On the road again: We’re on the way to Big Wyoming! Join us on our trip through the literary journals of the Cowboy State.
The Wild West portion of our road trip continues with the loneliest home on the range: Wyoming is officially the most sparsely populated state in America, and that shows not only in the demographic data but also in the tiny handful of literary entities we were able to encounter as we made our way through. And encounter we did: publications at local and regional levels attempting to cover vast swaths of land, history, and lives with each stroke of the keyboard. Wyoming is more out there than you realize, and the journey perhaps more rewarding for that.
Who is Owen Wister? None other than the author of the very first modern western novel The Virginian, set near the town of Laramie — the town where the University of Wyoming stands today. This undergraduate arts and literature journal is run through the university’s student media department, who admits to a soft spot for western and Wyoming-specific work, but seeks writing from all over the world. They’re an active editorial team, priding their excellence in part on “working with writers and artists whose submissions are promising but which do not initially meet our standards” — so if you’re stuck on a piece you can’t just quite finish, send it in and see what they can do!
Bless this country’s community college English departments—often the only bastion actively promoting creation, submission, and publication of the written word for miles, determined to squeeze whatever culture they can out of and into a smaller surrounding community. Boar’s Tusk, the journal of Western Wyoming Community College, is a prime example of just this: they managed to publish a digital version despite the flurry caused by the pandemic this spring, working closely with the local digital news outlet to expand rather than shrink its reach. While you might not be able to submit—they seek local submissions only—you can still be inspired.
While published out of the University of Utah, WHR boasts one of the few—if not the only—award series geared towards the interior west: the Mountain West Writers Contest. While it appears the program is on hiatus for 2020, it’s worth keeping an eye on, as past judges have included names like Lucy Corin, Oliver de la Paz, Ander Monson, and Pam Houston. They also accept regular submissions year-round, if you’re feeling slightly less Wyoming-ey.
HDR not only highlights work from the interior west but actively occludes work from the western coastal regions (they have a great map to delineate!). Their virtual salon series, literally called IN THE TIME OF COVID, directly promotes a thriving arts and literature scene despite draining and tiring times. HDR reopens November 1st for Spring 2021 submissions—get that calendar pencil ready, baby, and submit your COVID road trip story or whatever other weird stuff came up for you this summer. They especially seek “writing outside the realm of those typically published,” and champion Native voices.
by Melissa Hinshaw