make your own map

courtesy of luling osofsky:
article about laramie atlas project written up in casper star tribune. too bad there’s a picture of me making a weird face, but i think it’s a good article!

a taste of india.

Part of a Masters in Fine Arts nonfiction workshop at the University of Wyoming, each map designer will explore what it means to live in Laramie, both on map and in essay, said English professor Alyson Hagy [mfa core faculty member]. The project, called “Laramie: A Gem City Atlas,” was inspired by San Francisco artist and author Rebecca Solnit. Eventually it will include not only students in the fine arts class, but also art students, Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center students and hopefully the state-wide community, all with maps displayed in UW’s Art Museum in May and June.

wyoming leads the nation…

in smokeless tobacco use.
we were slightly bemused to see this headline in the laramie boomerang.  in the reader comments section online, the debate rages on:

banned wrote on Feb 25, 2011 7:59 AM:
“This is a nasty habit and should be banned on college campuses. It is disgusting to sit next to someone spitting into a cup or trashcan all semester.”

To banned… wrote on Feb 25, 2011 10:59 AM:
“Just because you deem a habit to be ‘disgusting’ doesn’t give you the right to prevent other adults from making the choice to engage in said habit. To me, self-satisfied, smug, superior manner-police calling to ban everything they don’t like is “disgusting,” but here you are with your right to comment. Quit trying to Big Brother everyone else and let adults do what they will with themselves, so long as they’re prepared to suffer the consequences. ”

since many of us teach intro to composition here at the university, and one of the readings we assign our students discusses the concept of Big (and little) Brothers in the Orwellian sense of the phrase, we cannot help but think: maybe  we are reaching them.  we are giving them the tools necessary in life to fight for the causes in which they truly and passionately believe.

wyoming: through with chew?

in the blogosphere

interesting things are afoot.

courtesy of katiecakes schmid:
Claudia Rankine responds to a poem by Tony Hoagland. Go to her website to read her really interesting AWP post and Open Letter requesting submissions about writing on race. She also posts a link to Hoagland’s poem. Read Seth Abramson’s post too. It’s really interesting. The best I’ve seen on the internet in regards to this subject. Mostly I’ve just seen “tony hoagland tells rankine his poem is for white people” as the headline and lede.

Claudia Rankine is friend to the UW MFA. brought here as a distinguished author by the program’s Visiting Writer Series in Fall 2009, she taught a workshop in poetry to mfa students across genres.

untraditional atlas project

new story – by mfa’er irina zhorov – up @ the wpr:

Rebecca Solnit, a visiting writer from San Francisco [is] currently working with students at the University of Wyoming to make an untraditional atlas of Laramie. The product will be a unique perspective of the city that, Solnit hopes, will make people see and explore their own home through new eyes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

why science needs creative writers…

this past semester jeff lockwood, mfa faculty member/professor of natural sciences & humanities, had the privilege of interviewing EO Wilson for Wyoming Signatures.  the interview, now posted courtesy of UWTV, can also be viewed in full on You Tube (part 1 // part 2).  of the experience, lockwood had this to say:

“the interview focused on Wilson’s novel, Anthill.  He provides an exceptionally eloquent account for why fiction and literature are vital to modern science—indeed, he suggests a moral obligation of scientists to cultivate their capacity as storytellers in order to communicate vital knowledge to the public.  In short, the preeminent biologist in the world provides a compelling argument for why an ongoing collaboration between writers and natural scientists is critical to our society.  So, if the university administrators that adore science (quite honestly, I do) ever needed a reason to foster the MFA program in creative writing, here it is.”

and then i heard the name “wyoming” uttered on national television (gasp)

but, of course, the attention was not positive.  in this daily show clip jon stewart delivers a passionate rant against republicans for blocking a congressional bill that would’ve provided health care for 9/11 first responders.

then in an extremely half-assed attempt at researching wyoming politics, which after 1+ years here i only know to consist of the state’s adopting “cowboy ethics” as official state code, i found the following hard-hitting question posted on an online forum:

