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Writing@Work Conference: It's open to all, and it's FREE! Noon to 5:00, March 16!

W@W welcomes panelists and speakers Gary Fisketjon, VP of Knopf Publishing, Sarah Bowlin, Agent at Aevitas Creative Management, Brian Schott, Robert Stubblefield, Sarah Aswell, Pete Fromm, Deirdre McNamer, Chris Dombrowski, Paul Gladen, Tim O'Leary, Jenny Sheets, Debra Magpie Earling, David Gates, Heather Cahoon, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Jenny (Seymore) Montgomery, Susanna Sonnenberg, & Judy Blunt.

 Gary Fisketjon, VP of Knopf Publishing

Gary Fisketjon, VP of Knopf Publishing

Everything's happening at the UM University Center Theater, with plenty of handy parking. The full schedule is posted below, but you can also access it here.

Writing @ Work is a gathering of working writers, world-class editors, publishers, agents, and students, coming together to share insights on the writing life and how to make it work. This year’s conference features Gary Fisketjon, legendary editor to Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Jeanette Winterson, and Haruki Murakami and vice president of Knopf Publishing, as well as Sarah Bowlin, Agent at Aevitas Creative Management. Panels and discussions include topics ranging from writing in the West and the basics of getting published, to women’s perspectives on life and craft. It’s an afternoon of community and collaboration for anyone interested in the power of writing and how to build a life around it. 


 

Writing@Work Conference Schedule

Opening Remarks

12 - 12:10 pm

Debra Magpie Earling, Director of Creative Writing 

Debra Magpie Earling teaches Fiction and Storytelling at the University of Montana. Her novel Perma Red (Putnam, 2002) won the Western Writers Association Spur Award, WWA’s Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for Best First Novel, a WILLA Literary Award, The Washington State Fiction Award, and the American Book Award. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea (Koch editions, 2010), a collaboration with photographer Peter Rutledge Koch, re-invents the life of Sacajewea. The rare museum piece book is exhibited in some of the great libraries including the New York Public Library and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.

 

Publishing & the New West

12:10 - 1 pm

Sarah Bowlin, Former Editor & Agent at Aevitas Creative Management
Brian Schott, Editor & Publisher of the Whitefish Review
Robert Stubblefield, Moderator 

Sarah Bowlin is an agent at Aevitas Creative Management, which she joined in 2017. Before becoming an agent, she spent a decade as an editor of literary fiction and nonfiction, first at Riverhead Books and most recently at Henry Holt & Company. She has edited many acclaimed writers including Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Sheila Heti, Salvatore Scibona, Helen Phillips, Luvvie Ajayi, Ramona Ausubel, Rachel Khong, Kim Zupan and Julie Buntin. As an agent, she is working with emerging voices Vanessa Veselka, Aysegul Savas, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Halimah Marcus, Luke Zaleski, and Kevin Nguyen, among others. She is interested in bold voices—specifically stories of strong or difficult women and unexpected narratives of place, identity, and the shifting ways we see ourselves and each other. Originally from the South, she now lives in Los Angeles.

Brian Schott is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Whitefish Review, a literary journal of mountain culture that has gained national attention for its interviews with Tom Brokaw, Michael Keaton, Jimmy Kimmel, and David Letterman. His travel and outdoor essays have been featured in publications like BackcountryBig Sky JournalThe Boston GlobeNational Geographic TravelerNew York PostNew York Daily News, the New Hampshire Sunday News, and Ski Magazine. He holds a Master of Arts Degree from Dartmouth College and lives in Whitefish with his wife Lyndsay and their two sons.

Robert Stubblefield has published fiction and personal essays in Dreamers and Desperadoes: Contemporary Short Fiction of the American WestBest Stories of the American West, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Left Bank, The Clackamas Literary Review, Cascadia Times, Oregon Humanities, Oregon Salmon: Essays on the State of the Fish at the Turn of the Millennium, Open Spaces, basalt, Talking River Review, and High Desert Journal, among others. His most recent essay, “Wrecks and Shells,” appeared in Southern Humanities Review. Awards include a Georges and Anne Borchardt Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Fishtrap Fellowship, and Imnaha Writers’ Retreat Fellowship. Robert grew up in Eastern Oregon and now lives in Missoula, Montana where he teaches at the University of Montana.

