The Write Question

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

"Sound of Sun"

Sep 16, 2013

I can always ride a beautiful pony
and walk through the pines
as the bell on the horse's noseband rings
in the whisper of wind through trees.

Rich fragrances carry love home
like a bird carries hose hair to its nest.
Words of love build a house of love.
Let feeling go, way out in the heart. Fly in love.

I have asked that nothing clings to your heart
as you go riding through life
filled with happiness and joy. The beautiful feelings of your love
bled the sunrise of a purple-topped sky,
above an orange-pink spray

Donna Houtz McArthur talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about the sacred stories of the Shoshone-Bannock people and reads from her collection When the Smoke Goes Straight Up: Grandfather's Stories.

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel

Sep 9, 2013

All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms.
Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food.

The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably
from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory.

If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender
and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man

then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture.

During this program, Rick Bass talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about his novel All the Land to Hold Us. He also reads a passage from the book.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

by Katie Alender

Point (Scholastic), 2013

I am not generally a big fan of young adult suspense or murder mysteries, but with a title like Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I had to read this book.

During this program, veteran journalist Todd Wilkinson talks about and reads from his book Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet.

About Ted Turner and the book:

Mojo by Tim Tharp

Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

When Dylan's friend Randy eggs on some bullies that throw litter at them from the window of a passing car, Dylan decides to hide in a nearby dumpster... never expecting that he will find the dead body of one of his classmates in there with him!

"A Poem for the End of Summer"

Aug 26, 2013

All the cracks swerve up the
tree making it look old and
realistic. Its small leaves swaying
and shriveling in the hot sun. When
I look at the tip of the tree, the leaves
are tiny green dots, but up close I can see veins
running down each
and every leaf. The sun shines
through the leaves creating spots
and dots of sun on the grassy ground.
One branch multiplying into another
creating fractals and patterns of
all sorts. You can imagine
the root extending into the ground
making the tree stable and balanced.

During this program, Shoshone-Bannock author Mark Trahant talks about and reads from his book The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars: Henry M. Jackson, Forrest J. Gerard and the campaign for the self-determination of America’s Indian Tribes. He also explains the difference between American Indians and Alaska Natives, and the relationship of sovereign tribal governments with the U.S. government.

"Good Intentions"

Aug 19, 2013

Wesley and I aspired to build a lake
in his backyard, with lily pads and fish
and frogs. We dug a hole, planted
an old hog trough, filled it with good
water from the garden hose. Pedaled
for the river, buckets clanging from our handlebars,
fish nets lashed to our bike frames and fenders.

Under the bridge, minnows schooled in the shallows--
shiners, and chubs, and bullhead fingerlings.
Easy to scoop with our nets and fill bucket loads
quickly. Frogs dived under but sooner or later surfaced

During this program, TWQ producer Chérie Newman talks with David Abrams about his novel Fobbit.

Animals Upside Down

by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013 

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page find another clever way to introduce young children to fun books about nature in Animals Upside Down

"Little Boys and War"

Aug 12, 2013

I was six; brother was five.
Papa was gone to war.
Planes roared overhead
Racing for the city,
Our farmhouse shook;
Dishes crashed on the floor.

Mama screamed and
Called us to her.
In the roar, we wouldn’t hear,
And rushed outside
To watch the show.

Could we really see the bombs
As they flew toward the city?
“There! There!” we’d yell
As planes swooshed low
And dirt blossomed upward
And lives and property
Were destroyed for our enjoyment.

And mama screamed

During this program, Zan Bockes talks about writing her way through grief, and her adult perspective on an abusive childhood. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Caught In Passing.

Bugs in My Hair! by David Shannon

The Blue Sky Press, 2013 

When I read the title of David Shannon's new book, I didn't realize it was going to be non-fiction. But yes, this very clever, delightfully illustrated children's book is about head lice. 

"Thought Under Construction"

Aug 5, 2013

There's no first stanza and maybe we should all go home,
since thinking isn't easy under any circumstances. And if

'home' is what's under construction? The work crew first
disconnects the stove, then turns up the radio. Omelets and broken

eggs, yes, but quiet and even the chips and cracks
were the script. Like the script of a one-note seasonal bird

when a chill moves over a lake. But not like the radio.
The first rule of construction? Destruction. Even the bees

During this program, Wyoming author Craig Johnson talks about and reads from 'A Serpent's Tooth,' the ninth book in his Walt Longmire Mystery series, which has been adapted for TV: "Longmire" on the Arts & Entertainment channel.


In a Blink

by Kiki Thorpe

illustrated by Jana Christy

Random House 2013

In a Blink is the first book in Disney's new early reader chapter book series, The Never Girls.


Jul 29, 2013

For the lucky, it’s years spent
spinning the frantic wheel
of a carnival bumper car, lights swirling, the buzzing
and rumbling, sparking
and zapping, intent only on causing the surprising
crash, the ram and counterram,
spun wheel, sudden surge in reverse, the steady stare-down,
head-jerk, one car after
another until you find yourself targeting the bare legs
of the college kid, his back
turned to unstick a clot of stuck cars, bearing down,
full speed now, the humming
in your head now, until 


The Highway, by C.J. Box

Breaking Point, by C.J. Box

Songs of Willow Frost, by Jamie Ford

Let Him Go, by Larry Watson


by Elana K. Arnold

Delacorte Press, 2013

I love the premise of Burning, aptly summarized in the tagline on the jacket cover:

Small-town boy. Gypsy girl. Desert Summer.

"The Velocity of Love"

Jul 22, 2013

So still we sit
in chairs that mold our breathing,
frightened birds
with feathers slimed in oil,
fish in nets, bodies
pressed against the figure
of their deaths.
We haven't spoken
for an hour. Your last
word digs holes in the air and

Beneath this weight, Father,
tell me I'm lighter than light,
that my love for you outruns
the spinning lance
of hate.

If I could speak,
I'd tell you it doesn't matter
how hate is as strong
as the other, how quickly
exchanged for love,

During this program, Minerva Allen talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about her role as a guardian of tribal culture. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Nakoda Sky People, and from Stories from the Elders: Nakoda Horse Society.

"A Mid-July Invitation"

Jul 15, 2013

The energy crisis is over. Lights are back on the Strip.
Name the place:  Sahara, Caesar's Palace, Casino de Paris.
This way, please. Come, my people; drink on the house.
You, Great-grandpa, dice thrower from Sichuan, casting away
one hundred acres of our land overnight, be of good cheer,
this satchel of gold will last you a long while;
and you, Uncle Lu, widower and recluse of Fuling, accost
this Dixie belle, dare what you've never dared before;
this bottle will make you bold; and you, Da Shing, you

During this program, David Shields talks about literary collage, east-coast-west-coast perspectives, and his latest book, How Literature Saved My Life. He also reads from the book

About the book: