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News & Author Interviews

New West Daily Roundup for Mar. 20, 2017

Today in New West news: Rocky Mountain Land Library, Denver-based SquareTwo Financial Services declares bankruptcy, and Montana State University Youth Writing Camp registration open.

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New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 10, 2016


Today in New West news: Peabody Energy nearing end of Chapter 11 proceedings, Montana’s largest coal mine poised to expand, Provo solar, and High Plains Book Awards winners announced.

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New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 30, 2016

Today in New West news: OnXmap’s ROAM app, MSU celebrates new Ivan Doig acquisitions, an update on Rare Element Resources, and Utah genealogy company releases Portuguese language version of site.

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New West Daily Roundup for May 2, 2016

MSU, Montana State University

Today in New West news: Montana State University (MSU) researcher pioneers new brain study tech, Billings Bookstore Co-op hires Red Lodge Books & Tea owner, Sports Authority to close all 450 stores, and six Utah companies lead trade mission to German business expo.

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An Interview with Novelist Manuel Muñoz

Writer Manuel Muñoz grew up in Dinuba, California. Beginning in fourth grade he worked alongside his family in the fields, harvesting grapes. He was a good student, and according to his website, he applied to Harvard "for no other reason than I knew the name." After he graduated from Harvard, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Cornell and worked in the publishing industry in New York. He wrote and published two acclaimed story collections, 2003's Zigzagger and 2007's The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Since 2008, Muñoz has taught in the creative writing program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Muñoz's honors include a Whiting Writers' Award, a NEA Fellowship, and an O. Henry Award. Muñoz's dazzling new novel What You See In The Dark reimagines the filming of Psycho in the sleepy town of Bakersfield, California. Muñoz sets the filming of that classic movie against the moving fictional story of the murder of Teresa, a young Mexican-American woman, by her white lover. I recently interviewed Muñoz via email about the inspiration for What You See In The Dark, his love of books that "honor the sentence," how a small town that seems to have nothing "actually has everything," and Tucson's literary scene. New West: What first inspired What You See in the Dark? Manuel Muñoz: I had many inspirations for this novel, but one I haven’t spoken about much is a dream I had. I’m not a believer in dreams as anything metaphysically significant; it’s just the brain’s way of clearing out the day’s debris. But one night, I had a dream of walking into an empty room and a woman was sitting on a bed, smoothing out the beautiful baby-blue cowboy skirt she was wearing. When I woke, I tried to recall where I might have seen that image—a TV commercial or a flash of something while flipping channels—but I came up empty. But the image stuck, so I wrote it down. It soon became a simple question. Who is she?

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Denver Librarian Finalist for Amazon Award & Jess Walter’s ‘Poets’ Becomes a Film

Gregory Hill, who works as a book buyer at the University of Denver's Penrose Library, is one of three finalists in the general fiction category for this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. According to the contest website, Hill's novel, East of Denver, "tells the story of Shakespeare Williams, who returns to his family’s farm in eastern Colorado to find his widowed, senile father living in squalor. Facing the loss of the farm, Shakespeare hatches a plot with his father and a motley crew of his former high school classmates to rob the local bank." Greg Glasgow recently interviewed Hill for the University of Denver blog. Glasgow writes: "The story is based on Hill’s own past growing up in Joes, Colo. (called Dorsey, Colo., in the book), and his more recent experiences watching his father’s battle against Alzheimer’s disease." Also in the Roundup: The winners of the Reading the West Book Award, Filming on the adaptation of Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets begins in August, a poetry contest sponsored by the Denver County Fair, and regional book tours for Karl Marlantes, Janet Fox, Emma Donaghue, and Justin Cronin.

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Reading The West & High Plains Book Awards Finalists Announced

Last week two regional organizations announced the finalists for their annual book awards. I've listed the finalists below with links to New West's reviews of the books and author interviews. First, the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association announced the finalists for its Reading the West Book Awards (that's the new name of the MPIBA's longstanding book award series). The shortlist in the Adult category:Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession by Craig Childs (Little, Brown and Co.) • The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) • Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock (Graywolf Press) • Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America by Eric Jay Dolin (W.W. Norton) • The Ringer by Jenny Shank (The Permanent Press) Also in the Roundup: The finalists for the High Plains Book Awards, The Whitefish Review seeks donations for its ninth issue, The High Desert Journal announces a poetry prize, and the tally on how many books Oprah helped David Wroblewski and Cormac McCarthy sell.

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Book Festivals of the West 2011

Each year readers and writers gather to celebrate the written word at book festivals, fairs, and writing conferences throughout the West. Although there are a few spring festivals, everything really begins to pick up in June, and the schedule remains busy through November. The offerings vary from those that concentrate on helping writers improve their craft, such as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's retreat in Grand Lake, Colo. (July 10th-15th), to those that introduce writers to readers through panels, readings, and book signings, such as the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula (October 5th-7th). Some, such as the Aspen Summer Words Festival (June 19th-24th), combine workshops and readings. The workshops charge fees, but plenty of the festivals are free to attend, including the Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula and the Equality State Book Fair in Casper. Most workshops are already accepting applications for this year. I've updated the Book Festivals of the West map with this year's information when it was available. Please let me know if there are any more events to add or update—I'll even throw this open for events in California and Texas. New West will run reports from the festivals again this year—we already have correspondents lined up for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Aspen Summer Words, and the Montana Festival of the Book, and are looking for more contributors.

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Where the Bison Roam: ‘Hard Grass’ by Mary Zeiss Stange

Mary Zeiss Stange opens her book, Hard Grass: Life on the Crazy Woman Bison Ranch (University of New Mexico Press, 256 pages, $27.95), with a description of how many ranching women also work “off the place” to help make ends meet. She is no exception. Except that she is. While most wives work in the closest town at the bank or hardware store, Zeiss Stange is a professor of women’s studies and religion at Skidmore College in upstate New York, two thousand miles from the ranch she and her husband, Doug, own in eastern Montana. When commenting on her particular situation, she states, “More recently I have noted the structural likenesses between the pecking order of a buffalo herd and power arrangements on a college campus.” When Zeiss Stange and her husband, two academics from nonagricultural backgrounds, buy their approximately 4500 acre ranch in 1988, their neighbors immediately label them as “differnt,” which Zeiss Stange points out, isn’t exactly complimentary. When they decide not to raise cattle in the midst of cattle country, but rather to restore the land to its natural ecological state, their reputation extends beyond their neighbors to residents in all of Carter County.

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Two Montana Residents File Suit Against Greg Mortenson, While Others Defend Him

The rather dispiriting saga of Montana writer and philanthropist Greg Mortenson continues this week, with two Montana residents, Jena Price of Great Falls, and Missoula Rep. Michele Reinhart, filing suit against the author of Three Cups of Tea in the wake of allegations on the news program "60 Minutes" that he fictionalized some aspects of the book and misused funds intended for his charity, the Central Asia Institute. According to the AP, the suit "claims Mortenson and CAI [his nonprofit, Central Asia Institute] committed fraud by inducing them to donate and buy his book." The Missoula Independent reports Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is investigating Mortenson and CAI. Kim Murphy of The Los Angeles Times interviewed Bozeman residents about the controversy ("With philanthropist under attack, hometown comes to his defense"), and found most people still support Mortenson, including the owner of the Country Bookshelf. Also in the Roundup: Regional book prize news.

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