The Write Question

A weekly literary program from Montana Public Radio that features writers from the western United States.

Utah author James Dashner talks about a few of the 16 books he's written, including The Maze Runner, which is now a feature film. He also describes the process of turning his childhood dream to be an author into reality.

About the book:

Joe Ashbrook Nickell talks about and reads from 'Tainted Revelations,' the book he wrote about painter and sculptor Bill Ohrmann.

Bill Ohrmann only began seriously painting when he retired from ranching in 1996. Since then, the 95-year-old Montana artist has produced hundreds of canvases that explore his blistering criticism of the modern West. His direct, narrative paintings, often inspired by quotations from his favorite poets and environmental writers, are by turns wry, apocalyptic, horrifying and hilarious.

Carrie La Seur talks about and reads from The Home Place, a mystery novel in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.

About the book:

"The Hermit's Work

Sep 1, 2014

They'll wonder
that I left

my things—

my name on folded forms,
the job I did.

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During this program Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford talks about and reads from his latest novel, Canada. He also considers character motivation, aging, the usefulness of fiction, and the many border crossings in the novel.

About the book:

First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.

During this program, Christine Byl talks about her memoir, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, which describes her experiences working on trail crews in national parks in Montana and Alaska.

"Magpie"

Aug 18, 2014

Magpie
infernally
multiple,
gangster-gaggle
in a poplar snag,
long liver,
egg sucker,
eater of eyes,
murderer of unfledged
nestlings,
carrion cleaner
of our own
assorted
homicides –
deer,
dog, feral
cats, porcupine, never
mind,
hardly
a blood trace
left
by the next
afternoon –
glorious harlequin
Magpie,
coal snow
burnt ash
night moon
examiner,
and us
except as surfeit
flesh
found
wanting.

Malcolm Brooks talks about researching and writing his debut novel, Painted Horses.

About the book:

" Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout"

Aug 11, 2014

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

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Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan talks about and reads from his book Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film.

"What Silence Is"

Aug 4, 2014

The Adagio in Rachmaninoff's
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor
is so sweet-sad you stop what
you're doing, you can hardly
turn your ears from its deliberate
infiltration, you remember
what you didn't want to remember,
the sweetness of early love,
the sad days and nights that follow,
the way days and nights collapse
into one another in the fury of live
which is so like what later you call hate,
there are no laws for this, shrapnel, shards,
shattering, the indistinctness, the disappearances,

Smith Henderson talks about and reads from his debut novel, Fourth of July Creek.

About the book:

"The Solitude of Ophelia"

Jul 28, 2014

...We know what we are, but know not what we may be... Hamlet, IV. v 44

My eyes open, lettuce leaves,
curling cabbages to look bitter inside
my terror, a skinned spine.
Creature of death, I welcome and eat you without pain.

The monster heart
gone to weeds.
I make mental contact with the lovers
watching TV in hotel rooms, share
wine with the carpet, spend
every buck I have.
Sell the typewriter.

Publisher Allen Jones talks about "re-invigorating" Bangtail Press and three recently-released anthologies of Montana writers, the Treasure State Readers.

Montana Bookstore Readers

"Montana Inventory"

Jul 21, 2014

At 85 miles an hour an insect splattered
like saffron on the windshield
and a white cloud in blue sky above the
     speed-curried bug

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Montana Then And Now

Jul 16, 2014

Hear fascinating facts about Montana's 150 years as a territory and a state during this interview with Aaron Parrett, author of Montana Then And Now.

"In A Field"

Jul 14, 2014

Here, in a field
Of devil's paintbrushes,
The circle of far trees
Tightens, and near bushes
Hump like ruins
When the moon floats loosely
Past the desolation
Owl moans wake. Here,
As if the world's
Last lovers, we
Have rung from the ruins
The whippoorwill's
Thrust of melody.
You have fallen asleep,
Breathing as the wind breathes
Among wetted thistle,
The scented vine,
And, listening, I move
My body toward you,
When a small convulsion
Shakes your hand,
The moonlight flashes

Laura Pritchett talks about and reads from Stars Go Blue, a novel in which a Colorado rancher and his wife deal with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

"To Carry Water"

Jul 7, 2014

There is the bird beak's way
and the way of the woman with child.

