What We’re Up To This Summer, Part 2

It’s summertime in Laramie, which means our MFAs have oodles of time to write, read, travel, and explore the world. To find out what the 2019 cohort is up to this summer, we did a quick interview with them— check it out below!


LINDSAY LYNCH, MFA, FICTION

If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? Teaspoon, small but exact.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? A colander, letting out all the excess until I’m left with random bits of interesting junk.

What are you working on? My thesis, which is a collection of short stories. I will probably end up writing a few essays on art to avoid said thesis.

Am I allowed to ask how it’s going? I recently read Lauren Groff’s By the Book where she said that she deals with writer’s block by just reading a lot of books. I thought this was a good approach, but now I’ve read over 13 books in a month and have written, maybe, 3 pages. Oops.

Tell me your favorite adjective? Lugubrious.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? Yay semi-colons! I have a favorite semi-colon and it’s in the first line of Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House: “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

Got any summer plans? I will be traveling to Amsterdam and Paris with the plan to sit in art museums and write until someone kicks me out. I will also be road-tripping to Napa Valley later this summer to attend the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? Trains.

Are we having fun yet? 

Image result for party down gif

Recommend a book? What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons.


 

FRANCESCA KING, MFA, FICTION

If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? As a child practicing my violin scales (badly), my mother would often shout from the kitchen “Francesca, is your brain a sieve?” Even though I imagined for the longest time that a sieve was a kind of animal— a cross between a seal and a manatee— I still have a certain affinity with it.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? Perhaps a lemon squeezer? This current novel is squeezing the life from me… (in a good way, of course…).

What are you working on? I’m currently revising some of the vignettes I produced in Brad Watson’s Secret Life of Movies seminar last semester. Not sure what I’ll do with them, though I’m thinking about producing a chapbook either relating to my experience as a Londoner in Laramie, or about my childhood. Also, a novel. Though, in its early stages.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? Far superior to the lesser colon.

Got any summer plans? I was planning on attending the Arctic Circle Residency, but had to postpone to 2019 for funding, so I have 14 blank weeks in my planner! I’m staying around Laramie, working in the garden for the first time in my life, writing in Night Heron, going to the (blissfully empty) gym.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? The underground system in London, for sure. Bring on Christmas 🎅🏼

Are we having fun yet? Always 😉

Recommend a book? I enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue and have since been searching for another novel with a child protagonist. Only Child by Rhiannon Navin was published a couple of months ago and certainly filled that gap.

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What We’re Up To This Summer, Part 1

It’s summertime in Laramie, which means our MFAs have oodles of time to write, read, travel, and explore the world. To find out what the 2019 cohort is up to this summer, we did a quick interview with them— check it out below!


JENNY ZHANG, MFA, NONFICTION

First off, if you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? I have always felt great affinity with the wooden spatula, in that we’re both reliable, easy to clean, and good for stir frying.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? Definitely a colander. Draining, but with a purpose.

What are you working on? My goal is to finish the first draft of my thesis by the end of summer. I’m also dabbling in writing trashy erotica to keep me somewhat sane in the inbetweens.

Am I allowed to ask how it’s going? Yes! It’s going OKAY, and I say that with some trepidation, because is it ever supposed to go better than awful? Mostly, I’m adjusting to not having hard and fast obligations for the next few months – it’s weird to go from a set schedule to what feels like infinite free time. I have to remind myself that it’s fine to just relax. I get to write at a leisurely pace, I’m not as anxious about finishing things, I’m exploring, and I’m failing a lot. I’m learning to be okay with it.

Tell me your favorite adjective? Cacophonous.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? Sure, why not? I’m a recovering dash addict, but everyone’s invited to the party!

Got any summer plans? Austin is my home base for the summer, and I plan on being near some sort of water feature every day. (That’s something I missed while in dry, windy Laramie.) My big trip is in July – I’m going to China to visit my family and do research for my thesis (thanks, Dick Cheney!).

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? Biking. I like knowing that I can leave of my own accord anytime.

Are we having fun yet?

Recommend a book? Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.


TAYO BASQUIAT, MFA, NONFICTION

If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be? Spatula.

Now, if your writing were a kitchen utensil, which one would it be? Can opener. That manual kind that won’t stay on the can, leaves sections of the lid attached and thus requires a hammer to finish the job.

What are you working on? Right now, Wilderness First Responder certification.

Am I allowed to ask how it’s going? I have fake blood stains on my hands.

Tell me your favorite adjective? Stippled.

Yay or nay: semi-colons? No to semis, yes to lots of colons except in titles.

Got any summer plans? Write the first draft of my thesis and lead outdoor adventures for adults.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation? Walking.

Are we having fun yet? [Edit: Tayo didn’t answer this, which I presume means he’s having all the fun.]

Recommend a book? Stoner by John Williams.

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.

Abstract
“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.

Excerpt
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.

congrats!

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.