The Write Question

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


Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye

by Wendelin Van Draanen

Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

It was sort of bad timing to discover the Sammy Keyes mystery series in its final installment, but not too late to capture the flavor of this hard-boiled crime series for teens. A foreword to this novel is written in the voice of the author and explains that Sammy, the series heroine, is unable to narrate because she is in a coma after being thrown off a stairwell by an assailant.

"I Remember Being Beautiful"

Dec 14, 2015

My lovely, lineless face
was my birth right.
I painted a large red heart
on each cheekbone,
blackened my lashes

with soot and spit,
and circled my head with pale carnations.

I rubbed oil of sandalwood
between my breasts and shoulder blades
and had a blue unicorn tattooed
inside my left thigh.
I learned to speak Portuguese
at night school,
and I developed a passion for
chocolate and poetry.

Jake Lukin has an incredible power he's been hiding his whole life...but one (big) mess-up later, and the U.S. government knows all about it. Suddenly he's juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards. When his family is threatened, Jake has to make a terrible choice.

TUNNEL VISION is a young adult sff thriller with psychic spies, graveyard chases, Call of Duty, Buffy and Veronica Mars references, and a stubborn little sister you'll wish you had, even if you are an 18-year-old boy.


by Ingrid Law

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015

Members of Gypsy Beaumont's family receive a “savvy” (extra-sensory skill) on their thirteenth birthday. Her mother is unfailingly perfect; her older brother, Samson, can become invisible; and Gypsy herself can see the past and future.

"I Lost My Job & Wrote This Poem"

Dec 7, 2015

No longer will I swallow hard boiled
instructions. No longer smile at
people I’d like to bite.
Today I am free.
Today I am Mick Jagger’s lips.
Today I am Kerouac’s touchdown in Lowell ’39.
Today I’m Jack Kennedy—ich bin ein unemployed!

There will be time later for assassins.
Today I am Lenin arriving at Finland Station
Napoleon back from Egypt.
Today I am Neville Chamberlain’s peace
Timothy Leary’s PhD
Joplin’s vocal chords
I am used up—but new
and yesterday was my last day of work.

Lentil Underground

Dec 2, 2015


Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness launched a campaign to push small grain farmers to modernize or perish, or as Nixon Administration Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz put it, to “get big or get out. But twenty-seven year-old David Oien decided to take a stand. When he dropped out of grad school to return to his family’s 280 acre farm, Oien became the first in his conservative Montana county to seed his fields with a radically different crop: organic lentils.  

Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

by Jonah Winter

illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015

Lillian is a 100 year-old African American woman standing at the bottom of a steep hill. “It's Voting Day, she's an American, and by God, she is going to vote.” As she walks slowly up the hill to the voting station, she remembers her great-great grandparents, who were slaves and her great-grandfather, who earned the right to vote with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. Then she recalls her Grandpa Isaac being charged a poll tax, and her Uncle Levi being forced to take bogus “tests” and being turned away from the polls when he couldn't answer the ridiculous questions.

"The Ground, Which Is Only Heavy Wind"

Nov 30, 2015
Melissa Kwasny, Mary Austin Speaker / Milkweed Editions

The women of the interior prepare themselves for pain by igniting small piles of fir needles on their wrists. I, too, want to age in the mountains, though all my life, I have avoided the extreme. When I turn away in public from the women with white hair, I become less public presence. To stumble on time: the biographic tradition, rift in the concrete I hit with my boots. I have been traveling away from home. I must return to it. Buffalo are the animals women were taught to emulate. They take care of their young. They mate for life, not like the deer, who are flighty and promiscuous.

About the book:

David James Duncan called Slotnick "a Wendell-Berry-style 'mad farmer'" and said, "The bracing bittersweetness lacing this free-verse report from the frontlines of a post-corporate agricultural renaissance is all the sweetness we need. FarmHome. is one of the most responsible books of poetry I've ever read."


by Cornelia Funke

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015

Ruffleclaw is the third in a series of books by Cornelia Funke which includes Emma and the Blue Genie and The Pirate Pig. This story tells the tale of an earth monster who lives under the shed in Tommy's family's yard. Unlike his neighbor earth monsters, whose burrows are filled with wood-lice and trash, Ruffleclaw loves all things human, and lines his home with sweaters and other trinkets stolen from humans over the years.