went to the drive up window and ordered a burrito and a packet of salt, I spoke clearly and articulated well. That simple order should not have thrown the entire fast food restaurant into mayhem, but it did. After placing my order I waited at the window and waited and waited. I peeked through the window and it looked like no one was there. Finally a kid with a pudgy baby face came to the window. But, before he could give me my order he had to explain.

“We just had a quick meeting of our staff to see if we could give you what you requested,” he said.

My mind is racing…What on earth did I say that would require an entire restaurant to shut down and have an emergency meeting? 

“So, if you really want some soap I guess we can give you some, just this one time.”

“What do you mean soap?” I asked.

“You ordered a burrito with soap and I guess we can give you some this one time, but not any more.”

I repeated my order for a burrito and a packet of salt, and asked him to throw in some hot sauce too. He stared at me like I was speaking a foreign language and handed me my bag. I drove off with one burrito, no salt, no hot sauce and no soap.

So, the written word would have been perfect in my dealings with the baby-faced drive up window man. For I could have typed up my order and he could have read it clearly and there would be no misunderstanding.

I sometimes wish I had a spell check and grammar check on my mouth. Then when I say something really stupid something would be a beep and I could read what I just said and realize that perhaps I said the wrong word.

That would have come in handy the time my husband, a farmer, was working out in the quonset* and I was on the phone with one of my pesky sisters*. After chatting awhile I told her my husband was late coming in for dinner because he was out in the quonset. Since my sisters and I are essentially city girls (growing up in the metropolis of Dallas, Oregon) and we did not grow up on a farm I wanted to impress my sister with my vast farming vocabulary, like the word ‘quonset.’

I knew she would be impressed.

She wasn’t.

“What’s he doing in the quonset?” she asked.

Aha! Here was another chance to impress her with farming lingo. “He’s out taking care of his concubines*.”

Dead silence, then a snicker. “How many concubines does your husband have?”

“I don’t know,” I said. ”Three or four maybe?”

By this time my sister was laughing hysterically, which I did not understand why.

“No wonder your husband is late for supper! The word is combine not concubine!”

That would have been a really, really good time to have written words coming out of my mouth so I could preview them before I spoke because I know my spell checker and grammar checker or stupidity checker surely would have raised a red flag.

There are, however, other times that even having something in writing will not help because, well, sometimes people just don’t get it.

When I first moved to the farm from the city, my husband would give me instructions like “Go to high point, then the old Henderson place….over the bluff and past the buffalo waller*.”

Now, even if he had written all of these words down for me I still would have stared and blinked. “Excuse me, what is a high point? The high point of what? Who is Henderson? Is a bluff a hill or a ridge? What is a buffalo waller? I know what a buffalo is, ummm, but we don’t have any here.”

So sometimes the written word does not help if the person reading it is lacking in….well, just plain lacking.

Kind of like when I went to the fabric - craft store to buy some string*.

Now, I grew up with string, I recognized it, I used it, my grandmother always kept a ball of string for whatever.

So I went to the store and asked the petite childlike clerk to direct me to the string. ”The what?” she asked.

“String.” I repeated.

“I don’t even know what you’re saying!” she said. I started thinking back about the soap - salt incident but pushed it out of my mind. She went and got the store manager.

The store manager who looked barely old enough to drive said, “How may I help you?”

I spoke clearly and concisely. “I want a ball of string.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Do you want thread?”

“No, I want string.”

“Do you want hemp twine?”

“No, I want string.”

She apparently determined I was drunk and said, “Look lady we don’t serve drinks here.” And with that she walked off.

So, I went to a bigger store.

I went up to a sales associate who was still wearing braces. “Could you please show me where the string is?”

“I don’t even know what that is.”

“Never mind.” I said. I went and found an employee with gray hair and said, “Could you show me where the string is?”

Without hesitating he said, “Sure thing, it’s right over here.”

So in that case even if I had written down my request it would not have helped because something was definitely lacking in the understanding department.

There are times when I would love to have someone’s thoughts in writing, just so I could see what they were really thinking. Such as the time I went to the high-priced underwear store at the mall (but I can’t say its name because it’s a Secret).

I marched in with a free underwear coupon and began digging through the bins of underwear like a cow at a feeding trough. There were others at this feeding trough and underwear was flying.

I picked up one pair of underwear and they looked huge. Surely they were mis-marked in the sizing division. I held them up in front of me when the size zero sales associate who looked about 12-years-old came up behind me.

She apparently saw me staring at the huge underwear and thought she knew what I was thinking. After she sized up the underwear and my back side she said, “Don’t worry, they’ll stretch.”

