Beyond the Llano (Jan. 9)

New Year. New Resolutions. The Hotchpot Café has created a 2018 Reading Naturally Challenge. The Telegraph, Nature’s Path, and Small Footprint Family all offer suggestions for healthy, green resolutions.

Counterpoint Press will publish Sowell author Robert Michael Pyle’s first novel Magdalena Mountain in fall 2018! And keep an eye out for Sarah Viren’s MINE: Essays due out in March 2018 from University of New Mexico Press and Clinton Crockett Peters’s  Pandora’s Garden: Kudzu, Cockroaches, and Other Misfits of Ecology available in May 2018 from University of Georgia Press.

If you’re looking for something new to listen to, check out BBC 4’s Adventures of a Young Naturalist featuring British naturalist David Attenborough; the radio drama Saving the Blue which chronicles a PHD student’s quest to save the Large Blue butterfly; or science and humor podcast Infinite Monkey Cage.

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Beyond the Llano (Dec. 19)

The New York Times has put together a list of the top climate stories from the last year. Check out 2017: The Year in Climate.

Patagonia has filed suit against the Trump Administration for its executive order shrinking Bears Ears National Monument. The Guardian provides an overview of the EO and the controversies surrounding it here. Outside examines Patagonia’s unusual move, and provides a quick guide to the groups and actions fighting to protect public lands.

Wyoming Daily News talks to Doug Peacock about his road to environmental activism, the Yellowstone grizzly, and The Monkey Wrench Gang.

With the Thomas fire set to become the largest fire in California’s history, The LA Times examines the link between natural disasters and climate change.

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Beyond the Llano (Dec. 5)

IT’S BACK! Beyond the Llano, our bi-weekly roundup of goings-on in the world – literary, environmental, and otherwise – returns this week with links to help you (read: us) build a winter break reading list.

Sowell authors with books out this year include: Sandra Scofield (Swim: Stories of the Sixties), Pattiann Rogers (Quickening Fields), Bill McKibben (Radio Free Vermont), and John Lane (Anthropocene Blues: Poems). And, don’t miss Sowell Conference participant Christian Knoeller’s Reimaging Environmental History: Ecological Memory in the Wake of Landscape Change.  

At The Guardian Stephen Moss highlights 2017’s contributions to the new nature writing from across the pond. The Millions’ A Year in Reading: 2017 features recommendations and musings from writers, including Louise Erdrich, Emily St. John Mandel, and National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward. New entries are published everyday, so keeping checking back. NPR’s Book Concierge is out today. Highlights include Sunshine State: Essays by Sarah Gerard, Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River by David Owen, and The Way of the Hare by Marianne Taylor.



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Some Thoughts on the Sowell Collection from Adam Houle

I worked with Diane in the Sowell Collection while finishing my PhD in English. My time with the Collection found me processing Susan Brind Morrow’s fascinating, intricate, and often delightful papers. There, in a stack of typed draft work marked up in pencil, I’d find a grocery list. One list in particular, illuminated with small doodles of flowers, struck me then, as now, like a poem. There was bread and milk, of course, but there were rose hips and apple wine vinegar and the phrase “place settings” with a few well-traced questions marks, as if the issue were a pressing one, and she truly didn’t know how many she needed or if they were needed at all.Image0004

I organized, I collated, I puzzled over relationships. I took my time and I took it seriously. Here were hundreds of pages of early draft work for Wolves & Honey and The Names of Things; here, hard Sharpie lines through paragraph after paragraph. I was witness to a mind at work, a mind and a heart and a thousand threads of narrative and thought and feeling she had waded through to write her books, to get it a little bit right. It was an honor to pull the document boxes from storage and spread my findings at the desk. It taught me about hesitation and doubt. I considered her revisions, imagining the desk she worked at. Was she distracted by revisions at the party mentioned in a brief note from a National Geographic editor? I wanted to understand how these particular books came together. Who said what and where?  Where are the fortunate accidents and where are the struggles? I had the chance to peel back the cover’s cover, and what I found was a vast mind and a thoughtful heart. I found poems translated into English from Arabic with her own thoughts jotted in pen below the steady-handed writing. From my small, cluttered—but very clean–office in the Special Collections Library, I worked for the future and while Texas Tech paid my stipend, I was working too for Susan Brind Morrow, doing the necessary work to help contextualize hers. Someone, I knew, is going to need to read this stuff one day, and it was my job to put it right for them, those future researchers and poets, that scholar down the line just now coming into focus.Names of Things

I don’t believe I know Susan Brind Morrow better for my work with the Sowell Collection. Rather, I know a writer’s long shuffling walk toward a finished book. And as I ordered, structured, fretted over, despaired for, celebrated, castigated, quit and picked back up the work of my own book, I thought of the Sowell Collection. There’s that mid-20s me in awe of the product I read but equally in love with the process I found—the mess of it, the necessary hope of it.13. S.Brind Morrow


My time with the Sowell Collection has made me more patient as a writer and a teacher. It’s a messy business, this getting it right on the page. All draft work, I tell my students, matters. It’s leading somewhere, which might be nowhere, but who knows what the circling back might teach us about ourselves, our world, and—perhaps more humble and all the better for it—the graceful sounds of a sentence just so, one small song and the songs beyond that.

