William Kittredge: The Willow Springs Interview

William Kittredge was 35 when he stopped ranching on his family’s huge Eastern Oregon spread to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, earning his MFA in 1969. In the subsequent decades he has become a distinctive voice of the Western experience. In his memoirs, essays, and fiction he has explored the legacy of the agricultural West, and the effect of ownership and dominion on the land and people of the region. By 1987, Kittredge had become established nationally as a writer to watch, with a new collection of essays, Owning It All, following two collections of short stories, We Are Not In This Together, and The Van Gogh Field. He published a 1992 memoir, Hole in the Sky, about growing up on—and eventually leaving—a vast family ranch in Oregon’s Warner Valley. He has also written the non-fiction works Who Owns The West? and The Nature of Generosity. He and his longtime companion Annick Smith edited the Montana literary anthology The Last Best Place, and he retired from a long career as a professor at the University of Montana in 1997. In fall 2006, Kittredge’s first novel, The Willow Field, was published by Knopf. Of that novel, author David James Duncan wrote: “William Kittredge is the bard laureate of the American West, and this novel will be bringing people joy thousands of days from today.” In March, 2007, Kittredge was named the winner of the 27th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement.

Stephen Hirst and Shawn Vestal interview Kittredge over breakfast at The Shack in his longtime home of Missoula, Montana.

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