The MBF 2016 Emerging Writer's Contest

The Montana Book Festival seeks to celebrate poetry, fiction and nonfiction by regional emerging writers.
These three winners will give a reading in Missoula at the Montana Book Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2016.


About the winners

Mary Leauna Christensen
“Folklore” inhabits a space where the real and the surreal, the aboriginal and the contemporary, the absurd and the tragic come into beautiful, intersecting play. Ostensibly, the poem is about the pain of old age—one man’s dementia, and another man’s wobble into aging—but it’s also about the communal energies that contextualize our intimate traumas. “Folklore” is a vividly haunting and memorable piece of work.
— Rick Barot

Mary Leauna Christensen is an emerging writer who focuses on the liminal and what it means to reside in various borderlands, and the strangeness that seems to bring. She also enjoys playing with words in a way that makes readers slightly uncomfortable. Needless to say, she is a fan of anything creepy and odd. Mary has lived in Southwest deserts, in kudzo infested Appalachia, and currently lives in the forever wet Pacific Northwest with an overly dramatic cat. She holds a B.A. in English from Western Carolina University and is currently an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at Eastern Washington University. Her work can be found in Cactus Heart Magazine and in Permafrost Magazine. Read Folklore.

“Reservations” is a deeply felt story that takes on the heartbreaking plight of Native Americans, a much maligned people who are caught in the tragic throes of history, our homegrown genocide. The story hinges on a friendship between a world-weary Native American man and a well-intentioned white man, two characters who are revealed in full honesty and complexity. Making people place, the author paints settings (in Montana and Maine) in evocative detail—the landscapes, the human habitations, the cultural milieux. And the author accomplishes it all with a controlled and convincing hand, an indication of much more terrific work to come.
— Jeff Renard Allen
 

Cody T Luff's stories have been published in Cirque, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, Paper Tape, and others, and he edited a fiction anthology titled Soul’s Road. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and teaches at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Cody grew up in rural Montana and is named after a horse, although his parents deny this. Read Reservations.

 
“In This Wilderness” operates on the highest level. The writing itself is often beautiful; to cite just a few examples, I particularly loved the jaguar’s “sleek ramblings,” trailer parks and cul-de-sac neighborhoods “cast like nets,” an acacia bush “with thorns like kitten claws.” More impressive, however, is how the essay’s central themes — man vs. man, man vs. nature, nature vs. man — are fully realized, with great subtlety and elegance. Newspapers keep me informed about the tragic plight of those trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border; this piece both taught me things I didn’t already know, and appealed to my heart and my mind in ways that will make what I’ve learned not easy to forget.
— Kate Bolick

Julia Milan grew up in Montana's Bitterroot Valley with her parents, one sister, and an assortment of barnyard animals. Despite bouncing like a maniac around the lower-48 for most of her adult life, she firmly self identifies as a Kid of the West and lives with her dog, Annie Oakley, in Montana or maybe Washington. She studied nonfiction creative writing and wildlife biology at the University of Montana and has been published in TransWorld Snowboarding, Not Your Mother's Meatloaf: a sex-ed comic project, the Missoula Independent, and in an assortment of self-published zines. She is currently working on a field guide of rare and unusual rodents of the Rocky Mountains and a body of post-collapse queer Smut. Read In This Wilderness.