Adam Houle por



Adam Houle lives in Darlington, South Carolina and teaches English and Creative Writing at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. He is the author of STRAY (Lithic Press, 2017), and his poems have appeared in AGNI, Shenandoah, Blackbird, and elsewhere.



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Beyond the Llano: Catching Up with Bonnie Hanson Cordell

Bonnie Hanson Cordell assisted Diane for two years with cataloging in the Sowell Collection as a student in the English and German programs at Texas Tech University, working on the collections of Gretel Ehrlich, David James Duncan, and Susan Brind Morrow. During that time, Bonnie served as Secretary for the German Club, joined a writing group, and published several poems in the TTU student literary journal The Harbinger. Bonnie graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas Tech University in 2008 with a dual degree in German and English with a concentration in Creative Writing.

Bonnie hiking in Wyoming.
Courtesy of Bonnie Hanson Cordell.

After graduation, Bonnie enrolled at the University of Wyoming, where she served as the Graduate Representative to the English Department and taught First Year Composition and Literature, earning a Promoting Intellectual Engagement in the First Year Award for teaching. Bonnie focused her graduate research on Modernism and Affect Theory and earned her Master’s Degree in English Literature, Rhetoric, and Composition in 2013.

Bonnie and Raider Red, TTU’s mascot.
Courtesy of Bonnie Hanson Cordell.

Bonnie worked as the University of Wyoming Alumni Association Senior Membership and Network Coordinator before moving back to Lubbock to take a position as the Assistant Director of the Texas Success Initiative. Bonnie is passionate about helping underprepared students succeed at Texas Tech and after graduation. She is glad to be back in West Texas with her husband, Dustin, her cat, Gus, and her dog, Molly, and lots of opportunities for reading, hiking, and fishing. Bonnie looks forward to plugging back in to the vibrant Lubbock writing community, including the Sowell Conference.

(Bonnie, Kathleen, Emerson, and Andrew were in one of the first Creative Writing-Poetry classes that I taught at TTU.  I learned from them, of course.  DHW)


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Beyond the Llano: Catching up with Clara Bush Vadala (Feb. 7)

Clara gives the Guns-Up, Thumbs-Up.

Clara gives the Guns-Up, Thumbs-Up.
Courtesy of Clara Bush Vadala.

Clara Bush Vadala worked with Diane as a student researcher in the Sowell Collection while a student with the Honors College at Texas Tech University. As an Environmental Humanities major, Clara spent many class hours studying the authors and manuscript materials in the collection with Professor Kurt Caswell. Clara earned a minor in English with a focus in poetry.

Vadala with bird.

Courtesy of Clara Bush Vadala.

After graduating from Texas Tech in 2014, Clara moved to College Station to study veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She is currently a third year vet student studying small animal and exotic animal medicine. She also participates in mentorship programs and research projects as a student at the vet school, and serves as President of the local chapter of the Wildlife Disease Association at Texas A&M and as an officer of her class serving as a representative of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association.

Vadala with armadillo

Courtesy of Clara Bush Vadala.

Even though she is very involved in veterinary medicine now, Clara has not left her writing behind! Her first book of poetry, Prairie Smoke: Poems from the Grasslands, will be released in a few weeks by Finishing Line Press. The work Clara did in the Sowell Collection has informed much of her writing to this day, and now, she is also working on a collection of “veterinary medicine” poems in topics ranging from parasites, to surgery, to reproductive medicine. (Look for some of these poems in the April 2017 Archivation Exploration).

Clara also writes for the Merck Vet Student Stories blog about her experiences as a veterinary student at Texas A&M. She lives in College Station with her husband, a music teacher in Bryan, Texas, her two dogs, Lulu and Zeus, her cat Treble, and her cockatiel, Kenneth. Clara has presented at every Sowell Conference so far, and we look forward to seeing her again this year and celebrating her new book!

Vadala and family

Clara, her husband, Lulu and Zeus.
Courtesy of Clara Bush Vadala.

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Beyond the Llano: Catching up with Sara Roberts (Feb. 3)


At El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains. Courtesy of Sara Roberts.

Sara Roberts, Diane’s former assistant, worked at the Sowell Collection for two and a half years. Sara received a Bachelor’s of English Literature with a concentration in poetry in 2011 from Murray State University; however, working at the Sowell Collection catalyzed her interest in archives, as well as a love of environmental studies and literature.

At Pikes Peak.  Courtesy of Sara Roberts.

At Pikes Peak.
Courtesy of Sara Roberts.

She is now office associate of Digital Initiatives & Special Collections at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). This department is made up of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, Scholarly Communications and Archives & Special Collections. Sara spends ten hours per week processing collections at the UNL University Archive, including collections by Ted Kooser and Willa Cather scholar Sue Rosowski. She is also pursuing a Masters of Library Science at Emporia State University with a concentration in archival studies. In addition, she is currently working on a project that focuses on restoring and digitizing Nebraska military marching band reels held at the UNL Archives and Special Collections.

At Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Nebraska  Courtesy of Sara Roberts.

At Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Nebraska
Courtesy of Sara Roberts.

Apart from a full-time position and a graduate degree, Sara volunteers at Lincoln City Public Libraries and travels, hikes and reads when she can in between semesters. Her husband, Caleb and their cat Dexter live in Lincoln, Nebraska. Although she and Caleb grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, they are slowly getting used to calling the Midwest home.

We hope to see Sara (and Caleb) at the 2017 Sowell Conference this April!

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