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Not fake news or fake writers

April 8, 2018 GMT

Four days this week in Pocatello will be the Rocky Mountain Writers Festival. It is an annual event and this is the 28th year for it.

In case you are not familiar, at a writers’ festival, people read before an audience what they have written. The audience is whoever shows up. Those who read are often the better-known writers in South Idaho, especially Pocatello. They are asked to read. Many of those reading, however, are lesser-known writers who volunteer.

Reading is mostly a solitary activity and writing is even more so. A public reading is quite different. If you are reading your material, for once you get see, hear, and feel how people react to it. On the other hand, as a member of the audience you get to clap, cheer, swoon, hiss, stamp your feet, or throw rotten tomatoes. Well, maybe not all at the same time.


Perhaps you like to eat or drink while you read. A short story might be a sweet roll. A book could require bags of cheezies, pretzels, and hoops and hollers. At the festival you can often get food too, and more likely, drink. However, the occasion is not so relaxed that you can eat crunchies and drool on your collar.

The event is not only reading. Musicians perform between some of the readings. Michael Corrigan, blues guitarist and Idaho State Journal arts columnist, will be part of Saturday night’s grand finale. Also playing are return singer/songwriters Angier Wills and Matt Murdock. And on Saturday night there will be an open microphone, but keep reading to find out what that’s about.

The location of the readings changes from night to night. The first is on Wednesday night, April 11 at the College Market. This venue features ISU students, staff, and faculty. This is one of the places new writers get to perform and can get a non-faculty reaction to their work.

We are going to read our material the second night, Thursday the 12th at the Portneuf Brewery. Ralph has a serious rant and Jackie a retelling of the angel EMTs who raced her to ER with her broken hip and femur.

And now comes the part where we tie in the title of this article and President Trump’s charges that all negative stories about him are fake news.

Fake news assumes fake writers, people who are not who they claim to be. The nice thing about a writers festival is that the audience can confirm whether or not the person reading a piece actually exists and is not the creation of a Russian spy network or a Cambridge Analytica computer bot.


We know, Ralph and I, that the person we are sharing today’s column with is indeed who they claim to be and does indeed exist in real space not just ether space. Ralph knows I am his wife and am contributing to this part of his biweekly column. And I know that he is the man I have lived with for 41 years and that he wrote the part I am revising right now.

What follows is the line-up of the Rocky Mountain Writers Festival 2018. If you come and be part of the audience, please confirm that you won’t boo or hiss or throw rotten tomatoes, you can see for yourself that all these people exist in the first, second, third, and fourth estates. They are who they say they are. They don’t write fake anything, and our democracy will not wither on the vine of hate speech and silly smearing of the press.

The 28th annual Rocky Mountain Writers Festival features a host of writers and musicians performing their short stories, political commentary, poetry, and creative nonfiction. The entire event is free and open to the public. Each session begins at 7 p.m. and continues till readers run out of audience or words.

Wednesday, April 11, the College Market. Readings at this venue focus on ISU faculty, staff, and students. Carlen Donovan, an associate lecturer at ISU, will be the master of ceremonies. Among readers is favorite Martin Vest making a come-back after 20 years of silence. Vest is best known for his shattering and carefully crafted prose poems and an audience which follows him where ever he goes.

In addition to Vest are Tera Cole who recently has written short stories about disturbed and disturbing women; Brandon Hall whose work can be described as jazz riffs in fiction; and Michael Stubbs whose most recent published work is an essay titled “The Bell and the Bear: A Centennial Trail Saga” which appears in Idaho Magazine.

Thursday, April 12, Portneuf Valley Brewery. Krishna Strong, Pocatello zoo keeper, who is finishing up a book about her years’ long love affair with an orphaned lynx, will be the MC and read from her collection of local color essays.

In addition to Strong, will be Jackie and Ralph Maughan. Jackie will read from her essay collection about the eight emergency responders who picked her up when she was literally a basket case and took her to the emergency room. Ralph will address worries about the eyes wide shut support of evangelicals for President Trump. Could it lead to a take over of American democracy like the Republic of Gilead in the Handmaid’s Tale?

Musicians this night are both returning performers. Dr. Angier Wills sings his apocalyptic tales about the American South and West, including heart breaker women in New Orleans and trials among the settlers on the Oregon Trail. Matt Murdock, an accomplished singer/songwriter, is known for writing and performing story songs about the American Civil War.

Anne Merkley, an award winning artist, has just completed her opus scholarly work titled Neo-rationality and the Environment. Merkley writes, “This message is sent to all inhabitants of planet Earth, from the heart, for our very survival.”

Also on the program are Jonah Andrist who is working on a collection of stories titled Sea Change and newcomer Mari Christmas who will read from her master of fine arts thesis in creative writing from SUNY Albany.

Friday, April 13, Bru House, includes a diverse range of popular local writers. The MC is Will Peterson, owner of the Walrus and Carpenter Books, novelist, and festival founder. Among writers is Parris Butler, a poet and artist who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His poetry is a mix pithy and clever political and personal commentary.

Next in alphabetical order is Brekke Dalley, a poet living in Pocatello. And next again is Arthur Dolson, professor emeritus in the Language and Literature Department at ISU. Andrea Smith Hansen will read her passionate and personal poetry. She teaches at BYU Idaho. Among her work is her children’s book Across the Road published by Blue Scarab Press and featuring the art of Linda Wolfe.

Chris Swensen is a prose writer. He is currently the fiction editor of ISU’s Black Rock and Sage literary journal. Eric Whiteside is a poet and nurse at the PRMC.

Saturday, April 14, The Bridge (the old Yellowstone hotel), is the grand finale night and will be a tribute to Harald Wyndham and his Blue Scarab Press. Wyndham recently died of cancer and the writing community mourns his death but treasurers his contributions as a publisher and writer.

A host of people will read from their own work published by Wyndham or pieces written by Harald himself. The MC, Leslie Leek , who is the festival’s primary organizer, asks the audience to bring their favorite Harald poem to share with the group in old time “hootennany” style. This is what we mean by an open microphone. The audience is welcome to bring work written by or about Harald. We like to think he will be watching over or maybe listening in as he travels to the heavenly gates.

On hand will be publisher Rick Ardinger of the Limberlost Press. Leek describes him as “part of the legendary Pocatello. . .Dead Horse Saloon and Bistro days.” Ardinger will travel from Boise to be here and to sell or give away books published by Harald Wyndham. He also plans to announce the resurrection of Limberlost Press which will begin anew on its mission to publish talented writers in the rocky mountain northwest.

Wyndham published so many people that another page would be needed to name them all. However, a short list includes Leslie Leek of whom he published two books of short stories: Heart of a Western Woman and the more recent Unsettled Territory. In addition are ‘Dead Poets Society’ writers Bruce Embree, Edson Fichter, Steven Pugilis, and Ford Swetnam. A large audience of participants is expected since Wyndham published over 50 local writers in his series titled Pocatello Blend not to mention his own work which comprised at least 24 volumes.

Please do come and confirm for yourself that good and not fake writing and writers will never be squelched, especially after they leave us.

This column was written by Pocatello residents Ralph Maughan and his wife Jackie. Ralph is a professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He retired after teaching there for 36 years, specializing in voting, public opinion and natural resource politics. He has written three outdoor guides, including “Hiking Idaho” with Jackie. Ralph is currently president of the Western Watersheds Project.