Monday, June 17, 2013

The Write Question blog has moved

The Write Question blog is still going strong, from a new location.

And while you're there, be sure to click on the RSS feed link so you won't miss any author information, book reviews and excerpts, Monday poems, or lists of recently-published books.

There's also lots going on at our Facebook page.

Monday Poems: "The Voice of the Father" -- by Joe Wilkins

Often, as mother bent her slender back
to the fields, or pulled the bloody slip
of a lamb into the world,
I wandered the house,
studying motes of dust brought to life
by sunlight. I was looking for you.

And though you were near—
in the picture on the piano, in the looping
scrawl on your old calendar, in that finger's width
of black hair tucked in an envelope
by mother's bed—I never found you,
never opened the door
that led to the cool room where you knelt
with your rag, where the polished wood of rifles
gleamed and the soap smell of oil
laddered the air.

                                       Yet you spoke to me.
When I climbed the piano bench
an wiped dust from the glass, you said, Look,
I charm the great dark bird from the sky,
I wear a tie and hold your mother at the waist,
I am this perfect hand of cards.

When I pulled the calendar from the wall
and rubbed my grubby fingers across your script,
you said, See the price of lambs last year,
get a nickel better. The battery in the Ford should last
until you're fourteen. For the best meat,
drop a doe after the first frost.

                                         And when I snuck
into mother's lonely room of rumpled sheets, opened
the yellow envelope, and touched to my lips
your clipped black lock, you said,
I have left you.


Joe Wilkins was raised on the high plains of eastern Montana and now lives in northern Iowa. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Ecotone, The Sun Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals. "The Voice of the Father" was published in his 2012 collection of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Interview with Russell Rowland

Pete Hurley is not the first person to have the idea that building his dream house in the country will bring him some kind of peace and happiness. But he may be the first to arrive in Montana with a World Series ring, a three-legged dog, and a thirst for self-destruction.

High and Inside documents with stark clarity one man’s struggle with the dark side of fame, as well as his internal battles with alcoholism and a crumbling sense of self-identity. A community of people who love him and a generous inheritance aren’t enough to counterbalance Pete’s apparent determination to sabotage every healthy aspect of his life. It’s a downward spiral that won’t end until he’s forced to confront not only his own ugly past but his unfulfilled future as well.

With wit and compassion, sharp humor and startling insight, author Russell Rowland gives us not only a portrait of fame and addiction, but also an indispensable glimpse into the character of the modern West.

Find out more about Russell Rowland and listen to the program online, on the radio.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Young Adult Book Review: 'Eleanor & Park' by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin, 2013

“He'd stop trying to bring her back,” is the first line of this second novel by Rainbow Rowell. We soon learn that “he” is Park, a sixteen-year old half-Asian boy who used to be friends with some of the popular kids on the bus and now mostly tries to lay low and stay out of their way.

And "she" is Eleanor – the new kid in school, with wild matted red hair and crazy clothes with patches and eccentric accessories, who doesn't even make any effort to try and fit in. She's new at school and, by the time she arrives, all of the seats on the bus are taken.

She stands uncertainly in the aisle until Park takes pity on her and tells her (in a not-very-nice way) to sit down next to him. For a long time, they don't look or speak to each other at all. But one day, Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comic books over his shoulder, and a tentative friendship gradually develops.

The foreboding of the opening sentence of the novel hangs over the reader's head as we slowly fall in love with Park - the son of an all-American Vietnam veteran and his Korean hairstylist wife, and Eleanor - who lives in abject poverty and fear of her abusive step-father. And Eleanor and Park fall in love with each other.

The story takes place in the eighties, so Park and Eleanor share cassette tapes and listen to punk rock. But today's teens will have no trouble identifying with the intense feelings they develop for one another, and will unfortunately recognize some of the incidents of cruelty that Eleanor suffers at the hands of her peers as well.

If this book were a movie, it would be rated R for language, violence, and sex. But the tenderness of the love between the two protagonists, provides a stubborn sense of hope, against a backdrop of impending doom. I won't give away the ending. But I can almost guarantee that mature teen readers will love this book (and its quirky characters) as much as I did.

