outstanding thesis award

recent graduate of the mfa program in creative writing, nonfiction author Emilene Ostlind was awarded UW’s Outstanding Thesis award for 2011.  we asked the ever-lovely Emilene to share some of her work with us,  so we could share it with the royal you.  included here for your reading pleasure is the abstract, and an excerpt from her thesis.  and yes, as a matter of fact, it is outstanding.

“I came to think of the migrations as breath, as the land breathing.  In spring a great inhalation of light and animals.  The long-bated breath of summer.  And an exhalation that propelled them all south in the fall.”
—Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams 1986

The pronghorn antelope that summer in Grand Teton National Park undertake one of the longest recorded land animal migrations in the western hemisphere. Each fall, they begin their journey south by gathering into groups of a half dozen to sixty or more animals and following the Gros Ventre River upstream into the mountains. Biologists, using global positioning system collars, mapped their route in 2003, but no one had seen the migration take place or documented it on the ground. Before winter, the antelope travel 170 miles to reach their winter range in the Red Desert.

An archaeological dig in the migration corridor revealed 7,000-year-old pronghorn skeletons with fetal bones inside, indicating that pronghorn have been following this very migration route between winter range and fawning grounds for millennia. Around the world, long-distance migrations are disappearing due to infrastructure blocking the animals’ corridors, habitat destruction, climate change and other factors, but in Wyoming these unlikely creatures persist in their journey. The GPS waypoints show the animals crossing a 9,000-foot mountain pass, four major rivers, a busy highway, innumerable fences and subdivisions and two natural gas drilling fields. When I learned of the western Wyoming pronghorn migration, I was compelled to follow the animals on foot and try to understand how they were able to continue following this historic pathway in the face of so many obstacles.

I joined wildlife photographer Joe Riis and we spent two and a half years exploring the pronghorn migration corridor on the ground. Migration is a nonfiction book based largely on journal entries from four backpacking trips through the migration corridor. It paints the story of the migration by documenting encounters with deep snow, icy spring runoff, barbed wire fences and long dark nights in the mountains. By telling the story of both the pronghorn journey and my own migration back home to Wyoming from Washington, DC, the book also explores how wild animals enrich our lives and teach us about ourselves. The antelope helped me understand the seasonal rhythm of my home landscape and why I’d felt so compelled to return home.

the majestic pronghorn in its natural habitat.

A June day in Antelope Flats, Grand Teton National Park, northwest Wyoming.  I wear a gray and purple knitted hat and a green down jacket, sit cross-legged, my back against the bleached trunk of a fallen cottonwood.  The trunk is polished smooth by the bison who come here to scratch their wooly necks against it.  I am facing north.  A wind carries cold air from the alpine passes of the Teton Mountains.  I hold perfectly still.

Two antelope have seen me, but don’t know what I am.  They emerged from a draw not long after I sat down.  Both are bucks, one larger than the other, and they move slowly, stopping to bite mouthfuls of leaves or to nudge one another with their horns.

Minute by minute they wander closer, watching me sideways.  I try to still my heartbeat.  They come within five meters.  When they bite the sagebrush leaves, I hear their teeth snap together, the grinding as they chew.  I can see each golden hair aligned vertically on their thin legs.  They come still closer, walking deliberately across the patch of bare ground directly in front of me.  The horns of the larger one are a rich black, curling to a sharp point.  I hear the breath in their nostrils, smell their animal warmth.

As they pass they turn to look back.  The smaller one pushes his face against his companion’s neck and, with an air of drama they click their horns against one another.  Then they wander away and out of sight.  My hands are shaking.This is the story of how the three of us arrived here, of our migrations, and the tug of the land on bodies drawing us from one place to another, the pathways we follow.

Emilene Ostlind was raised in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. After a year working as assistant to the natural history photo editor at National Geographic magazine in Washington, DC, Emilene came back out West for her graduate studies at the University of Wyoming. She earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing and Environment and Natural Resources in the Spring of 2010.  She currently writes for High Country News, a news magazine covering environment, culture and natural resources in the American West.


we would like to say a big-hearted congratulations to stephanie dugger.  this poetry/non-fiction mfa’er, and southern belle, won the Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching Award. awarded by Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning, part of the Office of Academic Affairs, this is UW’s highest honor for graduate student teachers.  besides being the hardest working person we have ever known, completing two theses (one per genre), stephanie also happens to be a generally awesome person.  though her virtues as a teacher are many, we like to cite the time her entire classroom broke into song, singing Come Together by the Beatles, in unison, as proof that this woman was born to teach — thus, the most heartwarming pedagogical moment since Stand & Deliver.   mr. holland can take his opus and shove it.  nice work, dugga’ — you are an inspiration to us all.

destined for greatness

Stephanie Dugger is a second-year student in uwyo MFA and associate poetry editor at The Dirty Napkin.  she writes poetry and nonfiction and lives nomadically with her husband and two rambunctious dogs.


we would all like to say a tender, loving, caring congratulations to the incomparable brad watson.  he was named one of this year’s nominees for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (announced just earlier today).

to give those of you who have not worked closely with brad an idea of the kind of author/artist/human being he is, we are posting a piece of writing we once saw somewhere else on a statue of a different man entirely:
This [is] a man
This [is] a man of action and achievement
This [is] a man of vision and creativity
A man of serenity and strength
A man of determination and patience
This [is] a man of sensitivity and courage
A man of humor and humility
A noble man with a common touch
A self disciplined man with an understanding for all
This [is] a man who [is] counselor to thousands throughout the world
This [is] a man committed to truth and good and beauty
[Brad Watson is] a man and a leader of men…

congratulations brad. we think your book is rad, and we are so very happy for you.

brad watson is associate professor of fiction, and a core faculty member, at the uwyo mfa.

