A place where writers — both new and established — can show their work to the world.
That's been the focus of the Whitefish Review since its inception and it's the focus that continues today as the literary journal marks its 10th anniversary.
The Whitefish Review began based off a conversation between founding editors Brian Schott, Mike Powers and Ryan Friel.
Schott was just leaving graduate school at the time when he had an idea to produce a journal and pitched it to his two friends. Schott remembers grabbing Powers and Friel while sitting in The Bierstube on Big Mountain and laying out his plan.
“This was my vision,” says Schott today holding a stack of journals from the last decade.
Powers and Friel remember that moment well.
“What was so intriguing to me was that I thought it was a way for me to keep art in my life post-college,” Powers said. “Whatever Ryan and Brian were doing I wanted to be a part of and I was thrilled they would ask.”
“I though what a cooky, wacky, cool idea,” Friel said. “I thought, ‘let's have a go at it because there's nothing out there like that.'”
The description on the back cover of the Whitefish Review probably says it best for that early vision and what the journal continues to be — essays, fiction, poetry, paintings, drawings, and photography, as well as conversations with athletes, writers, artist and other creative thinkers create a feast for the mind.
Published twice per year, the journal has featured 800 writers over the years and is created by an all-volunteer workforce of editors and support team. Schott works as a freelance writer/photographer and is a communications consultant, Powers is an agent with Farm Bureau Insurance, and Friel is a professional fly-fishing guide and member of the ski patrol at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
In celebration of a decade of publishing, the literary journal this week is releasing issue No. 20, “Out of Time.”
In his introduction to the issue, Schott is reflective on the journey the journal has taken in the last decade.
“For the past 10 years, we've collectively spent tens of thousands of hours on this project, and I'm proud of what my team has been able to accomplish,” Schott writes. “The breadth of 20 issues. We've worked with professional authors and artists whom we deeply admire, as well as helped unpublished writers get their first words into print. Young authors are the voice of the future, and it's an honor to help them along their creative path.”
The latest edition includes the works of 40 artists and writers. Well-known author David James Duncan is featured alongside Whitefish High School sophomore Lucy Heutmaker.
“We've stayed consistent,” Powers said. “We always wanted to publish established writers alongside amateurs. We've always been committed to putting out the best literary journal we can.”
David James Duncan is the author two bestselling novels, “The River Why” and “The Brothers K.”
Duncan commended the way the Whitefish Review has situated itself into the community and invited in first-time readers. He said the journal features dazzling literary pieces balanced with great interviews.
“It has become Montana's finest literary magazine,” Duncan said. “They have a small crew with a lot of pride and it's an amazing little adventure. It makes me laugh and it's thoughtful.”
Also included in the latest issue is the work of Katie McGunagle, who was selected as the runner up for the Montana Prize for Fiction. McGunagle was first published in the Whitefish Review in 2008 when she was a 16-year-old student at Whitefish High. She has since gone on to graduate from Princeton University and Boston University and lives in Bozeman.
McGunagle still vividly remembers getting a copy of the journal issue that featured her writing when she was a student.
“I felt tremendously honored to be recognized for what I thought was a private passion,” she said. “There was a sense of reality that taking part in a writing class could be serious. It was a little gem for me.”
The latest issue also includes an interview conducted by the journal's core team of editors along with Lyndsay Schott, Brian's wife and the person he says really makes sure the journal gets published. The team held a phone interview with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
The Whitefish Review earned some serious publicity when it snagged an interview last year with late-night talk show legend David Letterman. That interview prompted Kimmel to notice the journal and subscribe.
Surprised Kimmel would be interested in the Whitefish Review, Schott decided to email him and ask for an interview, to which he agreed. During the casual conversation, Kimmel talks about the book he just read on tomatoes, about life and a lot about fishing because Kimmel is an avid fisherman and at the time had just done a photoshoot with the Robb Report while fishing the Gallatin River.
Friel said talking to a celebrity about real life is exactly the type of interview they want to do.
“We've found that people love to open up,” Friel said. “People are always asking them the same stock questions, but we can ask them something different. We get pretty excited about that.”
Those types of unexpected interviews have become a staple of the Whitefish Review. The first edition features a sit down with retired football quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
“We wanted to talk with interesting people,” Schott said. “People who are smart, creative thinkers. We wanted to be a literary journal, but we didn't want to be highbrow. We wanted someone who would never read a literary journal to take a peak at it.”
Powers rattles off a lits of well-known writers that have been interviewed for the pages of the journal — Rick Bass, David James Duncan, William Kittredge and Jim Harrison.
“I never could have envisioned this,” he said. “Where we've gone in 10 years. I'm really so proud of it.”
“We've had so much support from artists,” he added. “People who have a lot going on in their lives, but people who have given their time to talk to us.”
Friel says the Whitefish Review has grown from accepting hard-copy submissions to taking in upwards of 500 submissions through Submittable.com. Working with one professional writer often leads to working with another and another, he noted.
“The exceptional part has been the people we've been able to work with — the staff, but also the great literary community,” he said. “It's all happened by them saying to someone ‘I've worked with [the Whitefish Review].'”
Operating as a nonprofit, the journal has also relied on outside financial support to keep publishing. The Whitefish Community Foundation has been a big help, Schott notes, and while the journal has grown every year and is looking to expand more online and to ebooks it will need financial support to keep going for another 10 years. They're also exploring shifting publication months — typically the journal releases in December and June.
“We knew a community like Whitefish would support this,” Schott said of the first issue. “Whitefish is in the name because we're grounded in this place and the people here.”
Support from people has been key too. Schott credits his brother-in-law Ian Griffiths for taking on the role of creative director learning to design the journal. He points to the several professional writers who started out as contributing to the journals only to become part of the volunteer editorial team that keeps the magazine churning out. He points to a few Flathead Valley folks he says have been integral to the process — Cristina Eisenberg, Matt Holloway, Lowell Jaeger, Monica Pastor, Rita Braun, Sarah Ericson, Jeff Giles, Ben Polley, Allison Linville, Emily Lorentzen, Riley Polumbus , Katie Yale and Demi Sullivan.
“There's so much creative energy and collaboration,” Schott said. “We have such a cohesive team — it's a really good team of people.”
The theme for the 21st issue of Whitefish Review, edited by Lowell Jaeger, comes from the inspiring example of writers from Browning High School in the heart of the Blackfeet Nation. These young authors have come together under the name of Rising Voices and amid the tumult of difficult circumstances, they are discovering what it is they have to say, what messages of value they have to share. The Whitefish Review is taking submissions for its “Rising Voices” issue through March 15.
For information, visit www.whitefishreview.org.