A few years ago, the Laramie County Library System staff started a discussion on how we could draw attention to books, movies and CD’s in the collection that had a Wyoming connection. We wanted to denote materials that were written or produced by Wyoming authors or artists as well as those that had a Wyoming setting.
It turned out to be an involved and time-consuming project. In fact, it took a while to even come up with a logo. The classic bucking bronc image is trademarked, and printing in traditional brown and gold would be expensive, so we went with the simple “WYO” in black ink on a beige background. We had to keep the cost down because we knew we would need a lot of stickers. For all our small population, Wyoming residents are a creative bunch. Right now there are over fifty authors on the master Wyoming author list, with more being added all the time. There are also a number of Wyoming musicians whose recordings the library owns.
The list of Wyoming authors ranges from Owen Wister, whose classic western, The Virginian, was published in 1902, to current bestselling mystery authors C.J. Box and Craig Johnson. In between are such notable Wyoming writers as Kathleen and W. Michael Gear, whose long-running Native American historical fiction series has received international attention. And then there’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Proulx, whose novella Brokeback Mountain was the basis for the acclaimed film of the same title.
Other Wyoming authors who are less well-known but who have still built strong followings include mystery writer Curt Wendelboe, inspirational romance author Amanda Cabot, cowboy romance author Joanne Kennedy and rising literary star Alison Hagy, of which her book Boleto, the New York Times Book Review wrote: “…her settings glimmer with well-chosen metaphors.” Wendelboe, Cabot and Kennedy live in or near Cheyenne and Hagy is a Laramie resident.
If keeping track of Wyoming authors is difficult, tracking books with a Wyoming settings is even harder. Because of our scenic beauty, challenging environment and reputation for rugged individualism, Wyoming seems to have a great appeal for fiction writers. Well-known writers who have set novels in Wyoming include thriller writer Lee Child, prolific women’s fiction and suspense author Nora Roberts, and acclaimed mystery writer William Kent Krueger.
The library owns multiple copies of many of these authors’ works and since every copy of every title needs a sticker, it really adds up. And we’re doing this for not only print versions, but audio copies as well. Some of these authors have two or more books out every year, and we also have to purchase replacement copies. And I haven’t even mentioned all the non-fiction and children’s titles included in the project. For example, western Wyoming author Cat Urbigkit has written several children’s books, many of which feature Wyoming settings.
Wyoming has a rich literary history, staggeringly so for such a thinly populated state. Something about this place seems to draw and inspire creative individuals, and it has for decades. Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor to the state and wrote much of his acclaimed World War I novel A Farewell to Arms in a cabin near Sheridan. He was once quoted as saying, “There are two places I love: Africa and Wyoming.”
So keep an eye out for the WYO stickers when browsing the stacks and join us in celebrating Wyoming’s rich artistic tradition.