Writers Workshop Panel Discussions

Elk River Arts & Lectures is presenting a series of panel discussions during the week of August 16, as part of its annual writing workshop. These conversations take place each evening at 7 p.m. in the Chico Convention Center, and are free and open to the public. They include:

Monday, Aug. 16: Indigenity and Literature: Appropriation, Self Determination, and Art in Literature by and about Native People, with Beth Piatote, Adrian Jawort, Sterling HolyWhiteMountain and Terese Mailhot. Moderated by CMarie Fuhrman.

Tuesday, Aug. 17: Publishing Your Outdoor and Place-Based Writing, with Charles Finn (High Desert Journal), Corinne Gaffner Garcia (Big Sky Journal), Christine Holbert (Lost Horse Press) and Scott McMillion (Montana Quarterly). Moderated by Seabring Davis (author and former editor of Big Sky Journal and Western Art & Architecture).

Wednesday, Aug. 18: Art and Climate Change: Navigating the Intersections of Science, Conservation, Culture and Art on a Rapidly Warming Planet, with Gary Ferguson, Doug Peacock, and Cathy Whitlock. Moderated by Mary Clare.

The Elk River Writers Workshop draws dozens of students from all over the country to work with renowned faculty members. This year’s roster includes Montana author Rick Bass, internationally recognized ornithologist J. Drew Lanham, Nimíipuu scholar and author Beth Piatote, and the husband-wife poetry team of William Pitt Root and Pamela Uschuk.

The workshop is a program of Elk River Arts & Lectures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating and celebrating the literary arts in Park County.

Gala Faculty Reading

Tickets are now on sale for the Elk River Writers Workshop Gala Faculty Reading in the Chico Hot Springs Convention Center, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 19.

The event will feature readings by renowned authors Beth Piatote, J. Drew Lanham, Rick Bass, Pamela Uschuk, and William Pitt Root, followed with a live musical performance by Montana Rose. There will be hearty appetizers, a cash bar, and silent auction to support the work of Elk River Arts & Lectures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating and celebrating the literary arts in Park County.

Beth Piatote is a writer of fiction, poetry, essays, plays and scholarly works. Her 2019 mixed-genre collection, The Beadworkers: Stories, was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and shortlisted for the California Independent Booksellers “Golden Poppy” Award for Fiction. Her play, Antíkoni, was selected for the 2020 Festival of New Plays by Native Voices at the Autry, and she is currently part of the Indigenous Writers Collaborative at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is Nez Perce, enrolled with Colville Confederated Tribes, and a founding member of luk’upsíimey/North Star Collective, a group of Nez Perce writers and language activists. Her current projects include a book of poems and a novel.

J. Drew Lanham is a Clemson University professor, and an internationally respected conservation and cultural ornithologist. A widely published author and poet focusing on a passion for place and the personal and societal conflicts that sometimes put conservation and culture at odds, Drew was named the poet laureate for his home place county of Edgefield, South Carolina in 2018 and is the author of Sparrow Envy: Poems. His award-winning book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, exemplifies his passion to define environmental sustainability and conservation in new ways by bridging the gaps between advocacy, education, inspiration and conservation.

Rick Bass is a native Texan and the son of a petroleum geologist who moved to the remote Yaak Valley of Montana in 1987, where he has written more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction. His work has received many awards, and he’s been named a fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Several of his books have been named by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times as Notable Books of the Year. He is a founding board member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Save the Yellowstone Grizzly.

Political activist and wilderness advocate, Pam Uschuk has written six books of poems, including Crazy Love, winner of an American Book Award, Finding Peaches In The Desert, recipient of the Tucson/Pima Literature Award, and Blood Flower, one of Book List’s 2015 Notable Books. Her collection, Refugee, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Translated into more than a dozen languages, her work has appeared in over 300 journals and anthologies worldwide, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Agni Review, Parnassus Review, etc. She has won too many awards to list, has taught poetry to public school students on Native nations in Montana and Arizona as well as in undergraduate and graduate programs all over the country, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts.