So, here I sit on my broad backside in a buffalo waller eating soap and playing with string and writing this blog. Perhaps my husband will come and rescue me, when he’s finished with his concubines.


*Quonset - A big metal building that concubines are kept in.
*Pesky Sister - If you don’t know what one is, I’ll give you mine. I have extras.
*Concubine- a mistress or an unmarried woman living with a man and his wife or wives.
*Buffalo Waller - Still no idea, I think it’s a hole in the ground.
*String - A string-like substance.

Chaurisse Anderson lives in Albin with her husband (and his concubines) and two dogs. She began writing four months ago in a Creative Writing class at LCCC. She finds joy in writing about farm life in Wyoming and especially about her experiences as a novice farmwife.

Chaurisse and her husband have raised four children and now have six grandchildren. She plans on continuing her writing and has a dream to someday work at a zoo.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Atlantic City's 150th Anniversary Book: Inspired by a Library Book

Susan here:  How do you best tell the history of a town and all its people? We asked Bob Townsend how the Atlantic City Historical Society did it.

Guest post by Bob Townsend

I perused Family Stories, Riverton, Wyoming, 1906-1981 in Riverton’s library. I recognized about half the folks in my childhood hometown’s 75th anniversary book.

The publisher – the Riverton Senior Citizens Center – apparently distributed a questionnaire (e.g., When did you arrive in Riverton? Where did you come from? What did you do for a living? Do you have family photos?). I enjoyed folks’ stories and the fond memories they spurred.

On the drive home that evening I realized my new hometown’s 150th birthday was nigh. Atlantic City had been my home for nine years, and I had immersed myself in its history.

My mind drew a sketch of the city’s sesquicentennial book. I pitched my idea to the others on the Atlantic City Historical Society’s board of directors in fall 2015. One asked, “Do you envision a 20-page pamphlet?”

“No, and I won’t use a questionnaire.”

The board backed my idea, and the president told me to put a book in her hands by Thanksgiving 2017. I sent a press release to the Fremont County Visitors Council. They shot gunned my invitation to storytellers – poets, songsters, artists and photographers – to 94 media outlets throughout Wyoming.

Contributors’ promises trickled in. I sought contributions from everyone I knew and for them to ask everyone they knew. Folks still remind me how I stopped them in the middle of the street to ask for their story. The trickle became 2016’s spring thaw.

The historical society’s rolls reckon 70-plus. Society members meet annually the last Saturday in August to tour some historic site near Atlantic City. About 50 folks attend. Our 2016 gathering offered the opportunity to extend my call for submissions.

I shared what I had in hand with the others at our October 2016 board meeting. Three members – LeAnn Woodhouse, Amy McClure and Marjane Ambler -- volunteered to form a committee to oversee our book’s publication. They wanted deadlines! I set Thanksgiving 2016 for folks to let me know they’d submit something and Valentine’s Day 2017 to submit it.

Duncan Gold Mine and Mill outside of Atlantic City.
Photo courtesy of  Atlantic City Historical Society.
The committee and I scoured the stories. We looked for holes. We weren’t trying to publish a definitive history, but we had a focus: who will want to read our book?

We needed gold mining stories. A gold boom spawned the Dakota Territory town those 15 decades ago. The U.S. Army established Camp Stambaugh nearby to protect the miners and others. Soon came the bust. Other gold booms and busts followed. Pam Spencer-Hockett, the society’s president, volunteered to write those stories.

An iron ore mine opened within a few miles of the city in 1960, bringing the biggest and longest lasting boom. That mine busted in 1983, but its imprint remains today in the people, businesses, buildings and memories. LeAnn stepped up to tell that tale.

Fincelius Burnett arrived in Atlantic City during the first gold boom. He stayed at a boarding house and grew fond of Eliza McCarthy, the woman who served his meals. Finn and Eliza married here on March 22, 1870. Finn and Eliza were U.S. Senator Alan Simpson’s great-grandparents. I invited Al to pen our introduction.

John Mionczynski – jade prospector and biologist – arrived a century after Finn. He and three other musicians formed The Buffalo Chips, and John agreed to write the band’s 40-year story. Why include the story of a band? That band attracted hundreds into the fold, and many shared their view of that family’s story.

Moo-rning rush hour in Atlantic City.
Cattle ranching grew up in the old mining district to supply inhabitants with beef. The cattle industry still plays a role in daily life from spring through fall. Cattle roam the city’s dirt streets, and cowboys frequent the local watering holes. They’re part of the family. LeAnn interviewed one of the local icons and wrote the rancher’s story.

A ranch gal on the Green River is heir to two families from the early years. She compiled both families’ histories and documented cattle brands that originated in the area.

