Art, prose and football 

Covering the bases with the new Whitefish Review

It’s certainly an auspicious start.

The first edition of Whitefish Review, a literary magazine based in its namesake town, includes a story from Tim Cahill, a founding editor of Outside magazine and author of nine books, including Lost in My Own Backyard and Everest. The publication also includes a short story and interview from Montana author William Kittredge, who recently won the Los Angeles Times’ Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement; two essays from Ernest Hebert, whose novel Live Free or Die made the New York Times 1989 Most Notable Books list; and a seemingly incongruent interview with part-time Whitefish resident and recently retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

The biannual review, which includes short stories, essays, photography and art prints, and will be available to the public June 15, is the brainchild of Whitefish resident Brian Schott. Schott says he got the inspiration for the review last fall after returning from a summer spent working toward his master’s degree in creative writing from Dartmouth College.

“When I got back, I was coming back off a pretty intense summer of being around a lot of writers, and having immersed myself in the writing life,” he says. “I was just looking for the opportunity to connect myself with more writers.”

And he had a hunch there’d be some interest.

“That hunch was right,” he says.

Clearly. Schott, who owns Buckshot Enterprises, a public relations company in Whitefish, got to know Cahill nearly two years ago when he took a four-day fiction workshop from him during the annual Authors of the Flathead writers’ conference. Schott considered it a “long shot” to get Cahill involved, and was pleasantly surprised when Cahill agreed to send in a story.

Schott had never even met Kittredge. Nonetheless, he sent him a letter asking if he’d be interested in doing an interview, and possibly contributing an unpublished short story.

“He called me a couple of days after getting the letter and said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’d love to help,’” Schott says.

The Bledsoe interview was worked out by two of Shott’s co-editors, who have become ski buddies with the football star over the years. The interview is interesting, but seems an odd choice for a literary review. It veers into the “art of football” to try and make some connection, but even Schott says, “It’s a bit of a stretch.”

Overall, Schott was pleased with the amount of cooperation he got from established writers and personalities.

“It’s awesome to see writers of this stature who have a lot going take the time to help us out,” he says. “We’re really humbled. Obviously, for a start-up publication like this, we wanted to get some names people would recognize.”

Alongside the stars, literary and otherwise, are 16 local authors and artists who are not nearly so well known.

For instance, Kerry Crittenden, a Big Mountain ski patrolman for 17 years, and a poet for 30, says this is the first time he’s had his poetry published since college.

Besides getting “25 bucks and two free books” out of the deal, he jokes, “It’s an opportunity for my stuff to be read, and that’s kinda cool. If it’s appreciated, if people can read it and enjoy it, then that’s a good thing.”

Crittenden hopes the mix of local, unpublished authors like himself with more high-profile authors will help get him exposure, which is exactly Schott’s intention.

“Part of the goal of this is to publish the work of established writers, alongside the work of some emergent writers, and some writers that are honing their craft right now,” Schott says.

Schott completed the Whitefish Review with the assistance of co-editors Mike Powers, Ryan Friel and Tom Mull, and art editor Ian Griffiths, but it started as purely his vision. Schott received an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth in English, and has been published in the New York Post, SKI magazine, Powder magazine and other publications. This summer, he’ll continue work on his master’s by writing a novel about a summer he spent alone in a cabin near Whitefish.

His co-editors, he says, are longtime friends of his, who do not have formal backgrounds in writing and literature, but with whom he has always discussed literature and the art of writing.

“Basically, I picked these guys because they’re my very good friends,” he says, “and with a project like this, where we really didn’t know what we were getting into, I wanted to do it with some close friends, some people I trusted.”

One of the main questions the group tackled from the onset was how to differentiate their publication from other reviews. Schott says they decided on a subtle mountain culture theme being part of the final criteria, although he stresses there are no lasting content restrictions, and not all submissions need to have a direct connection to life in the West.

Schott says of choosing among the submissions: “The biggest thing we all discussed was, if we read a piece and we woke up the next day and we were still thinking about it. That was a big criterion for us. Did it make us think?”

The first edition of the Whitefish Review runs 128 pages, and will be printed on high quality paper. Schott raised the capital for the publication through 50 local donors, who donated between $50 and $500. Each writer or artist included in the debut issue was offered payment for their contribution but many declined.

Eventually, Schott says, the review may become a nonprofit, but he hopes to keep the formula of established and upcoming authors and artists, mixed with the unexpected, such as an interview with a famous quarterback. The next edition of the review is due in December.

For now, before returning to Dartmouth to continue working on his master’s, Schott is taking a brief break in Whitefish to send off the first edition.

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours on this,” Schott says, sounding frazzled but excited. “I’m actually pretty tired.”

The Whitefish Review will be available Friday, June 15, for $10 at Bookworks in Whitefish, and can be ordered online at www.whitefishreview.com.
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