Is WY conservative or more liberal? I heard that there aren’t many abortions but there also live many atheist’s…

i heard the name “wyoming” uttered one other time on national television, also on comedy central. it was an episode of southpark where the boyz are looking out a bedroom window and one of them yells, “there’s a meteor the size of wyoming coming at us!”

wyoming is so consistently not considered.  it seems to be seen, by many,  as the lesser montana.  people ask me frequently how life is in wisconsin.  in the public eye its brokeback mountain and, sometimes, did you hear about the morgans? having come here from los angeles, from neighborhoods i see so regularly on tv shows and in commercials, i watch reality tv to see glimpses of home in the background.  because of this, when wyoming comes up it startles me.  there is no abundance of representation except through the enduring image of the american west, the cowboy. it worries me when a place, full of people who are people and lives that are lives and history that is history, gets oversimplified and seen so rarely and for all the wrong reasons.  i’m not saying that wyoming is all good.  but, its also not so bad.  most people won’t get to see it, and furthermore have no interest in hearing about it at all.

next week, i’m going to be in california. in 80 degree weather apparently.  eating burritos and walking on the beach.  and its worlds away from here. and i’ll be answering questions like, “so how’s wisconsin?”

–estella soto

Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

first-year nonfiction student irina zhorov perfects her npr voice in this feature for Wyoming Public Radio.  to read more from irina, in her own words, check out her blog.  we internet stalked her for just a moment and this was what we found:

“I dreamt that I was dying from thirst and when I woke up next afternoon, still wearing gloves, I found a plastic bag full of cooked llama ribs by my bedside. I had llama blood on my cheeks.”

you gotta love nonfiction.


we are so very proud of timothy raymond.  this first-year fiction student has received a Pushcart nomination from the folks at decomP magazine.  please check out timothy’s story, “Renegades,” and all of the other great pieces up at decomP.  congrats timberly, and best of luck!!! celebrate. treat your sweet self to a nice pair of cowboy boots. you can definitely rock it.

cream of the cream

the opposite of wyoming?

this gawker article made us “lol.”  in a moment of questionable taste, and to keep the laughter train rolling, we decided to try this attitude on for size. below you’ll find excerpts from the columbia mfa prof’s actual email, followed by our own versions revised along wyo-state lines.

for the full/real article, check out yonder link ^
for our nonsense, you need only scroll down…

Subject: News from a different MFA planet

she says:
“My students also live and move and write in seventh heaven and in a fever of creative excitement. Columbia’s MFA is rigorous and competitive but students don’t just have publication as a goal – they take that for granted, since about half the graduating class has a book published or a publishing contract in hand by graduation – so they have their sights set on Pulitzers.”

we say:
“Students in Laramie live and eat and breathe and write and achieve bowel regularity in a wintry wonderland; the chill in the air does little to cool the fever of creative excitement burning in and around their loins. Wyoming’s MFA is rigorous and competitive but students don’t just have publication as a goal – they take that for granted, since all of their teachers have books.  Publishing is inevitable…. right? It’s only a matter of time… right?”

she says:
“And then there are all the peripheral pleasures of living on Manhattan: we’ve seen the Matisse exhibition at MOMA, have tickets for the opening of Don Pasquale at the Met Opera, have tickets to see Al Pacino on stage as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice, etc etc. Plus I’m just…3 minutes from Central Park where we join the joggers every morning. This is Cloud Nine living on the Upper West Side (which is known to my agent and my Norton editor, who live in Greenwich Village, as ‘Upstate Manhattan.’)”

we say:
“Of course, there are all the peripheral pleasures of living on Wyoming: the day hikes through hail storms, the time spent with the old DVD collection on a crisp day (front row seats to see Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro facing off in HEAT circa 1995), the Hispanic/Oriental foods section at Wal-Mart, the singular man who is Laramie’s homeless population wearing a sarong and using rocks (which he cleverly calls, ‘dinosaur teeth’) as a form of currency at the local bistro.  This is Cloud Nine living in South-Eastern Wyoming.”

she says:
“…the crackle of intellectual energy in the air is almost visible, like blue fire.”

we say:
“really? can we just take a minute to workshop that sentence?”