Mary Clearman Blew’s "Jackalope Dreams" Earns Western Heritage Award

Friday, February 20 2009

Feb. 20, 2009 

Written by Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho Creative Writing Professor Mary Blew’s first novel, "Jackalope Dreams," explores the delicate grafting of contemporary life to the values and traditions that once defined the Western frontier and its culture.

Jackalope Dreams, published in 2008 by University of Nebraska Press, has earned The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum 2009 Western Heritage Award.

A Los Angeles Times book review offers this analysis: “Mary Clearman Blew’s stunning first novel gives us an example—if any is required—of why fiction is still necessary and what it uniquely offers. It’s an understated achievement that recalls the early works of Larry McMurtry, along with the tough, febrile voice of S.E. Hinton’s 'The Outsiders' and the emotional intelligence of William Maxwell. Willa Cather’s work also comes to mind. . . Sentences seethe with urgent, unhurried energy, and the description of the land the author so clearly loves is in service of the story, not showing off. You come to care deeply about these people, caught between an uncapturable past and an uncertain future. 'Jackalope Dreams' is a small masterpiece; it deserves the attention it makes a point of not seeking.”

Blew has taught creative writing at the University of Idaho since 1994. Her previously published award-winning fiction and nonfiction includes the acclaimed essay collections "All But the Waltz" and "Bone Deep in Landscape"; the memoir, "Balsamroot"; and three books of short stories. She also edited "Written on Water: Essays on Idaho Rivers by Idaho Writers," and co-edited a second volume of essays, "Forged in Fire," with writer and English Department Senior Instructor Phil Druker.

Blew’s stories have been reprinted in both the Best American and O'Henry collections. She has earned the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award twice, once for fiction and once for nonfiction. Blew also holds the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association, an honor held by Wallace Stegner, Tillie Olsen, Gary Snyder and other remarkable writers.

First presented in 1961, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Western Heritage Awards were established to honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film and television reflect the significant stories of the American West. The award again places Blew among stellar peers: former winners for the Western Novel include, Edward Abbey, Vardis Fisher, James A. Michener, Judith Freeman, Ivan Doig, Barbara Kingsolver, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy and a host of other luminaries.

The University of Idaho’s unique Master of Fine Arts program is delivered by the writers and poets producing some of Idaho’s greatest contemporary literature. Much of that work has been recognized nationally and globally. University of Idaho MFA faculty also nurture a next generation of great writers. For more information on the program, visit
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit

Media Contact: Joni Kirk, University Communications, (208) 885-7725,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit