The Write Question

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

The Write Question podcast


Nov 23, 2015
University of Montana Press

Let's call it by its Algonquin name:
"he strips off"
                            or, if you will,
"the sage" or "respectful one." Not a twig
left on top of another, not a single flower
sticking out from the prairie.

Someone (perhaps a hunter)
once said it was ugly,
that its snout and antlers were too big,
that it was ungraceful and dumb.

When the moose hears this,
it just shrugs its shoulders
and munches quietly on the water lilies
or the tree bark.

Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist 

by Barbara Herkert

illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015

Ensconced between end-pages depicting photographs of the actual quilts sewn by Harriet Powers that now hang in the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the fascinating story of this Georgia slave who later supported her family with the handicraft she learned on the plantation. Surrounded by women who sewed for slave owners by day and for their families by night, Harriet learned to quilt as a child while she listened to the stories of her people.


Nov 16, 2015

As if through glass, through windows, in a café, in the afternoon or early evening, in June, in June or November, month like a fetish of gray—a month of water hanging onto itself; until it drizzles, a month of dulled light—he is seen for a moment, accidentally, between appointments, in the middle of errands, walking down steps, the cement steps, say, of an old bank—old enough for granite, for columns—pulling his keys out of his pocket, or gripping the small black remote that replaces keys (which you can't hear the sound of, behind all this glass), and approaching his car, so that for an ins

Hard As Nails
by Ken Von Eschen

Beaver Creek Road travels south out of Havre, Montana, and into the Bear Paw Mountains. This narrow, two-lane highway bisects a plain of wild sage brush; the soil too alkaline to raise wheat. The silver-gray sage is aromatic, herbal.  Too often, leaves are stained with blood sprayed from the lacerated arteries of a dying young man or woman who drove this narrow road too fast.

The stories in Antonya Nelson's collection Funny Once are clear-eyed, hard-edged, beautifully formed. In the title story, "Funny Once," a couple held together by bad behavior fall into a lie with their more responsible friends. In "The Village," a woman visits her father at a nursing home, recalling his equanimity at her teenage misdeeds and gaining a new understanding of his own past indiscretions.

Dead Boy

by Laurel Gale

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2015

Crow is dead... sort of. He died in fourth grade, but his parents somehow wished him back to life, and he's continued to grow, even though his flesh is rotting and infested with maggots. His parents are divorced, and his mother has kept him in the house ever since he started rotting so as not to attract attention. He is a star home-schooled middle school student, but misses school and having friends his own age.


Nov 9, 2015
Mel McCudden / Lost Horse Press

We learn to swear from our fathers
when they're chopping wood
and miss the log,
axe skimming bark
off the woodblock,
dew off the grass,
goddammit raising its hot white streak
into November.

When my father's scanner
picks up police reports,
he's pulling on Key pants,
grabbing black jacket,
out to the garage to pull the tarp
off the tow truck.
I wake to hear the engine
having it out with the cold.

Called the Global Burden of Disease study, the monumental effort to understand how we live and how we die has at its center the brilliant, controversial economist and physician Christopher Murray, who has developed an entirely new way of discovering and comparing the worldwide toll of both the things that kill us and those that diminish the quality of our lives. His goal: to enable all of us to live longer and better lives.

Mother Goose's Pajama Party 

by Danna Smith 

Illustrated by Virginia Allyn

Doubleday Books for Young Readers 2015

When my children were infants, I used to strap them in their carrier and go walking up the mountain that I live on, chanting nursery rhymes in rhythm with my steps. Back at home, while nursing, I would read through collections of nursery rhymes to brush up on the ones I learned as a child and discover the ones I missed.

"Grandmother Rattler"

Nov 2, 2015
University of Arizona Press

who coils in my bones,
what were you thinking that summer night
when you found the warm road
on the edge of the canyon and stopped
just there exactly at the center
where the pickups and cars and evening walkers would see
your spiral upon spiral,
hear the singing voice of your tail,
see your black head rising?

When I stopped my car
and walked up to you,
arms spread and hands open,
why didn't you move?
Why didn't you slide down the stones