William Pitt Root’s works from New Yorker, Nation, Atlantic and his many collections reflect a life of extremes both within academia and beyond. While he has taught at distinguished universities all over the country, he’s also been a poet-in-the-schools for the Navajo, Hopi, Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations, and worked intermittently in factories, a shipyard, a copper mine half a mile underground, and as a Teamster, a bouncer, and dishwasher. His work has been included in hundreds of anthologies and literary magazines, and has been translated into 20 languages, broadcast over both BBC and Voice of America, and funded by the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the US/UK Exchange Artists program, and by a Stegner grant from Stanford University.

Montana Rose is a goodtime country band from Gallatin Gateway, Montana. It is fronted by Claudia Appling Williams and her band leader/bass player husband, Kenny. The band also features Rick Winkling (guitar) and Mike Gillan (drums) with accordion playing from Fats Kaplan on Star Of Bannack. Their cynical look at modern country music in “Hillbilly With A Record Deal” did well and they may become hillbillies with a major recording contract themselves.

Auction items include a bear-watching expedition with naturalist Doug Peacock; Vino & Verse: a wine tasting with paired poetry by the Gourmet Cellar and Marc Beaudin; an architectural consultation with Tom Blurock; a manuscript consultation with bestselling author/ghostwriter Maryanne Vollers and more. Pre-bidding for the auction begins on Sunday, August 8, at

Tickets are $25, and are available here, and at the door. Donations are tax-deductible, and go to support Elk River Arts & Lectures programming, which includes an annual Lecture Series, Visiting Writer program, and Poetry in the Classroom, among other activities.

Wildsam’s Yellowstone

In a return to in-person programming, Elk River Books will host a reading and discussion of the new field guide from Wildsam, Yellowstone: Mystery and Marvel, with contributing author Doug Peacock, editor Zach Dundas, and naturalist Ashea Mills at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 29. As the new home of Elk River Books is still being renovated, the event will be held outside on the Uncorked Wine Bar Patio, located at the historic Depot Center, next to the Gourmet Cellar, 208 W. Park St.

The Wildsam series of travel and field guides cover American places by seeking out “the real and rooted things, what’s truly authentic.” More than a typical travel guide, the books delve into the cultural, historical and environmental issues of the locales they cover. Yellowstone: Mystery and Marvel includes information on traditional and contemporary indigenous connections to the park, the science behind geothermal activity and wolf packs, a legacy excerpt by Jim Harrison, new writing by Peacock and Wyoming’s Nina McConigley, and artwork by House.

A renowned grizzly bear expert and wilderness advocate, Peacock is the author of Grizzly Years, Walking It Off, The Essential Grizzly, and In the Shadow of the Sabertooth. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and Lannan fellowships, a co-founder of Round River Conservation Studies, and the founding board chair of Save the Yellowstone Grizzly.

Dundas is the editor of the Yellowstone guide, and the author of two books, The Great Detective and The Renegade Sportsman. He is the Portland correspondent for Monocle, a London-based international affairs, business, culture, and design magazine, and a former staff writer at the Missoula Independent.

Mills is the owner of Walking Shadow Ecology Tours of Yellowstone and the founder of the North Yellowstone Education Foundation. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives and works in Gardiner.

This discussion will be the first to be held at the new home of Elk River Books at 122 S. 2nd St., in the former J.C. Penny building. The building, still under renovation, will house a much larger collection of used, collectible and new books, than the bookstore’s previous location, and offer an event space for readings, film viewings, performances and other gatherings.

There will be a cash bar for beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. The authors and artist will be available for a book signing following the presentation. For more information, send an email to [email protected] or call (406) 333-2330.

Mary M. Clare & Gary Ferguson

Psychologist Mary M. Clare and nature writer Gary Ferguson will present a virtual reading and discussion of their co-authored book, Full Ecology: Repairing Our Relationship with the Natural World, on Wednesday, June 16, at 7 p.m. The free event will stream live on Elk River Books’ Facebook page.

The publisher notes, In Full Ecology Clare and Ferguson encourage us to learn from the ‘supremely methodical and highly improvisational’ natural systems that touch our lives. True change, they argue, begins with understanding ourselves not as isolated individuals, but as being in harmony with our human and nonhuman worlds. From this process of mindfulness and reflection, they offer an alternative strategy for acting in ecologically healthy ways, and for inspiring others to do the same.