A local author published her first book in 2013. She put together a book fest to launch her book and highlight seven other local writers’ books. The fest attracted 50 folks from five counties.

Two and a half score sent stories, poems and a song. Scads sent photographs and other loose threads that helped us stitch together the quilt that covers the town’s 150-years.

As editor of this patchwork collection I offer this. A few of our contributors are writers, but our storytellers come from all walks of life. Their passion for the city enabled them to share their heartening stories. There’s a message here: write what you know and love.

From memories of school-aged children to raucous goings on at the local tavern, to a summary of contemporary businesses, to a review of who lived here and how the demographics changed with each census, to images of public records, submissions began to paint a community image none of us had envisioned.

The spectrum spans humor and heartache, toil and hard work, fun and play and, yes, death. One researcher’s work documents Atlantic City burials. There are twenty marked plots, but the database now holds the names of more than 80 souls.

Atlantic City’s culture emerged. A contrary, self-reliant lot thrive here. They exhibit defiant independence and pride not found in places with modern conveniences. In fall 2016 Amy coined a phrase she felt described their stories: Voices from a Powerful Place.

Atlantic City Historical Society annual dues are $10. Our kitty isn’t flush, and we use the proceeds to print free walking tour maps. We needed an infusion to pay for the book’s design and printing. The committee applied for a Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund grant, and they got it! The committee mailed letters asking for donations from society members, neighbors and businesses. The quest netted a flood of support – and money. We heartily thank all our donors.

The publications committee hired Roger Carpenter, a professional graphics guru in Laramie, to design the book, and, wow, what a job Roger did!

After I completed editorial work on each story – coordinating back and forth with the author – I sent the stories to LeAnn and Amy, the photo editors. They read the stories, pulled imagery – from the 2,300 images they’d scanned into a computer – to support each story and forwarded the finished work to Roger.

As Roger worked his magic with imagery and text, and after completing each of the 12 sections, he forwarded proofs to us. Marjane and I scoured the pages, identified errors and sent corrections back to Roger.

The committee planned for pre-sales commencing at the society’s 2017 meeting.

Roger hired PBR Printing in Cheyenne to print our book. PBR sent a printer’s proof: a 280-page anthology spanning 150 years of a never-incorporated town with 30 fulltime inhabitants. Atlantic City, Wyoming, Voices from a Powerful Place was real. I cried.

The book's back cover.
PBR would print 400 soft covers and 100 hardbacks and promised a November 15th delivery. We sent a press release for a launch date of the 16th at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum in Lander. With two weeks lead time we arranged catering and spread the word via every medium. I drove to Cheyenne, picked up the thousand pounds of books and staged them at the museum on the 15th.

Our launch drew 150 folks from three counties. The hardback books sold out, and so did half the soft covers. KTWO tv in Casper aired segments of our launch on its 5 and 10 o’clock news broadcasts, and the Lander Journal published our launch story on its front page. Folks from across Wyoming and beyond called with orders. Between November 17th and December 17th we sold out.

We ordered another hundred hardbacks. LeAnn picked those up in Cheyenne on December 15th, and before Christmas half of those were gone. We’ll reorder more soft covers in the spring to prepare for the town’s two-day 150th anniversary celebration on July 5th and 6th, 2018.

I’ve already begun traveling Wyoming to share our experience and our book. I’ll make presentations at historical society meetings, libraries, museums and more through 2018.

I acknowledge every member of the Atlantic City Historical Society board of directors. Each made significant contributions to our book by transcribing audio recordings, reviewing oral histories, writing stories, helping with grant applications, mailing postcards and letters and lots more. My sincere, huge thanks to each one.

Beyond the other board members’ labors, two years of work – thousands of hours – by four volunteers, Roger and PBR Printing went into this. We’ve heard many a call for volume II because our book, they tell us, has re-formed bonds and connected so many from the past and present. We beam with pride, but we’ll leave that next chapter for a future generation.

To join the Atlantic City Historical Society or to purchase the book, contact the society by mail at 15 South Dexter Ave. Atlantic City WY 82520, by phone at (307) 332-9402 (leave a message), or by email at ACWYHistoricalSociety@gmail.com.

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Bob Townsend, born in Thermopolis and reared in Shoshoni and Riverton, told pilots where to go from U.S. Air Force control towers and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant. In 2005 he edited the University of Wyoming's literary and arts magazine, Owen Wister Review, and earned a B.A. in journalism with a minor in English. You’ll find Bob year-round near his cabin in the Atlantic City suburbs. He writes and edits friends’ works. He collects, and actually reads, oddball dictionaries.

Photo credit: Robert Hall