Montana, My Home

IMG_0903Is there a place where you find peace? A place you visit in your mind and wish you were there? I have many such places: sunset on the Minnesota lake residence of my youth, a mountaintop in Alaska after first frost when the tundra is painted red, an island in the Bering Sea with nesting puffins everywhere, an inland marshy saltwater stream at St. Michael where Ancients dried their salmon for winter on racks still standing and where sun-bleached whale bones strew the shoreline, the sugar sand and rock formations of Canon Beach Oregon against an orange winter sky, white sandstone formations above the Missouri River breaks at dawn — and in my own back yard, where five deer, some fawns, are resting with pheasants in the shade of apple trees.

When I completed medical training, we could have lived anywhere. After 26 years in Montana, we can’t leave. There are few places on earth that provide such stark and beautiful scenery, moderate weather, camaraderie of so many friends and — peace.

 Visions of life experiences swirl in the brains of writers as they wait to be chosen and become part of a novel, DSCF8223a memoir. Montana is a perfect place for those stories to finally find themselves in print to share with others less fortunate, those who have not found peace in the midst of world chaos. In the peacefulness of Montana, write on, Ladies, write on.

 Betty Kuffel

Whitefish Library Author Event

By Kathy Dunnehoff

There’s something extra fun about gathering with other writers. I always say that we are like dogs… Okay, stay with me.

Just like dogs, we appear to be completely devoted to our families and homes. But as soon as another dog comes along, we’re off like a shot! It’s not that we don’t return. It’s just that we understand a certain kinship to other writers.

The author event at the Whitefish Library, let some of us read and laugh together. And here’s the pretty bad picture to prove how much fun we were having…

Whitefish library event 2013

If you find yourself in the Flathead next October, stop by and laugh with us!

Happy Reading (and Writing!)


My Montana Roots


Karen Wills

     I’m Montana born and, partly, bred. I spent summers with my grandparents and aunt and uncle swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, exploring, and experiencing first love. In 1960, my parents bought land near Glacier National Park for their retirement years. Dad’s health interfered, but eventually, Mom and I built a vacation cabin.

    In my 47th year, to paraphrase Dante, I came to a dark forest. A long relationship ended, my kids moved out to start college, and my law partner decided to work at a bank. I moved to the cabin to write. It became one of the best times of my life as I also explored Glacier and gained knowledge of wildlife, both plant and animal. During the next years, I joined Authors of the Flathead, the most supportive writers group ever. I’ve been published, found true love, still hike many trails, and realize how deep my roots go in Montana, pretty much down to the earth’s core. Montana was my first best place, and will surely be my last, and most inspiring. My next novel, River with no Bridge, is set in Butte, Helena, and on the beautiful North Fork of the Flathead River. Montana is infinitely rich in nature, history, and artistic creativity.

Through Others’ Eyes


By Ann Minnett

We have family visiting from flat, urban Texas this week. I envisioned how they would see this beautiful valley as we drove 35 miles of back roads to pick them up at the airport.

Surrounding mountain ranges, of course. Further description would only diminish how spectacularly they frame the Flathead Valley.

The birch and aspen turning yellow gold. Our family will leave before the tamarack turn orange later this month.

Waist-high grasses bent from recent rains—also golden but purple in some light.

The absence of glitz. Oh, you can find flash and hubris here, but the lifestyle is less about ego and more about gratitude for living in this place. And hard work. Cut wood lines porches and carports and sheds, ready for the predicted hard winter.

Deer on the road, either standing on four hooves or stiff after a collision—lunch for the eagles, ravens, and so on down the food chain. Of course, who will feast on the carcass after dark is another story.

And women who look like me. Some of you know what I mean.


Ann Minnett MWW photo

All Roads Lead to Montana

By Leslie Budewitz

Death al DenteWell, maybe not. When I was a kid and we visited relatives in Minnesota, they always called out “come back soon” when we left, and my father always replied — sometimes loud enough to be heard outside the car — “the roads go both ways.”

But in my life, all roads — live and Memorex — seem to lead to Montana. One of my eight short stories is set elsewhere (“The End of the Line,” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, December 2006).* Everything else happens under the Big Sky. 

Like many Montana writers, I consider myself a very placed writer. My view of the world is literally shaped by having grown up here and having chosen to return. I define direction by the flow of the rivers and the location of the mountains. I breath easier in these valleys and on the front range. It is my default landscape — the one that fills my dreams, both waking and sleeping. 

When it came time to choose a setting for my first mysteries, Montana was both natural and right. It’s the place I know best. No other cozies — the light-hearted side of the mystery world — are set in the region, although Diane Mott Davidson has set a wonderful example with her catering sleuth series set in Colorado. Leslie's view

More importantly, story derives from interesting — intriguing — characters put in positions of contrast and conflict. Montana is rich in all of those, making it a particularly rich source for writers of all genres – literary fiction, darker crime fiction (think James Lee Burke’s recent Dave Robicheaux mysteries), and, I hope, the lighter side. Montana is a vast state, with many views, and a many kinds of small towns.  Jewel Bay – like Bigfork, its’ closest real-life relative – surprises people. And surprise is the first ingredient in a memorable setting. 

Come on by. I think you’ll be glad you did. 


* But I’m having a blast writing the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, debuting from Berkley Prime Crime in March 2015. After all, as readers of Death al Dente know, it’s a common story for Montana kids to leave home and return, as both Erin Murphy and I did. But my Seattle years left me with great affection for the city, and it’s a delight to visit it again on the page and for research. And to eat my way through the Market, again, and eat tax-deductible meals in restaurants I remember fondly and their younger cousins.