Last month, I was busy with singing engagements. I played my guitar and sang at two nursing homes, an assisted living facility, and an adult day care program. I’ve decided to space out these performances so I’m not doing them all in one month. I won’t do any this month except for Westview where I’ve already committed to doing it once a month for the monthly birthday party. I’ll start in July, doing just one of the other facilities each month so I’m doing only two per month instead of four every other month. That way, each of the other facilities will have me every couple of months, and it won’t be quite so hectic.
The first weekend of this month, I attended the Wyoming Writers annual conference in Riverton which was quite an adventure compared to other such conferences. It was held at the Wind River Hotel & Casino, and as I usually do, I traveled with Rose Hill, Wyoming’s current poet laureate, and we stayed together in a hotel room.
At about ten thirty on Friday morning after getting up at the crack of dawn and driving for hours, we arrived at the hotel to discover that we couldn’t check in until four o’clock that afternoon. Being on the Wyoming Writers board, I had a meeting to attend on the other side of the casino. Rose wanted to accompany me so off we went. As we wound our way through the maze of slot machines and black jack tables, the song “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from Guys and Dolls popped into my head. We needed luck to survive the barrage of noise, flashing lights, and cigarette smoke.
After the meeting and lunch, it was back through the casino to the hotel where conference registration was taking place. When we got there, we were told we could use a golf cart to get around the casino, instead of through it, and to the meeting rooms on the other side. It came with Austen and Garland, two friendly young drivers who took turns shuttling people around during that weekend. The cart only held one person besides the driver so Rose and I had to take turns using it. I felt sorry for those poor guys, having to run back and forth and decided to attend Saturday workshops on the hotel side so I wouldn’t have to press them into service as often.
I’m glad I made that decision because the workshops I attended were led by poet and University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. In one session, she had us choose seven words from a list and write a poem about a particular moment in life. In another, she asked us to write a poem about an event from more than one perspective. Needless to say, I wrote two poems that day. I’ll submit them for possible publication in an anthology she’s editing that will consist of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by Wyoming authors.
On Saturday night, there was a banquet featuring Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall III as keynote speaker. I must admit that writing two poems in one day is exhausting, and I dozed off during his presentation. However, I downloaded one of his short story collections, The Dance House, and will read and review it here later.
After the banquet, an open mic session was scheduled in one of the large meeting rooms on the other side of the casino. I’d already promised friend and fellow poet Christine Valentine I’d do a duet with her so there was no turning back. It was nearly nine o’clock, and Rose said, “Do you think we could hoof it over there without calling those guys to help us?”
“Sure,” I said, confident that if Lady Luck was with us the first two times we traversed that den of iniquity that is the Wind River Reservation’s main economic source, surely she would be with us a third time. I needed the exercise, and I figured I was already a candidate for lung cancer since my mother probably smoked while I was in her womb.
When we arrived at the Cottonwood Room, Rose huffing and puffing, me smiling with another sense of accomplishment, our conference chair said, “Why didn’t you use the cart?”
“We figured the guys were off duty,” I answered.
“Well, they’re not,” she said. She then produced her phone, made a call, and said, “Austen will be back to pick you up at ten o’clock.”
The duet Christine and I did was a poem she wrote about being driven to distraction by two songs. The first was “101 Pounds of Fun” from South Pacific. In the poem, she writes about how she and her husband kept singing that song together after watching the musical on television. She even sang it to the postmistress who probably thought she was crazy. In the end, she explains how she purchased Brigadoon from Netflix. Now, they’re singing ”Go Home with Bonnie Jean.”
Speaking of earworms, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” stuck with me all weekend. Often, I found myself humming it in our hotel room. Finally, Rose, a Methodist grandmother, in exasperation, countered with her rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” (Here’s my version.) All in all, despite the hassles, this year’s conference was pretty good.
Now, here’s some good news. I originally thought my memoir, My Ideal Partner, wouldn’t be published until the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to receive an email from Leonore Dvorkin, saying she and her husband David were ahead of schedule. It looks like the book will be out sometime this summer. Meanwhile, she has been copy editing. The email messages that would normally have been flying fast and furious have not been because she says this book is well written. I guess it had better be since it’s my fourth one. When it’s published, it’ll be available as an eBook from Smashwords and Amazon and in print from CreateSpace.
This summer, I’ll be taking a correspondence class in the elements of poetry from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I’ve never taken a course from them but have heard good things about their classes so am looking forward to the experience. You may wonder if it’s necessary for me to take a poetry class when I have two poetry collections under my belt. Well, there’s always room for learning and improvement.
As Garrison Keillor would say, that’s the news from Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town. Have a great month. I’ll have more news for you in July.