Candy Moulton: Wyoming Writers – “I Found My Tribe”

Columnist Candy Moulton writes, "Wyoming's literary landscape is unbelievably rich. It has characters known worldwide like Game Warden Joe Pickett (the creative son of C. J. Box) and Sheriff Walt Longmire, who was given life by Craig Johnson."

Candy Moulton

May 07, 20247 min read

Candy moulton 4 16 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming’s literary landscape is unbelievably rich. The wide-open spaces and rugged landscape are characters in most of the stories associated with this state penned by such writers as John McPhee, Peggy Simpson Curry, and Robert Roripaugh.

It is also a place of characters known worldwide like Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett (the creative son of C. J. Box) and Sheriff Walt Longmire, who was given life by Craig Johnson.

And in this state, there are many, many writers, me included, who gained support, inspiration, and knowledge from a group of like-minded people, who organized and joined Wyoming Writers Inc.

“Wyoming Writers is a special organization. It’s not the sole writing group in the state, nor is it the most well-attended in the region, but it’s the one that can claim the richest history and longest roots, and still show potential for growth year-after-year,” said current President Andrew Call.

This year Wyoming Writers recognizes its 50th Anniversary. The group formed in 1974 following a writing workshop as a way to continue the conversation and create a community for writers.

Among the ways the organization set out to nurture writers was to hold an annual conference where the state’s isolated scribblers could build relationships to further their writing endeavors. They hold writing contests, publish a newsletter, and have an active Facebook group.

One key to the organization’s success is its open-door policy. Anybody who wants to write is welcome. Publication is not a requirement – nor even necessarily a goal. Novelists rub elbows with poets and those who write history or contemporary stories. Some write for their children or grandchildren, and they are as welcome as someone on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Starley Talbott, who now lives in Cheyenne and is the author of a dozen books and numerous magazine articles, was a new member of the staff of the Saratoga Sun newspaper in 1973, when she “began a journey that has brought me through the past fifty years of learning, making friendships, and writing.”

Starley didn’t attend that first gathering in 1974 when Wyoming Writers formed, but she soon became a member and that enabled her to enhance her writing skills and join with other writers throughout the state.

She recalled, “The Wyoming Writers workshop in Laramie in 1976 introduced me to several panelists who would influence my writing career. Carl Skiff, editor of the Empire Magazine of the Sunday Denver Post, encouraged me to submit articles to the magazine, and I was published numerous times in Empire Magazine.”

That year she became a member of the Board of Directors of Wyoming Writers and soon after began a two-year position as the Newsletter Editor. “Both experiences gave me the opportunity to travel throughout Wyoming forming lasting friendships with fellow writers,” Starley said.

“The highlight of my journey came when I became president of Wyoming Writers in 1979. My term concluded with an amazing workshop at the A Bar A Guest Ranch near Encampment in June of 1980, where the 65 writers and their families enjoyed manuscript critiques, poetry readings, book signings, poolside luncheons, horseback riding, and more.”

I attended that meeting at the A Bar A Ranch because I was working with Starley at the Saratoga Sun, and the ranch is only a few miles from my home. But I did not become actively involved with Wyoming Writers until the 1990s, eventually serving as president.

More important, I met other writers and learned from them, including international bestsellers W. Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear. They taught their first conference in 1988 and remained involved as instructors and participants for the next couple of decades.

“Beginning with that first conference, we have made lifelong friends, cherished the opportunities to nurture the development of talent, and enjoyed encouraging budding Wyoming authors,” the Gears said. “Over the years we have valued our membership and ties with this most-stellar Wyoming organization.”

Another stalwart of the organization is John Nesbitt of Torrington, an award-winning novelist with three new books out in just the past year.

His first involvement with Wyoming Writers happened in 1985 when he placed in the fiction and poetry categories in the annual contest. That led him to the conference that year in Worland. John would also serve as president of the organization in 2010 and has attended every conference for more than 30 years.

John says, “Whenever an aspiring or emerging writer asks me for advice, one of my first suggestions is to join an organization like Wyoming Writers, where a person can meet other writers in the same area and at the same level or higher.”

I Found My Tribe

Another longtime member of Wyoming Writers was so inspired by the writers she met that she turned it into a business opportunity.

“Wyoming Writers has been a major influence in my life,” said Nancy Curtis of Glendo. “As a recent college graduate 50-something years ago I attended the annual workshops and met people who would be important in the rest of my life—people who loved stories and words and writing. I found my tribe.”

What Nancy also found were people across the state who were writing good books but  who didn’t have many opportunities to get them in print and available in bookstores.

“I thought maybe I could fill the gap and become a publisher of a few good books about Wyoming subjects,” she said. “I started High Plains Press and have helped authors get their manuscripts in print since then, though recently I have turned the operation over to a long-time employee.”

“When I look back at all the workshops, the thing I recall with the most pleasure is meeting so many interesting people,” Nancy added. “Writers are just fascinating people—from the 80-year-old woman with some poems in her pocket to writers with multiple books on the New York Times bestseller list.”

The current leadership of Wyoming Writers is planning the 50th Annual Conference, May 31-June 2 at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Casper. (Register by May 15 to get the early bird discount.)

Alan O’Hashi, a current board member, attended his first Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference at the University of Wyoming just four years ago. And he was inspired.

“My experience there was what gave me the confidence to compose long-form stories. I didn't know anything about the writing business except having worked for a small Lander newspaper.”

 But in a conference session Alan met with an editor and told her about “a newspaper column I'd written 30 years earlier that I thought would make a good book and handed her a typed up one sheet."

Her response: “Can you send me a full manuscript?"  

Not knowing  if that was a good or bad idea, he wrote 80,000 words and sent them to her. By November 2019 Alan had his first book contract.

Alan adds, “The book, Beyond Heart Mountain was finally released in February 2022 after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and extensive rewrites because I didn't know what the heck I was doing! I've since completed six more books and haven't looked back.”

Current president Andrew Call said in looking back at the group’s last 50 years he is “proud to say I played a small part in helping continue to shape a writing community.”

And Call added, “I don’t know what the next 50, 15, or even 5 years will mean for the organization, in all honesty, but I truly believe we’d all benefit from more Wyoming Writers now and in the future.”

Visit for more information on this year’s conference, or to join.

Candy Moulton can be reached at

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Candy Moulton

Wyoming Life Columnist

Wyoming Life Columnist