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Aaron Parrett Shares Writings and Presses His Own Books

December 20, 2017

Author Aaron Parrett, owner and operator of Territorial Press, visited the University of Montana Western campus on Dec. 14, 2017 to read a selection from his short story collection “Maple and Lead.”

University of Montana Western Senior Ethan Shrader opened the final Dances with Words event of the fall 2017 semester, reading four original poems.

“Dances with Words” is produced by English Professor Alan Weltzien. The series, free and open to the public, provides the community with a unique opportunity to listen to writers reading their own works, including Montana Western student writers.

Ethan Shrader

Three of the poems dealt with Shrader’s experiences as a competitive swimmer and coach. “The Start” zoomed in on the quiet moments that precede a race. Building tension, Shrader wrote, “even the water waits.”

Aaron Parrett began his reading by speaking about Allen Hosmere, the author of “A Trip to the States from Montana.” Publication of the journal which details a trip to Chicago, made Holsmere the first Montana resident to sell a book written, printed, and bound by his own hand. Aaron Parrett made it his life’s goal to be the second.

With his publishing company, Territorial Press, he accomplished his goal, creating books printed with hand-set type that can sell for up to 300 dollars due to the hours of effort that go into creating each copy.

According to Territorial Press, the obsession started when “Aaron Parrett hit a midlife crisis and bought his hot-rod: A vintage, C&P treadle press. But it didn’t end there. It was merely the gateway.”

Aaron Parrett

An English professor at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Mont., Parrett was born in Butte, Mont., and has published several books about his home state including “Montana: Then and Now,” “Literary Butte,” and “Montana Americana Music.”

His expertise in the region led to him being a guest on “Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown” when the television show made its way to Butte.

“Domina Fortuna,” latin for “Lady Luck,” was the first short story Parrett chose to read. It follows a middle-aged gambler in the midst of a divorce as he navigates tricky relationships in the small town where he grew up. Parrett embodied the quick-witted protagonist perfectly, delivering his hard-luck witticisms with impeccable timing and delivery.

At the story’s conclusion, Parrett remarked that he had never read that particular selection from his letter-pressed copy before.

At the behest of the audience, Parrett read another short story about cockroaches and the apocalypse that was inspired by the death of Johnny Cash.

Maple and Lead

Displaying his diverse range of talents, Parrett ended the event by speaking about the “intimate connection between music and poetry” before tuning up his fiddle to perform the North Carolina folk-standard “Cumberland Gap.”

The “Dances with Words” series continues throughout each academic year. For upcoming readings, please visit our upcoming Events page.