The Beargrass Writers' Workshop hosts year-round writing classes open to all ages and experience levels. Students benefit from small dynamic groups that aim to nurture, inspire, and challenge beginners and seasoned writers alike. Our variety of courses offer the opportunity to engage with a community of local writers who believe passionately in what they do. We encourage everyone to apply.
Workshops range from $195-$95 depending on class length and structure.
Students are welcome to pay online with Paypal, or you may contact us here to pay via check.
Back in 2006, Elizabeth Urschel, graduate of the University of Montana’s MFA program (2000), was a fiction instructor for The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop based in Brooklyn, New York. While her husband took their young son out for hot bowls of rigatoni so that he wouldn’t disturb the writers, she led weekly workshops—8 writers for 8 weeks—out of her tiny 4th floor walk-up on 3rd Street in Park Slope. Julia Fierro, graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and founder and director of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop (2002), had been hosting writing workshops out of her own quaint Sackett Street apartment for years by then, after posting an ad on craigslist. By 2006, aspiring writers from all over New York were eagerly converging in the cozy apartments of instructors sprinkled around Brooklyn, breaking down barriers between those who considered themselves “writers” and “non-writers” in intimate settings that seemed to harken back to the salons of Paris from the 1920’s and 30’s.
When Elizabeth moved back to Missoula in 2007, she asked Julia if she could try the Sackett Street model in Missoula, where she knew, it seemed, slews of unemployed writers toiling in obscurity who longed to share what they loved with other readers and writers. Julia gave her blessing, and in 2009, Elizabeth teamed up with fiction writer Brian Buckbee, graduate of the University of Alabama’s MFA program, to found and direct The 406 Writers’ Workshop.
Their concept was simple: connect local writers to one another to exchange work and discuss writing in a non-academic yet rigorous, authentic, creative atmosphere. Like Sackett Street, they decided to host their salon-style workshops in their own homes or in other bookish venues around Missoula.
In May of 2009, The 406 Writers’ Workshop hosted its flagship salon-style short-fiction writing workshop at the woodsy home of Brian Buckbee on 1st Street in Missoula. The workshop assembled 5 uniquely gifted writers for 6 weeks in the evenings after work, over tea and snacks and lively conversation—and not quite enough chairs. By the end of June, novelist and Submittable-founder Michael Fitzgerald was leading a novel-writing workshop in an available conference room at Fact & Fiction on Higgins Avenue to 4 very brave budding novelists. And by the first week of August, poet Chris Dombrowski piloted a poetry workshop at Shakespeare & Co. on 3rd Street. Elizabeth led the second short-fiction workshop that same August at Shakespeare & Co. after-hours, on a rickety card table amidst towering bookcases. And the distinguished nonfiction writer Bryan DiSalvatore boldly steered an inaugural nonfiction workshop in late summer from the comforts of his own couches and chairs, at his lovely book-lined dwelling.
Back then, as the first few writers began signing up for workshops, Elizabeth met each and every new participant at Bernice’s coffee shop, where, over a cup of coffee or tea, they discussed writing projects, books, and hopes for the workshop experience. And Brian continued to host workshop after workshop out of his tiny Missoula living room, encouraging lively conversation, serving cookies, and alighting the often-snowy sidewalk that led to his front door with strings of blue Christmas lights, so that when his writers finally went home they wouldn’t slip on black ice or fall into a snow bank.
From 2009 to 2014, The 406 Writers’ Workshop gathered together incredibly talented readers and writers, many of whom attended workshop after workshop—or gathered as friends and collaborators, forming salons of their own. Many have entered MFA programs or published articles, books, poems, and short stories. Many find the practice of hard work amongst an active community of writers to be transformative on a personal level as well as a professional one.
In the winter of 2014, co-Founders and co-Directors Brian and Elizabeth decided to pursue other projects, at which time they passed the directorial torch to instructor Chris Dombrowski, one of their first instructors and a well-known poet, who graciously accepted this new leadership role.
In 2016, the role of interim director was taken on by Jolene Brink, graduate of the University of Montana’s MFA program (2016), while Chris Dombrowski founded the Beargrass Writing Retreat, hosted annually at the E Bar L Ranch in Greenough, Montana. With Co-Director Robin Troy and Finance Director Peter Picard, Chris gained non-profit status for The Beargrass Writers’ Workshop in 2017, and, as a natural progression of Beargrass’ growth, took over the 406 Writers’ Workshop as the Beargrass Community Writing Workshops in 2018. Chris, Robin and Pete’s leadership continues to bring in exceptional instructors to lead poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and memoir workshops—opportunities for beginning and seasoned readers and writers to amass skills, and to gather together in intimate spaces for an authentic, dynamic, challenging, and rare experience of camaraderie and artistic nourishment.
Beargrass instructors have included (in roughly chronological order):
Brian Buckbee (fiction)
Michael Fitzgerald (novel)
Chris Dombrowski (poetry)
Elizabeth Urschel (fiction & technique)
Bryan DiSalvatore (nonfiction)
Catherine Jones (screenwriting)
David Allen Cates (novel)
Andy Smetanka (essays)
Stephen Elliott (visiting writer—nonfiction)
Katie Crouch (visiting writer—fiction)
Caroline Patterson (short story)
Russ Van Paepeghem (nonfiction)
Mark Gibbons (poetry)
Fred Haefle (nonfiction)
Emily H. Freeman (fiction)
Susanna Sonnenburg (memoir)
Beargrass venues have included:
The Missoula Public Library
The Doubletree Lounge
Elizabeth’s living room
David’s living room
Brian’s living room
Bryan’s living room
Caroline’s living room
Mark’s converted attic
Imagine Nation Brewing Co.