By Jenny Shank, NewWest.Net

Wyoming has the smallest population of any U.S. state, but it maintains a literary output that rivals most other places.  While it’s been a quiet year so far for writers in Colorado (population 4,939,456, according to 2008 Census Bureau projections), writers in Wyoming (population 532,668) have been publishing at a good clip over the past few weeks.

Laramie’s Alyson Hagy kicked things off in early February with the publication of her fourth story collection, Ghosts of Wyoming.  Claiming Ground, a memoir by Cody’s Laura Bell, is due out March 9, and it comes with glowing blurbs from Rick Bass, Kent Haruf, William Kittredge, and Mark Spragg.  Haruf writes, “This is a book that compels you to the last sentence, both because of its sheer beauty and its profound meaning.” Spragg writes, “Laura Bell’s Claiming Ground is the finest memoir I’ve read.” I guess I’d better read it myself.

Knopf will publish Spragg’s third novel, Bone Fire, on March 11.  Spragg is also from Cody, (population 9309), which means that .0215% of Cody’s population will publish a book in March.  To put that in perspective, writers in New York City (population 8,363,710) would have to publish 179,820 books in March to keep up with Cody’s per capita output.  Even if you include self-published writers, I doubt New York’s scribes could produce that many volumes, especially given that about 172,000 books were published for the entire year in the United States in 2005, the most recent year for which UNESCO’s publishing statistics are available.

The Wyoming Authors Wiki lists 52 writers with connections to Park County, Wyoming, where Cody is located.  It also lists 18 deceased writers—including William “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself, author of such works as 1927’s Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill..  And so, with the power vested in me by no one, I anoint Cody, Wyoming the new literary capital of the United States.

That’s not to snub Carbon County, where Annie Proulx was based before her recent move to New Mexico, or Teton County, where Alexandra Fuller [editor’s note: and Terry Tempest Williams] live, or Ucross, population 25, home to award-winning mystery novelist Craig Johnson.  Wyoming-native mystery-thriller novelist C.J. Box lives near Cheyenne, and his new Nowhere to Run hits stores on April 6, rounding out several busy weeks for Wyoming writers.

If you can’t make it up to Cody next month to attend the joint book signing/tour kickoff for Mark Spragg and Laura Bell on March 9 at The Thistle (2 p.m.), don’t worry, because Cody will be coming to you.  Spragg and Bell will be touring all over the region, visiting 24 bookshops in Billings (Barnes & Noble, March 10, 7 p.m.), Red Lodge (Red Lodge Books, March 12, 3 p.m.), Boulder (Boulder Book Store, March 16, 7:30 p.m.), Bozeman (Country Bookshelf, April 20, 7 p.m.), Missoula (Fact & Fiction, April 21), and many more places in Montana, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California.  One can only hope Spragg and Bell will be hawking some sort of triumphant “We’re From Cody, Read Our Dust” t-shirt on the tour.

• Not all literary activity in the region is confined to Wyoming: several Colorado writers have been busy polishing their books and getting them into print, and this Saturday, Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver is sponsoring a panel called “The Story of A Book,” in which the authors will explain the process of how their books came to be.  Nick Arvin, whose novel The Reconstructionist is due out in 2011, Phyllis Barber, author of the memoir Raw Edges, Jay P.K. Kenney, who wrote Great Road Rides Denver, Cara Lopez Lee, author of the memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands, and Lynn Wagner, whose poetry chapbook No Blues This Raucous Song is out now with Slapering Hol Press, will discuss the “ins and outs of the process they’ve enjoyed (or endured) in getting their manuscripts from crazy first idea and into actual print.” “The Story of A Book” takes place at 910 Arts in Denver (910 Santa Fe Drive) on Saturday, February 27 (6:30 p.m.).  Lighthouse asks that attendees email their RSVP to

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  1. Laramie’s Brad Watson (2003 Finalist for the National Book Award) has a new collection, Aliens in the Prime of their Lives. It officially releases March 22, 2010, but is available online now. It is a great collection of stories. Check it out.