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Cowboy’s Quill: ‘Whitefish Review’

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By Doug Hare EBS Staff

While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the American Society of Magazine Editors does hold a Best Cover Contest. This year, the winter/spring issue of “Whitefish Review” was the Readers’ Choice winner in the “Brainiest” category.

The cover features Robert Bissell’s “Blowdown!” with six bears hoisting a fallen tree amid a clear-cut forest, reminiscent of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima in 1945.

Nonprofit literary journals like the “Whitefish Review,” unlike big-city, commercial magazines, are not beholden to advertisers, which gives Brian Schott, founder and editor-in-chief, the freedom to celebrate wild rivers, mountain culture, and wide-open spaces in Montana and beyond in any way he sees fit. For 21 issues now, with the tagline “Illumination from the Mountains,” he has provided a sounding board for voices often overlooked by commercial publishers.

Sure, some publication covers can be deceptive about what is on the inside. But this one reminds me of wrapping paper on a birthday present. Once you peel it back, you will find Montana’s literary titans are allowed free rein to push their stylistic boundaries, while emerging authors and artists are discovered seemingly every issue.

Now in its 21st iteration, “Whitefish Review” has also garnered a reputation for producing some hard-hitting, A-list interviews with the likes of Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Russell Chatham and John Irving—to name a few.

Montana Poet Laureate and lead editor for this issue, Lowell Jaeger, writes that he “sent forth a call for poems, stories, essays and images which illustrate the powerful and mysterious force within us that wants us to move, make noise, shape the earth and arrange words on a page.”

Alongside interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winner David Farenthold and actor Michael Keaton, nearly 40 authors, poets, photographers and artists responded to the call with work that illuminates the “rising voices” that animate and move us, whether to destroy or create.

For more than a decade, this literary journal has been collecting the best that the New West’s mountain culture has to offer with an understated sophistication, and last year Barnes and Noble started carrying it in 160 stores, signaling the publication’s arrival on the national stage.

Aspiring short story writers should take note of the $1,000, winner-takes-all Montana Prize for Fiction judged by none other than Rick Bass—a master practitioner of the literary form himself.

“I’m so hungry for good stories, I will simply choose the best submission regardless of theme,” Bass writes. “What makes me smile? The basics. Beauty. Attentiveness. Crystalline specificity in an era of great uncertainty … Hold the adverbs.”

Copies of “Whitefish Review” are available in Montana bookstores and can also be ordered at, where back issues and subscriptions are available.

Doug Hare is the Distribution Director for Outlaw Partners. He studied philosophy and American literature at Princeton and Harvard universities.

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