By LYNNETTE HINTZE The Daily Interlake
November 9, 2009
There was a sense of giddiness last week when the three editors
of the Whitefish Review announced they've scored an interview with
acclaimed author John Irving for their spring/summer 2010
"When we get these e-mails back, it's a big celebration," said
Brian Schott, founding editor of the Whitefish-based publication,
about the positive input they've had from well-known authors. "It's
a payoff to work with these writers we admire so much."
The big names lend legitimacy and marketing power, but also buoy Schott and managing editors Mike Powers and Ryan Friel.
The Irving interview falls very much in line with the niche the Whitefish Review has created - publishing moguls of the literary world alongside emerging writers and students. Adding interviews of professional athletes such as retired NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe to the mix has further broadened the journal's audience.
From the beginning, Schott, Powers and Friel have worked to expand the network of artists, photographers and writers for the publication, which recently was granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. And their due diligence is paying off.
The number of submissions pouring in from all over the world - every continent but Antarctica - now tops 400 for each edition. That means a lot of reading, re-reading and pondering over what to put in each 160-page journal.
"Ninety percent of what we get doesn't make it," Powers said, adding that they've "been amazed at how much the Flathead Valley has to offer" in terms of literary work.
Each issue includes a diverse mix of fiction, nonfiction, interviews and poetry from established and emerging authors, and a 12-page glossy color section for art and photography. There's also commentary from artists and writers about their pieces, an insightful part of each journal that has been embraced by readers.
"I think people are interested in where artists and writers get their inspiration from," Friel said.
At least half the content of each issue is work from Montana writers and artists.
The editors have drawn in support staff to help with the selection process.
Ian Griffiths, a graphic designer who splits his time between Ketchum, Idaho, and Whitefish, is the art editor. Local poet Lowell Jaeger, who teaches creative writing at Flathead Valley Community College, helps with poetry selections, and New Hampshire artist Adam Blue is the associate art editor who lends a critical eye to art submissions.
Schott's wife, Lyndsay, is the business development director, the "unsung hero" who does the books and maintains the Web site.
While the three main editors meet a couple of times a week at the journal's headquarters - the loft of a guest house at Schott's residence in Whitefish - all three maintain day jobs, too.
Powers is an insurance agent with Farm Bureau and got involved to nurture his creative side. Friel, a Whitefish City Council member, has several jobs, including fly-fishing guide, house painter and in the winter, the Whitefish Mountain Resort Ski
And Schott is a longtime public relations specialist who is intermittently working on his Master of Arts degree at Dartmouth College.
"We're just three good friends who like to work together," Powers said.
They're hoping the Whitefish Review's new nonprofit status will bring in grant money and other funding to make the journal's financial standing a little more secure. Money has been a struggle, although generous donations from private citizens and businesses have kept the publication afloat thus far.
Schott refers to the journal as their "gangly teenager" who will have a chance to grow to maturity through solid financial footing.
"We're at a very delicate stage of business," he said. "We're hoping that within the next 12 to 24 months we can find grant funding to turn it into more of a business."
One of the next steps would be to step up publication to a quarterly time frame instead of twice a year. At some point they want to tap into distribution that would allow them to sell the journal through big venues such as Amazon.com.
Operating a successful literary journal in an electronics-driven age is a challenge, they admit.
"We're bucking trends," Schott said. "We're trying to be old-school and we're really encouraged by the continued response to the journal. In some ways we've been lucky in our naiveté. We just jumped in and said 'let's go.'"