Sustaining Montana's literary community

Hello! My name is Emily Withnall, and I am supporting the Book Festival this year in a few different capacities. I arrived in Missoula in 2013 to attend graduate school and to launch my writing career. I couldn’t have picked a better place. The literary community here in Missoula, and across the Pacific Northwest, has deep roots. The writers and editors and readers who live in this region are kind, wise, and generous with their time and knowledge. I discovered this at my first Book Festival in 2013. After attending every panel and reading I could, I arrived home with a stack of signed books. I was delighted to have heard readings by authors I had always admired and excited to discover so many incredible new voices. And better yet, all the authors I spoke with were just as excited to be at the Book Festival as I was. Although many of the authors who come to the Book Festival typically receive large speaking fees and honorariums, they are frequently donating their time and/or paying for their travel and accommodations to be here because they love it here just as much as we do.

When in 2014 it looked like the Book Festival might not happen again, I was devastated. How had I arrived just in time to see such an invigorating and enriching tradition end? But thanks to Barbara Theroux from Fact & Fiction, Mountain Press Publishing, Rachel Mindell, the Missoula Public Library, Arts Missoula, Shakespeare & Co., and so many others, the annual tradition has continued on. For the past few years, putting the Book Festival together has truly been a grassroots effort. Between local businesses donating space for Festival events or discounts for Festival attendees, writers donating their time to pitch in, and community members giving what they can financially to help us buy food for the Gala and provide small honorariums to Festival authors—among other things—the Montana Book Festival has been able to continue on. The generosity of organizations, businesses, and individuals reflects the persevering spirit of the literary community here. I was clearly not the only one in 2014 who was upset to think of the disappearance of the Montana Book Festival. My memories of panels, readings, and conversations about writing at the Book Festival are among my best Missoula memories so far.

I suspect the Montana Book Festival means a lot to you, too. Will you join us to contribute what you can to ensure that this literary tradition continues now and into the future? Whether you can afford $150 (and a chance to win a writing workshop with Dana Fitz Gale!), or $10 and a share on social media, every dollar helps us support Montana’s rich literary community. Thank you for being a part of this. We can’t do it without you.