Still recovering from a very busy stretch this past weekend. The Montana Festival of the Book, an event I look forward to each year, was happening. Simultaneous this year was the Western Literary Association conference. The significance of these two events is that two good friends I’ve made in the past year or so would be in town; fellow blogger and friend Ron Scheer (also a frequent commenter in these parts) would be up from LA to attend the WLA conference. He teaches writing at USC. In addition, Bonnie Jo Campbell would be here to attend the Festival of the Book where she would be on a panel and also one of the trio of readers at the closing Gala Reading at the Wilma Theater. Julia and I had met and spent time with Bonnie earlier this year, so we knew what to expect (Irreverence. Wine. Donkey Talk. Mayhem.) But I’d never met Ron in person before, so didn’t really know what to expect.
Turns out Ron pretty much defines gentleman. We met at the Wilma after the Thomas McGuane reading Thursday night (which was fantastic; McGuane read his recent story from The New Yorker called “The House On Sand Creek” and it was a riot) then headed down the street to The Missoula Club for a couple beers and a Mo Burger. As has been common with many folks I’ve met, it was like we’d been friends forever. It was just a great time. Saw him again early Saturday morning when he stopped by the market to meet Julia.
Friday afternoon Julia and I picked Bonnie up at the airport. Later that night we attended the fancy author/reader meet and greet at the Florence Hotel. That was a lot of fun. Bonnie is just great to be around. We also met and had a blast hanging out a bit with Kelly Kathleen Ferguson, who went to school in Missoula and now teaches at OU in Athens, OH, which happens to be one of my favorite towns (and not just for being the hometown of the mighty SKELETONWITCH; new album out in North America today!). We also spent some time chatting with Jenny Shank, another writer I’d been looking forward to meeting. Then we wrapped up the evening downstairs at the wine bar in The Red Bird with more friends over wine, beer, and tasty appetizers. It was a whirlwind evening, and it was a lot of fun. Bonnie has all the pictures from that shindig, though, and she better hook a brother up.
Saturday Bonnie and I inhabited the front row at the short story panel “When Less is More — The Short Story” (which included Glen Chamberlain, Alan Heathcock, Shann Ray, and Melanie Rae Thon), after which it was lunch at El Cazador, then back to the conference for her panel, “I’m in a Western State of Mind — the Novel.” She was worried about her inability to say anything brilliant. She was excellent. She shared the stage with Jonathan Evison, Joe Henry, and Jenny Shank.
Saturday night Bonnie killed it at the Gala Reading. Here she shared the stage with nonfiction author Mary Clearman Blew, and Montana Poet Laureate Sheryl Noethe (who was really, really awesome). I managed a couple decent shots.
Bonnie flew out early Sunday morning, but Ron hung out until evening. We took him up to the Bison Range, and the weather couldn’t have been better. I still have some work to do on the photos I took, but here’s a shot of Ron standing on top of the world, with the mighty Mission Mountains behind him.
It was a great weekend. The sad part is that we won’t be able to hang out with any of these new friends again anytime soon. We’ll miss them.