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Moab Poets & Writers:
Fostering Literary Arts in Moab for a Decade

Sooner or later, beauty draws the artist, including the literary artist. So it was that around 1996, some folks interested in the power and beauty of words found themselves living in Moab. In the early mornings they often gathered around the tables at the cozy Eklectica Cafe, on North Main. It didn’t take them long to discover their common interests, and soon spontaneous spouting of poetry lines and whole stanzas became the order of the morning, as they shared their own poems and their favorites from other poets. It was so much fun they decided to get together a little less haphazardly and have an evening dedicated to poetry. Thus was born the hallmark activity of Moab Poets and Writers -- their Open Mic readings, also known as Final Fridays.

The Open Mic events have become a Moab tradition, affirms Joan Gough, who is leading the group as president for her third year. Gough retired last month from her career as media specialist and student writing advisor at Grand County High School, just in time to spearhead MP & W’s current “main project” - the production of their third anthology of local and regional writing. “We call the anthology series Glyphs, in honor of the rock art we see here everywhere,” said Gough. “Human communication with ‘written down’ symbols has been taking place for a long, long time.”

Glyphs III will showcase poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction by people who now live or have lived in southeast Utah, explained Gough. In the past, the writing has been on any subject, but this time MP&W is asking writers to submit works that focus strictly on the Colorado Plateau, southeast Utah, or Canyon Country. The geology, human history, biota, and current affairs of our own home place are so enormous. We thought: why not explore our own backyard? After all, everyone else is!”

The Glyphs III committee includes Gough, Ann Gordon, Marcie Hafner, Nancy Kurtz and Monette Clark, all of Moab. Gordon and Hafner also serve on the group’s 8-member Board of Directors. Gordon, a technical writer and designer of interactive training products and websites, has just put up a beautiful, new website for MP&W at You can obtain more information about Glyphs III on the website, or by calling Nancy Kurtz, 259-0734. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2006. The book is slated for release in May 2007.

A catalyst for community events
The year 2000 brought with it a growth itch for the writing group. The time seemed ready to do even more things related to writing. So, they incorporated as a nonprofit and created an official name with an energetic acronym: “MP&W (picture the MP&W Express coming down the track, clickety-clack.). It was indeed a busy time, as the group published their first Glyphs anthology, then dedicated their “all” to sponsoring Moab’s first-ever Writer’s Conference. “We could not go to the Mountain to learn to be better writers, so we invited the Mountain to come to us,” is the way Julie Fox, one of the founding members and proprietor of Eklectica, explained it. Their can-do optimism was richly rewarded. The entire Moab community pitched in and helped Moab Poets and Writers sponsor a four-day conference in November of 2001. Nearly 60 writers from across the nation attended. Registration monies allowed MP&W to sponsor 10 scholarships to the conference and also provided their members the chance to earn their tuition to the conference through volunteer work. Included in the activities were a free concert, theatrical performance, and literary reading, all of which featured the work of the conference instructors.

MP&W has remained a catalyst for community events. In 2004, they sponsored a Cowboy Poetry Roundup. Over the next two years, this program expanded into the “Western Stars” extravaganza, with barrel racing, chili cook-offs, art competition, and music. This was due in largest part to Rusty Salmon, who served on the MP&W board, at the same time she was Director ofthe Dan O’Laurie Museum, said Gough. “We thank Rusty for her terrific efforts.” Management of Western Stars has been assumed by the Moab Arts and Recreation Center at this point. “Western Stars is a real boon to Moab; we’re very proud it started through MP&W.”

Camaraderie and help for local writers
The process of incorporating as a nonprofit helped the group to clarify its goals and values, said Gough. “The Mission and Vision statements do guide us. We use them to decide what activities would be most beneficial.” Activities are planned around a quarterly calendar, which provides some leeway in case adjustments are needed.

The Open Mic readings occur 6 to 8 times per year and sometimes begin with a potluck. A featured reader is often invited to read, after which all are welcome to read. The Open Mic events are free and open to the public and everyone is welcome.

The group also sponsors several workshops each year. “These are day-long events, where we invite a published author to come and teach us an aspect of writing or publishing,” Gough explained. “In April, we hosted Susan Ossana, who lives here in Moab. She is a well-established writer of mystery and contemporary fantasy. She taught a wonderful workshop around story beginnings, prompts, and characterization - things we can use in our own writing, no matter what our preferred genre.”

MP&W also sponsors support groups, where writers meet to share their writing and give feedback to each other. Gough, at 259-9433, is the contact person for the poetry group; Marcy Hafner, 259-6197, is the contact for the prose group. A “write your autobiography” group has just finished up six months of weekly meetings under the aegis of MP&W. This was led by retired teacher and MP&W Board Member, Carol Almson, at the Grand Center on 5th West. “Everybody had a lot of fun! We may do it again, depending on time availability,” said Almson.

The spirit of Moab Poets and Writers is very much grassroots, self-help, and community oriented. You do not have to be a published writer to be part of MP&W. Yearly membership is $18 ($15 for students and seniors). Members receive a discount on workshops and the MP&W newsletter. Information about Moab Poets and Writers is available at their website:, or by calling Joan Gough,

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