 

Two Writers, Two Perspectives

1:10 - 2 pm

Sarah Aswell, Writer
Pete Fromm, Writer
Deirdre McNamer, Moderator

Sarah Aswell received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana in 2006. Since then, she has worked freelance as a journalist, corporate content strategist, humor writer, and stand-up comedian. Her work has appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Advocate, National Lampoon, Funny or Die, Splitsider, and many more. She is also a regular contributor of feminist satire to Reductress. Sarah regularly performs stand-up comedy across Montana and is an alum of the Big Sky Comedy Festival. She's married to another UM MFA alum, Ben Fowlkes, who is a fiction writer and sports journalist. They live in Missoula and have two young daughters. 

Pete Fromm served as the University of Montana’s 2017 Distinguished Kittredge Writer, teaching a graduate fiction workshop and a multi-genre course called "Writing Into the Wilds." Fromm's latest book is the memoir The Names of the Stars (St. Martins, 2016). He is a five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for his novels If Not For ThisAs Cool As I Am, and How All This Started, his story collection Dry Rain, and the memoir Indian Creek Chronicles. The film of As Cool As I Am was released in 2013. He is also the author of four other story collections and has published two hundred stories in magazines.

Deirdre McNamer is the author of the novels Rima in the Weeds (HarperCollins, 1991), One Sweet Quarrel (HarperCollins, 1994), My Russian (Houghton Mifflin, 1999), and Red Rover (Viking, 2007), which was named a Best Book of 2007 by Artforum, The Washington Post, and the LA Times.  Her stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Doubletake, New York Times opinion page, and elsewhere. McNamer teaches graduate and undergraduate writing workshops, and a graduate course in techniques at the University of Montana.

 

Making Writing Your Business

2:10 - 3 pm

Chris Dombrowski, Director of Beargrass Writing Retreat / Writer
Paul Gladen, Director of Blackstone LaunchPad
Tim O'Leary, Entrepreneur / Writer
Jenny Sheets, Creator of Storysquares App / Writer
Debra Magpie Earling, Moderator

Chris Dombrowski’s nonfiction debut, Body of Water (Milkweed Editions, 2016), was named a Top Ten Indie Next Pick by the American Booksellers Association and hailed in wide range of venues, from The New York Times to Outside, and The Wall Street Journal to Orion, which called it “a spiritual memoir in the tradition of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” A recipient of numerous grants and awards, Chris is also the author of two books of poems, By Cold Water, a Poetry Foundation Bestseller, and Earth Again, runner-up for ForeWord Magazine’s Poetry Book of the Year, both published by Wayne State University Press. His essays and poems have appeared in many publications and anthologies including Poetry, The Sun, Outside, and The Southern Review.  For the better part of two decades Chris has taught creative writing to a vast array of age groups, most recently as the William Kittredge Visiting Writer in Residence in University of Montana's EVST Program. In addition, he has worked as a fly-fishing guide in Missoula, where he founded and currently directs the Beargrass Writing Retreat. 

Paul Gladen is Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, a program that help students, alumni, faculty and staff explore entrepreneurship. He is co-founder of the Hellgate Venture Network, a networking group for Montana entrepreneurs.  Paul is also a founding team member of the Montana Code School. Paul was the 2017 Montana Ambassador Educator of the Year. A native of England, Paul has an MA in Mathematics from Oxford University and an MBA from Manchester Business School. He spent the first 14 years of his career working for Arthur Andersen, one of the world’s largest accounting and consulting firms. He has lived and worked in London, New York, Rome, Dublin & Chicago moving to Missoula in 2008.

