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Fifth Annual Festival of the Book in Missoula

Several authors talked about books that seem worth reading for heritage teachers, either for their own growth or as possible texts to use with students.

Jeanette Ingold has published several young adult novels that focus on Montana’s past. The Big Burn follows a sixteen year old protagonist through the excitement and challenges of the 1910 fires in Idaho and Montana. Mountain Solo is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is a musical virtuoso but leaves New York to join her father in Montana. “To be a writer you have to be a reader,” Jeanette said. “Some place inside me I have the voices of hundreds or thousands of writers who taught me what language sounds like when it is used well.” Her advice to young writers: “Write lots and lots. Then look for those sentences that stand out as good and true.”

Marcus Stevens says that “history is a point of view—an act of imagination as much as fiction is.” He is the author of Useful Girl, the story of a high school girl in Billings whose life is changed when she discovers the 127-year-old remains of a nine-year-old Cheyenne girl. This is his second novel. His first, The Curve of the World was published in 2002. He lives in Belgrade. “A great way to avoid writing is to keep researching,” he said.

Frank Allen is president and director of the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources, which takes journalists on expeditions to places facing environmental challenges, so they can meet people, experience places, and deepen their understanding of the nature and pace of the changes occurring in the American West. He’s been a journalist for twenty-five years, fourteen of which were as an editor at the Wall Street Journal. He was the WSJ‘s first environment editor. The IJNR has published Matching the Scenery: Journalism’s Duty to the American West. “We protect what we love,” he said. “And we love what we understand.”

According to Allen, people in the west need “a deeper shared understanding” of the place they live, including knowledge of the “roots, histories, patterns and themes” that shape life here. “They also need a greater appreciation of important changes that are under way—and to the contexts, consequences and implications of these changes. Western newsrooms are public trusts that have a responsibility to meet these needs.”

Except that his target audience is journalists rather than high school students, the IJNR would seem to have much in common with the Heritage Project.

Heritage Project teachers (either affiliates or members of demonstration site teams) who would like to review any of the books listed above, please let us know. We will provide a copy of the book and pay $50 for the finished review (500-1000 words). Write for other teachers, letting them know what is useful or not useful about the book as it pertains to their professional practice.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 10/01 at 02:59 PM
  1. I just reread Ingold’s The Big Burn for a class I’m taking and spent some time visiting with her. If teachers did want to use any of her books I think she would be a great additional resource. She was an English teacher in her life before her career as an author and still enjoys talking with students. She told me if I had any students currently reading her books she’d like to answer any questions they had if I passed them on to her. All of Ronan Middle School read The Big Burn last year as a part of the One Book-One Community Program and she came down to speak and meet with classes.

    When she spoke to my university class last week she talked about both the research
    processes she used to come up with the story line for Big Burn (and a few of her other historical fiction books), where to find primary documents, and how important she found them. She explained that she loves writing historical fiction partially because she loves being able to spend time in archives (and other similar places) doing the research.

    Posted by  on  10/04  at  03:53 PM






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