Story of Successful Rejection

The target:

The Journal of Universal Rejection, featured in a wave of tweets, re-tweets, and re-tweet indiscretions circa January 26.

The mission:

100% guarantee of rejection. Can it be done? Am I seriously still judging what to send them? (Yes, she said, yes.)

The cover letter:

Dear Universal Rejection,

You may not remember me, but I have met you several times and we have many friends in common. Congratulations on starting a new journal, and I hope that your first round of submissions will be rejectable to your liking.

To that end, I just wrote you a short improv poem.

Thank you for your consistency,
Katie B. Booms

The response 
included the phrase “I like so much.” Yes. I am wonderful enough to be rejected.

Preferred press release:

As the greatest triumph yet in her publishing career, our own poet Katie Booms received a rejection from the Journal of Universal Rejection. Unfortunately, it was not particularly universal. (Nor is that possible.)

The best part! :
You can read a series of hilarious cover letters and editor replies at http://reprobatiocerta.blogspot.com/. Because no is funnier when you know it’s coming. And when it’s in Latin.

good news!

let him undress you with his eyes.

Yonta Journal is up & running & looking for submissions. The brainchild of two nonfiction mfa’ers – Katie Flagg & Irina Zhorov – this new journal focuses on art and science and the art of science.  They are currently looking for innovative nonfiction about the environment (and science, naturally). Head to the (temporary) website for more details, and please pass this along to any writers you know who might be interested.

sounds of the mtn, pnk

in the words of our dearest scott pinkmountain:

Much chatter on the network this week, but things are afoot. It’s been a busy 50,000 years of sapien sub-dominance finally coming to mezzo-fruition. If you know what I mean.

Anyway, without further ado, the second EYES record is now finished and available for download. This record was a labor of love and tears and we hope it brings you something good. The album is called DUST and we recorded it to 8-track tape back in the German mid-70s.

In case you weren’t around at the end of the last decade, EYES was a band I played in back in the Bay Area phase of my experimentation.

I hope this finds you all well and with hungry ears.

Scott Pnkmtn

download the album at the link above, and check out EYES at their own blogspot.


its official: our alum Samuel Renken has won the Holland Prize from Logan House press and will see his collection of poems (much of which was first written for his thesis) published in the fall. we dug around and found some of Mr. Renken’s work up at the university website (posted back in 2009 in honor of the uw recognized “national day of the cowboy”).  congrats sam! you’re an inspiration to all thesis-writing mfa cats.

honorable mention

the UW MFA website has been named one of the top ten (er, twelve?) MFA websites by Seth Ambramson for The Huffington Post.

this is exciting to current students as it means more traffic in/out/around our program’s internet presence, which means even more and wonderful prospective applicants/future mfa’ers continuing to build a good thing here in laramie.  this is exciting for faculty and administrators who work hard – and so consistently behind the scenes – to benefit the program and the students and who deserve the opportunity for praise & thanks.

earlier this year, when the uwyo mfa broke the top-50 in the poets&writers rankings, visiting author/eminent writer of the universe rattawut lapcharoensap offered the words below in response.  we thinks they are relevant, again, now:

lists like these can be a little silly and nefarious.  they seem to imply that there’s no difference between mfa programs in creative writing and college sports team.  (their metric and ranking system seem suspiciously similar, no?)  they’re especially silly for the “bigger,” more established writing programs; nobody needs reminding, for example, that the iowa writer’s workshop is generally considered a “good” place for aspiring writers.  and the idea of “ranking” mfa programs seems so illogical as to almost be a form of American insanity.  but for “smaller” or less established programs, the list can confer public legitimacy and, more importantly, alert prospective students to the program’s existence in the first place. (rattawut lapcharoensap, via gmail, september 2010)


“Cattle, centaurs, chickens, dachshunds, gorillas, grunion, horses, humans, mice, monarch butterflies, mountain lions, mutts, racehorses, raccoons, starlings and wood ducks … You’ll find all these, and more, in Creative Nonfiction’s Animals issue!”

who would write about grunions and romance? kelly herbinson, that’s who.  being published for the first time in the winter 2011 issue of the highly regarded journal Creative Nonfiction, this second year uwyo mfa student gets in touch with her wild side — as per usual.

Thousands of sardine-sized grunion amass just off shore. They swim in tight, oscillating schools just beneath the surface. Anticipation mounts and swirls among them, their chemistry in tune with the heaving tidal undercurrents.

good work, kelly. and we look forward to seeing more of your work out there in the future!

Scott Rosenberg makes waves

UW’s creative rhetorician *slash* resident musician, Scott Rosenberg (aka Scott Pinkmountain) has made Mathias Svalina’s “ABCs of 2010 Music.” According to Svalina, Pinkmountain’s “Roamin’” was one of two CDs he was given this year – having bought only vinyl himself – and is worth checking out. See the complete list of 104 songs he picked as the best songs he heard in 2010, not including his vinyl, on his blog “Yes, Starlings! Yes!”

Below is the YouTube video of “To Love is to Die” by Scott Pinkmountain and the Golden Bolts of Tone that is also on Svalina’s blog. Mathias Svalina was one of five visiting writers—Kazim Ali, Eula Bliss, Julia Cohen, and Anna Moschovakis—during UW’s Writers & Publishing Symposium this past November. Svalina is the author of Destruction Myth (CSU Press 2009) and is co-editor of the online magazine, Octopus Magazine, and the small press, Octopus Books. Check out Pinkmountain’s interview with Yoni Wolf at A Public Space and look for his interview about music and poetry with poet, philosopher, and musician Jan Zwicky in the 2011 Owen Wister Review.

–Adam Million