Tim O’Leary had a long career as an entrepreneur and creative force in the advertising and television industries before embarking on a full-time literary career in 2014. He has founded over a dozen companies, including The R2C Group, an agency he founded with his wife Michelle Cardinal, which has grown to become among the largest independent advertising agencies in the country. He’s published dozens of essays, short stories, and two books, including his 2017 collection, Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, and Other Tales of Men in Pain. Three of the stories from the collection are currently being adapted into a television series. He graduated from the University of Montana, and received his MFA from Pacific University. He and Michelle split their time between Santa Ynez, California, and the Columbia Gorge in Washington.

After working with students for nearly ten years, and hearing them say, "I hate writing" one too many times, Jenny Sheetsdecided to do something about it. She created the digital storyboarding app, Storysquares. Not knowing anything about the tech world, Sheets has relied on her experience as an educator, mentor, and her undergrad degree in English and Philosophy, and a Masters in Public Administration to build the business. When not "tech-ing" it up, she is writing for regional publications and businesses, and pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Montana. 

Debra Magpie Earling teaches Fiction and Storytelling at the University of Montana. Her novel Perma Red (Putnam, 2002) won the Western Writers Association Spur Award, WWA’s Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for Best First Novel, a WILLA Literary Award, The Washington State Fiction Award, and the American Book Award. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea (Koch editions, 2010), a collaboration with photographer Peter Rutledge Koch, re-invents the life of Sacajewea. The rare museum piece book is exhibited in some of the great libraries including the New York Public Library and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.

 

Legendary Editor: A Conversation with Gary Fisketjon

3:10 - 4 pm

Gary Fisketjon, Editor & VP of Knopf
David Gates, Moderator

Gary Fisketjon worked at Random House, Vintage Books, and the Atlantic Monthly Press until 1990, when he joined Alfred A. Knopf, where he is now Vice President and Editor at Large. Authors he has published have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Award in Literature and the E.M. Forster Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Wallace Stegner Award, the John Dos Passos Prize, the Franz Kafka Prize, the Minnesota Book Award, the Mississippi Authors Award, the California Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the  Southeastern Booksellers Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Commonwealth Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award,  the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/Saul Bellow Award, the Richard Wright Award, the Rea Award,  the Prix Médicis, the Prix Femina, the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, the Jerusalem Prize, and the Yomiuri Literary Prize.  These writers include Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Ned Beauman, Joseph Boyden, Elizabeth Brundage. Peter Carey, Raymond Carver, Martin Clark, Jonathan Coe, Nik Cohn, Andre Dubus, Bret Easton Ellis, Isabel Fonseca, Richard Ford, Joshua Furst, David Gates, Tim Gautreaux, Martha Gellhorn, Peter Geye, Spalding Gray, Allan Gurganus, Kent Haruf, Patricia Highsmith, Robert Hobbs, Janet Hobhouse, Michel Houllebecq, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lee Clay Johnson, William Kittredge, Beverly Lowry, Jim Lynch, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas McGuane, Jay McInerney, Haruki Murakami, Bruce Murkoff, Redmond O’Hanlon, Alix Ohlin, Jonathan Raban, Adam Ross, Richard Russo, Keith Scribner, Jim Shepard, Mona Simpson, Mark Spragg, Graham Swift, Donna Tartt, Rupert Thomson, Gore Vidal, Joy Williams, Jeanette Winterson, Geoffrey Wolff, Tobias Wolff, and Steve Yarbrough. 

David Gates is the author of the novels Jernigan and Preston Falls and two collections of stories, The Wonders of the Invisible World and A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me. His fiction has appeared in such magazines as The New YorkerEsquireGQTin House and Ploughshares. His nonfiction has appeared in Newsweek, where he was a longtime writer and editor, The New YorkerThe New York Times Book ReviewBookforumGQRolling StoneH.O.W.The Oxford American and the Journal of Country Music. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and his books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Gates teaches both fiction and nonfiction at the University of Montana.