Rainbow Rowell lives in Omaha Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. She's also the author of Attachments. Visit her web site at

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Poems: "Gathering Mint" -- by Laurie Wagner Buyer

He woke quiet, ate potatoes and eggs
sitting alone on a cottonwood stump in the sun.

At noon he took a rifle, burlap bag, and handful
     of dried apples,
saddled the glass-eyed gelding, corralled
     the wayward mare,
whistled one long high note for the hound
     and was gone.

It was late the first summer, river running
     low, meadow grass tassels paled by wind.
I weeded the garden one faded row at a time
     while the goats lazed in barn shade
and the mare paced,
     nickering again and again.

He returned at dusk, drunk on solitude, singing
     in time with the gelding's rocky trot,
moccasined feet wet with mud,
     the burlap bag he tossed me
stuffed full of mint
     from the beaver slough.

Laurie Wagner Buyer's freelance articles and photographs have appeared in dozens of reviews, periodicals, journals, and anthologies. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, Glass-eyed Paint in the Rain, Red Colt Canyon, Across the High Divide, Cinch Up Your Saddle, Infinite Possibilities: A Haiku Journal, Accidental Voices, and Reluctant Traveler; a novel based on a true story Side Canyons; two memoirs, Spring’s Edge: A Ranch Wife’s Chronicles and When I Came West; and an e-book guide of self-editing tips Working with Words.

Laurie has received the Beryl Markham Prize for Creative Nonfiction, the Western Writer’s of America Spur Award in Poetry, has twice been named a finalist for the Colorado Book Award and for the Women Writing the West Willa Cather Literary Award. She also received the 2010 ForeWord Review Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention for When I Came West.

"Gathering Mint" was published in Graining the Mare: The Poetry of Ranch Women.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jo Deurbrouck, author of 'Anything Worth Doing

In Anything Worth Doing, Jo Deurbrouck tells the unforgettable true story of larger-than-life whitewater raft guides Clancy Reece and Jon Barker, two men who share a love of wild rivers and an unbending will to live life on their terms, no matter the cost.

Clancy’s motto, ‘Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,’ leads them into a decade of beautiful — and beautifully strange — river adventures. Then, on June 8, 1996, in pursuit of a 24-hour speed record they intend to share only with a handful of friends, the men launch Clancy’s handmade dory, his proudest possession, onto Idaho’s renowned Salmon River at peak flood of an extreme high water year. This time the odds catch up with them.

Anything Worth Doing is a 2012 National Outdoor Book Award winner.

Find out more about Jo Deurbrock and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Giddy-Up Daddy!' by Troy Cummings

Giddy-Up, Daddy!
written and illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House, 2013

The dad in this story is really good at playing horsey... so good that when he is practicing jumps in the backyard, he is captured by horse rustlers!

The kids follow his footprints to a rodeo, where their dad catches sight of them and they hop onto his back. They ride the horse-dad right out of the rodeo and into a circus tent with the rustlers hot on their heels. They flee the circus, through a polo field, around the track at the Kentucky Derby and right into the wilds of Canada.

There, the children show their true identities as Canadian Mounties and capture the rustlers. They are celebrated in a huge parade featuring characters from all of the other scenes they have passed through on their chase.

The illustrations have a cartoony-clownish look which is appropriate to the over-the-top plot and non-stop action of the story. The first grade class I shared this with enjoyed the book, although it was a little long to sustain their attention. It may appeal more to the slightly older elementary crowd who will recognize the style of humor and design inspiration from cartoons such as Phineas and Ferb.

Perhaps the best part of the story is the clever ending, in which the children and their father return home to their mother who is waiting with open arms...
 "Who wants an airplane ride?" she asked. The mom was pretty good at airplane rides. Seriously, she was the best.
And on the very edge of the back end page is depicted the end of the mother's legs and feet, against a backdrop of sky.
Troy Cummings has been chomping at the bit to write this story ever since his two kids jumped on his back and started making horsey sounds. His illustrations have been featured in newspapers, magazines, card games, Humane Society newsletters, and an opera. Giddy-Up Daddy! is Troy's second picture book. You can see more of his work at

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at