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Elise Atchison’s ‘Crazy Mountain’ explores community and commodity in a rapidly changing West

Elise Atchison, author of ‘Crazy Mountain’ (Sowilo Press).

This week on The Write Question, host Lauren Korn speaks with Elise Atchison about her award-winning debut novel, Crazy Mountain (Sowilo Press), which chronicles a rapidly changing fictional mountain valley in Montana, told through the diverse and conflicting stories of the people who live there. As newly built roads carve through the primal wild, and the rural landscape transforms into subdivisions and resort towns, conflicts escalate between locals and newcomers, developers and environmentalists, the wealthy and the houseless. Debra Magpie Earling writes of the novel, “Crazy Mountain is a powerful story about possession and dispossession. Gritty and tough and gut wrenching, Atchison shows us how the West continues to be an explosive and embittered battleground, both s*** show and love story. Crazy Mountain ignites a firestorm.”

About Elise:

Elise Atchison is the author of Crazy Mountain and the recipient of the High Plains Book Award, Montana Arts Council Artist Grant, Eludia Book Award, and Barbara Deming Artist Grant. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, radio, and elsewhere.

Elise Atchison recommends:

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham (Milkweed Editions)

The Lost Journals of Sacajawea by Debra Earling (Milkweed Editions)

Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land by Taylor Brorby (W. W. Norton & Company)

Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness by Doug Peacock (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden by Camille Dungy (Simon & Schuster)

Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan (Scribner)

Playing with (Wild)fire by Laura Pritchett (Torrey House Press)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Crazy Mountain by Elise Atchison (Sowilo Press)

True West: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America by Betsy Gaines Quammen (Torrey House Press)

Other People’s Pets: Critters, Careers, and Capitalism in Yellowstone Country by Chérie Newman (Bitterroot Mountain Publishing)

The Lost Journals of Sacajawea by Debra Earling (Milkweed Editions)

If Only (Sandyhouse Press) by Josh Slotnick

The Write Question team for this episode was Lauren Korn, host, co-producer, and editor; and Chris Moyles, co-producer, editor, and sound engineer. This episode is sponsored by Elk River Books in Livingston, Montana, offering new, used, and rare books—and frequent author readings in their line-up of events offered each season. A full events calendar and online shopping can be found at

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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