Women, Writing, Work, Wisdom

4:10 - 5 pm

Sarah Aswell, Comedian / Writer
Heather Cahoon, Policy Scholar / Writer
Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Professor at Seattle University / Writer
Jenny Montgomery, Owner of the Montgomery Distillery / Writer
Jenny Sheets, MFA Student / Writer
Susanna Sonnenberg, Writing Instructor / Writer
Judy Blunt, Moderator

Sarah Aswell received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana in 2006. Since then, she has worked freelance as a journalist, corporate content strategist, humor writer, and stand-up comedian. Her work has appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Advocate, National Lampoon, Funny or Die, Splitsider, and many more. She is also a regular contributor of feminist satire to Reductress. Sarah regularly performs stand-up comedy across Montana and is an alum of the Big Sky Comedy Festival. She's married to another UM MFA alum, Ben Fowlkes, who is a fiction writer and sports journalist. They live in Missoula and have two young daughters.  

Heather Cahoon received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Montana where she was the recipient of the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship and a Merriam Frontier Award for publication of her chapbook, Elk Thirst. She also received a Montana Arts Council Artist Innovation Award to support the completion of her book-length poetry manuscript entitled, Horsefly Dress. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications including Hanging Loose, Lit Hub, South Dakota Review, Big Sky Journal, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and has been anthologized in New Poets of the American West, Poems Across the Big Sky: An Anthology of Montana Poets and Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing. Cahoon is also a painter and policy scholar who holds an Interdisciplinary PhD in history, anthropology and Native American Studies. She is from the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana and is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs is the author of several books, including being first editor of the revolutionary Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. She has authored multiple articles, poetry collections, encyclopedia entries and in 2015 was awarded the Provost's Inaugural Award for Scholarship, Research and Creativity at Seattle University; in 2017 she received the Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Arts and Sciences. She also recently served as the Director for the Center for the Study of Justice in Society. Her poetry collection ¿How Many Indians Can We Be? is forthcoming. She recently published The Runaway Poems with Finishing Line Press, and a second edited collection of Chican@ literary criticism about Norma Cantú's oeuvre, Word Images: New Perspectives on Canícula and Other Works by Norma E. Cantú with the University of Arizona Press. She has represented the US as an American poet in India, Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy and various countries in Central and South America, as well as Mexico.  

Jenny (Seymore) Montgomery publishes poetry in a variety of journals and is at work on a book of graphic nonfiction about disability history. Her poetry installations have been shown at galleries in Montana and Washington. Montgomery earned her Ph.D. in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia. Currently she studies poetry as an MFA candidate at the University of Montana. She is a disability advocate with the national grassroots group ADAPT and local nonprofit Summit Independent Living. She lives here in Missoula, where she owns a distillery with her husband.

After working with students for nearly ten years, and hearing them say, "I hate writing" one too many times, Jenny Sheetsdecided to do something about it. She created the digital storyboarding app, Storysquares. Not knowing anything about the tech world, Sheets has relied on her experience as an educator, mentor, and her undergrad degree in English and Philosophy, and a Masters in Public Administration to build the business. When not "tech-ing" it up, she is writing for regional publications and businesses, and pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Montana. 

Susanna Sonnenberg is the author of two best-selling memoirs, Her Last Death and She Matters: A Life in Friendships. Her work has appeared in many magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and she regularly teaches writing workshops in Missoula and elsewhere.  She has lived in Missoula for 25 years.

Judy Blunt spent more than 30 years on wheat and cattle ranches in northeastern Montana, before leaving that life to attend the University of Montana. Her best-selling memoir, Breaking Clean, was published by Knopf in 2002 and met with wide critical acclaim. Her essays explore the complexity of growing up a girl in cowboy country.  She challenges the Hollywood mythology but honors the ranching community, paying tribute to a West few people know from the inside out.  In her current research, she documents turn-of-the-century homesteaders’ narratives. These are the stories that showed generations how to live where the land doesn’t want you, the rules of behavior and expectation and hope handed down from mother to daughter like recipes, like old love letters. Recognition of Blunt’s work includes a PEN/Jerard Fund Award for nonfiction, the 2001 Whiting Writers’ Award, 2003 Mountains and Plains Bookseller’s Award, Willa Award for Nonfiction Book of the Year, and a 2004 National Endowment for the Arts writer’s fellowship.  Blunt received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2005.  She is a University of Montana Professor who teaches creative nonfiction courses.