“Rather than proposing a ten-step plan to save the earth, this book encourages a more elemental rethinking of our connections to nature. Practical and poetic, scientific and spiritual, Full Ecology presents a strong, nourishing foundation for climate action.”

Full Ecology is full of hope and wisdom,” writes Alice Waters. “It is a much-needed guide to caring for ourselves and our community by caring for nature.”

Mary M. Clare and Gary Ferguson have each dedicated more than thirty years to exploring the world’s social and natural ecologies—Clare as a graduate professor of psychology and education, Ferguson as a nature and conservation-science writer. Clare is a fellow in the American Psychological Association, and with her PhD in psychological and cultural studies she has published more than 100 scholarly articles and two books. Ferguson is an award-winning and internationally recognized author of 26 books, most recently The Carry Home and The Eight Master Lessons of Nature. When not on the road or in the wilderness, the couple live in Bozeman, Montana.

To view the event, navigate to at 7 p.m. on June 16. You do not have to have a Facebook account in order to watch.

Full Ecology will be available for purchase from Elk River Books before, during and after the event, online at Signed copies will be available, and Elk River will provide both pickup and delivery options. For more information, send an email to [email protected] or call (406) 333-2330.

Craig Lancaster in conversation with Scott McMillion

Billings novelist Craig Lancaster will discuss his latest book, And It Will Be a Beautiful Life, with Montana Quarterly publisher Scott McMillion on Tuesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. The free event will stream live on Elk River Books’ Facebook page.

Lancaster, in his first stand-alone novel since 2017’s Julep Street, examines the pitfalls of balancing family, career and friendship through the character of Max Wendt, who spends too much of his time on the road, “chasing a pig” — the term pipeline workers use for following a pipeline inspection gauge along its run through a pipe.

Jamie Ford, author of Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, describes the book as, “An absorbing blue-collar meditation on marriage and meaning at midlife. A coming-of-age story, but that age just happens to be 55. We’ve all been there, or soon will be.”

Lancaster is the author of nine other books, including the High Plains Book Award-winning 600 Hours of Edward; the short fiction collection, The Art of Departure; and a romantic comedy, co-authored with his wife Elisa Lorello, You, Me & Mr. Blue Sky. He is also a senior editor for The Athletic and the senior editor for design at the Montana Quarterly.

His boss at the Quarterly, editor and publisher Scott McMillion, will join him for this event. McMillion is an award-winning journalist whose articles and essays have been published in magazines and newspapers across the country. He is also the author of Mark of the Grizzly: True Stories of Recent Bear Attacks and the Hard Lessons Learned.

To view the event, navigate to at 7 p.m. on June 8. You do not have to have a Facebook account in order to watch.

Lancaster’s book will be available for purchase from Elk River Books before, during and after the event, online at Signed copies will be available, and Elk River will provide both pickup and delivery options. For more information, send an email to [email protected] or call (406) 333-2330.

Action Call from Rick Bass

In conjunction with his reading for our 10th anniversary kickoff event, our friend Rick Bass asked us to share the following call-to-action regarding the looming timber sale in Montana’s Yaak Valley.

Action Item from Rick:

Please write a letter of support for a Yaak Climate Refuge on Montana’s Kootenai National Forest. Demand a hard stop to the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Black Ram mega-timber sale in the Yaak Valley’s old growth. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Forest Service should not be clearcutting in old growth forests and grizzly bear core habitat across the northwest Yaak. The project needs to consider climate change and be managed as a climate refuge in the future. See the linked article from Bill McKibben.

And please consider signing the petition on this topic.

Please send an email “Cancel Yaak Black Ram” to the following:

Kevin Shea, USDA Acting Secretary
[email protected]

Chris French, USDA Associate Deputy Chief
[email protected]

Senator Jon Tester at:

Senator Steve Daines at:

Representative Matt Rosendale at:

Representative Chellie Pingree at:

Representative Raul Grijalva at:
[email protected]

For more information contact the Yaak Valley Forest Council.

Resource list:

“A Life With Bears,” by Rick Bass (Narrative Magazine)
“On Climate, Biden’s Administration Needs to Combat Zombie Trumpism Quickly,” by Bill McKibben (The New Yorker)
“Black Ram” (video)
“The Poster Forest for Timber Greed”