Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'd Like to Talk About the Bigger Stuff

via Phoebe
An essay by RBM that questions relationships among Coloradoans, the Kyrgyz, and our animals has won Phoebe's inaugural nonfiction contest, judged by author (and screenwriter) Shauna Cross. The essay will appear in the George Mason University journal's fall issue (volume 40). An excerpt:
Dinner and a bowl of kumis, or fermented mare’s milk, prompts another tale, this one about the melting of the snows. “I was born in the mountains,” says Salmorbek, his whiskers flaring around the words. From here in Kant, the Tian Shan range looms impossibly high, stretching all the way to China and 10,000 feet above the Rockies. Somewhere up there, in celebration of the equinox, points Salmorbek, through the kitchen window, men mount horses and compete in a sort of airborne wrestling match. Instead of a ball, they fight for a dead sheep. “I too rode a horse,” he adds with pride. “But I was better at riding a tank.”

That night, locked among the carpets, I find “Reviving the Kyrgyz Horse” in the guidebook Kyrgyz Republic. “For centuries, the horse was vital to nomadic life,” reads the entry. I swallow hard at what comes next. The author quotes a French historian dismayed by a Soviet plan to civilize the Kyrgyz: “‘The shepherds were in tears,’ says Jacqueline Ripart. Some of the horses went into giant Soviet stud farms but most were killed for their meat.’”
For Phoebe's current nonfiction and other genres, visit the journal's blog, which for a limited time is offering an entire issue as a free download. You can also follow Phoebe on Twitter and Facebook.

via Phoebe
Update -- "I'd Like to Talk" is now available at along with contest results and artwork for Phoebe volume 40.2. Congratulations to fellow winners and HMs Aja Gabel and Dwight Holing (fiction), Mark Wagenaar and Grace Curtis (poetry), and Jessica McCaughey (nonfiction).

Friday, April 22, 2011


By R.B. Moreno

Earlier this week I accepted an invitation to join the University of South Dakota English Department's PhD program, where I look forward to studying creative writing, publishing nonfiction, and teaching composition, among other courses. From, a thumbnail sketch of the degree:
The Ph.D. program is built around the English Department's seminar offerings in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and in creative writing, and is supplemented by independent study courses ... Within these specializations, you'll construct your own plan of study to reflect your interests.
The Department also offers a list of FAQs about its PhD and a news blog. USD's literary associations include South Dakota Review, edited by Brian Bedard and Lee Ann Roripaugh, the Dakota Writing Project, and the Vermillion Literary Project, which is hosting a reading next week.

USD is the state's oldest university and its 216-acre campus in Vermillion currently serves about 10,000 students. Ten governors have graduated from USD along with William "Doc" Farber, Tom Brokaw, Al Neuharth, Ernest G. Bormann, and embattled Greg Mortenson, among other alumni.

Vermillion was founded on the banks of the Missouri River shortly before the Civil War but was largely destroyed in an 1881 flood. The reconstructed seat of Clay County now sits on higher ground whose earliest admirers included the Lakota ("Red Stream," they called the area), Pacific-bound Lewis and Clark, and in 1843, John James Audubon.

April in Vermillion looks cold and wet, a boon for checkered farmland visible from Google Earth. And somewhat more tranquil than the forecast for RBM's last departure from Colorado.

via Google

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Communication Can Save Lives

via Janice Mount for the Coloradoan
A guest column by RBM about the Crystal Fire, which has destroyed homes near Colorado State University, raised questions about air and water quality in the region, and made national news, but received no mention in the university's communications with students, appears today in The Coloradoan. An excerpt:
The Crystal Fire has reminded me, an instructor at CSU, of an embarrassing, even dangerous breakdown in communication. I live on campus, and like my neighbors, I woke up about 5 a.m. on Sunday thinking my building might be on fire. Nope. But the smell of burning wood was palpable, if not overwhelming. So I went online.

"Safety Information: Report of Possible Peeping Tom." This March 30 e-mail, about yet another man leering at women on campus, is still the last advisory I've received from CSU's "Public Safety Team." Thinking I must be missing some mention of the fire, I left my inbox for "Teeing Up for Golf's Greatest Tournament," read the news at the university's homepage, about former CSU golfer Martin Laird.

What gives, CSU Public Safety Team? I don't like telling people how to do their job, but I'm also bothered by something I've learned from watching the past decade's string of terrorist plots and natural disasters. It's that robust communication can save lives, reassure parents and prevent similar mayhem. That's where I feel CSU staff missed the mark on Sunday.

This isn't to say that apprehending peeping toms isn't important, or that the Crystal Fire has put CSU students in danger. That's beside the point. What I am saying is that CSU can better utilize the tools at its disposal to inform the campus community, in real-time, about the status of emergencies that affect us all.
You can find the full text of RBM's column on page A6 of today's paper and at this permalink.

Update (May 17, 2012) -- One year later, the university's public safety team has posted a helpful advisory on the Hewlett Gulch Fire, another pernicious blaze blackening the hills northwest of campus.