The eye's way
and the way of the well bucket.

The oak tree's way is not unlike that
of the cloud or the long dry summer it was

When the birdsong stopped,
and the woman stood tiptoe

looking down the well. Perched
on the handle of an unstrung pail, a wren

fluttered its wings without note. A leaf
floated, sinking slowly as the pail:

the rust holes, the caterpillar-chewed,
sipping in the weight of last year's skies.

TWQ producer Chérie Newman, Barbara Theroux, manager of Fact & Fiction Bookstore in Missoula, and Zed talk about recently-published books by authors from the western U.S.

NONFICTION

How To Read the American West:  A Field Guide, by William Wycokoff

Hiking Montana:  35th Anniversary Edition, by Bill Schneider an Russ Schneider

"Jada"

Jun 30, 2014

Are you frickin' kidding me?
Yes, Jada, woman, sister, yes
I am. Smile, Jada, there is more
to laugh at than you know.

In Haida, you pronounce the J.
Jada. It means woman. It says
sister, and in this matriarchal culture
gone to hell in a hand basket or a highbrow
hat that one woman remembers how to weave,
it is one hell of a handle, hell
for a fifteen year old to handle. Jada
who in the hell were they frickin kidding
when they named you?

Newspaper columnist and Montana rancher, Richard Geary, talks about rural culture then and now, and reads some of his essays.

Richard Geary is the eldest of the fourth generation to operate the family ranch in Helmville, Montana. The property was homesteaded by his great grandfather in 1867, and the original farm in Ireland is still in the family.  Richard acts as bookkeeper for the ranch, while his brother is responsible for the actual management. 

"Pow-wow Fever"

Jun 23, 2014

In a few days it strikes
Everyone in Indian Country,
Be Canada or wherever.

Drums vibrating,
The high pitched tones carry a chant.

Laughter of children,
Whispering of lovers,
Not too old or young to join.
Tipis, tents, campers and trailers
Stand symbolic as the sun sets.

The night carries many songs:
Contests, 49's, doorway songs and
owl songs,
"I will take you home,
in my one-eyed Ford!"

Jungle of Bones, a children's novel by Ben Mikaelsen
WWII bomber, Papau New Guinea, children's book, Montana author

Children's author Ben Mikaelsen talks about his inspiration for Jungle of Bones and reads from the novel.

About the Book:

Dylan gets caught taking a joyride in a stolen car and shipped off to live with his ex-Marine uncle for the summer. But Uncle Todd has bigger plans for Dylan than just early-morning jogs.

"This Morning"

Jun 16, 2014

“Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?”
                                    – Roethke

It’s time. It’s almost too late.
Did you see the magnolia light its pink fires?
You could be your own, unknown self.
No one is keeping it from you.

The magnolia lights its pink fires
daffodils shed papery sheaths.
No one is keeping you from it—
your church of window, pen and morning.

Peter Stark talks about and reads from ASTORIA: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival.

About the Book:

In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advance parties to settle the wild, unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent.

"Little Girl"

Jun 9, 2014

She's with Grandma in front
of Grandma's house, backed
by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

Who did she ever want
to please? But Grandma
seems half-pleased and annoyed.

No doubt Mother frowns
behind the lens, wants
to straighten this sassy face.

Maybe laughs, too.
Little girl with her mouth wide,
tongue out, yelling

at the camera. See her little
white purse full of treasure,
her white sandals?

She has things to do,
you can tell. Places to explore
beyond the frame,

During this program, Molly Caro May talks about her nomadic childhood and her search for a place to "be from." She also reads from her new memoir, The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place.

"A Sonnet for Everett Ruess"

Jun 2, 2014

You walked into the radiance of death
through passageways of stillness, stone, and light,
gold coin of cottonwoods, the spangled shade,
cascading song of canyon wrens, the flight
of scarlet dragonflies at pools, the stain
of water on a curve of sand, the art
of roots that crack the monolith of time.

You knew the crazy lust to probe the heart
of that which has no heart that we could know,
toward the source, deep in the core, the maze,
the secret center where there are no bounds.

James Lee Burke talks about his latest Dave Robicheaux crime novel, Light of the World. He also reads a passage from the book and drops a few hints about his next novel.

The music in this program was written and performed by John Floridis.

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