Festival explores “Writing the West: The Way Forward”
Gomez, Czelsi
/ Categories: Literary Landscape

Festival explores “Writing the West: The Way Forward”

The third In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival takes place Sept. 13-15 in Seeley Lake and Missoula. This year’s festival highlights authors who have “followed in the footsteps of Norman Maclean” as they address the impact of western expansion, resource extraction, treatment of native peoples and modern-day questions of how western literature addresses these issues. 

The festival theme, “Writing the West: The Way Forward,” is reflected in the entire body of work of keynote speaker Michael Punke. Best known for his novel, The Revenant, which chronicles the life of mountain-man Hugh Glass and the role of the fur trade in early western settlement, Punke also wrote two non-fiction histories that illustrate how the West was plundered by the railroad and mining barons, how native tribes were suppressed and their livelihoods deliberately destroyed.

Although much of this year’s festival takes place in Missoula, Seeley Lake also has a role to play. The Friday line-up includes tours of Maclean’s “neighborhood” in Seeley Lake by the Seeley Lake Historical Society and the fabled author’s favorite fishing holes on the Blackfoot by the Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper. 

Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, John N. Maclean and Peter Koch will present the re-printing of Elers Koch’s book, 40 Years a Forester: 1903-1943, at the National Museum of Forest Service History in Missoula; the book was originally published in 1953. Peter Koch is the grandson of Elers Koch, one of Gilbert Pinchot’s original “Young Men” and a master forest manager; author John Maclean is the son of Norman Maclean.

Punke’s keynote, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts, will set up the themes to be presented by many notable writers who have followed in Maclean’s footsteps. Saturday’s highlights include Debra Magpie Earling and Peter Koch presenting their collaboration, The Last Letters of Sacajawea, and a talk by Peter Stark, the author of Astoria and most recently, Young Washington. Rick Bass will explore how 20th century western literature reflects western experience, along with authors Judy Blunt, Annick Smith, Richard Manning and Dan O’Brien.

Sunday morning’s program will feature clips and a presentation from the production team for the upcoming “Perma Red” TV series, based on the novel by Earling. Team members include Johnny Arlee, Maya Ditloff, Ivy McDonald and Ivan McDonald.

A screening of “A World Unseen,” a documentary about the making of “The Revenant,” sets the stage for the afternoon’s program.

Beginning at 1:30 p.m., Mark Smith, screenwriter for “The Revenant,” joins Punke to discuss how his novel was brought to the big screen; a screening of the film follows.

For more information, visit www.macleanfootsteps.com, email jenny@alpineartisans.org or call 406-754-0034.

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