Robert Lee, September 2012
Robert Lee’s infatuation with Alaska began in 1969 when he spent the summer in Fairbanks after graduating from Norwich University in Vermont, and before entering the Army as an infantry officer. His first Alaska adventures included twenty-six days spent fighting fire near Manly Hot Springs. He returned to Fairbanks in 1970, this time to Fort Wainwright, and was lucky enough to spend his military time in Alaska instead of Viet Nam.
It was later in life when Robert took his writing seriously. He returned to school in his forties and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Montana in 1996. His novel Guiding Elliott was published by Lyon’s Press in 1997 and stayed in print for ten years and three printings. Robert’s friend and mentor, William Kittredge, often said:
“Publish a story or a poem, that’s great; publish a book, it will change your life.”
How prophetic: the publication of Guiding Elliott opened doors Robert had not foreseen. In 1998 he became a writing teacher with the Missoula Writing Collaborative, an organization that places paid professional writers in schools to teach writing skills to young people. Robert’s residencies have included eight years at Lowell Elementary, a Title One school in Missoula, three month-long residencies in Hydaburg, AK (2008-2010), two years in Arlee on the Flathead reservation in Montana, two years at a two-room school house in Ovando, MT, twelve years at Big Sky High School in Missoula, and two month-long stints in Salmon Idaho, among others.
If you ask Robert’s students what his favorite words are, they’re sure to say, “Imagination and Details.” His teaching emphasis is on creative thinking and imagistic writing. He is passionate about the written word and about showing young people the importance of telling their stories. Working with today’s youth gives Robert hope for the future. In his own work, he enjoys experimenting with form poetry as well as free verse. He has published sestinas, sonnets, letter poems, and tetracty(s), a little-known syllabic form which he finds challenging and enjoyable.
Teaching also takes time from his own writing, of course, and the elusive second novel remains elusive. His poetry has appeared in the anthology, “Poems Across the Big Sky,” as well as in several small presses including “Cut-Bank,” “cold-drill,” “Talking River Review,” “Front Range,” and “Cedilla.” His short-story, “Big Ears,” won the “Best Fiction” prize from "cold-drill,” magazine and was later published in the anthology, “New Montana Stories.” His essay, “Midsummer Musings” was nominated for a Pushcart prize, and his essays have appeared in “Montana Magazine,” and in “Mo, Writings from the River.” Current projects include a (soon to be published) manuscript of poems and essays. “Black Bear Holds a Hole in His Paws,”(emanating from Robert’s residencies in Hydaburg), and another yet-to-be-named collaboration with five other poets. He is hopeful that his novel, Guiding Elliott, may soon be re-issued as a P.O.D. paper-back by a local Missoula publishing house.
Robert also works as a writing tutor for the Writing Center at the University of Montana, has taught for seven summers at the Missoula Writing Collaborative “Words with Wings” summer camp, and is a charter Advisory Board member for “Aerie International,” Big Sky High School’s award winning international literary magazine.
When not writing or teaching, Robert enjoys fly fishing, hunting, bicycling, and reading. He and Rosemary Lynch, his lovely bride of seventeen years, reside in Missoula, Montana where he is very content as long as he gets to visit Alaska once in a while.
Glimpses of Robert's Work: