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Montana Writers Rodeo
"Montana Inspires Story"
October 20 & 21, 2023
Helena Avenue Theatre


Exploring the statement “Montana Inspires Story," the Montana Writers Rodeo will host four leading presenters knowledgeable about how the state of Montana inspires story in plays, novels, screenwriting and filmmaking. Hosted by MPN President Pamela Mencher and MPN Treasurer Pearl Allen, and co-directed by Christa Chiriaco and Mindy Peltier, the Montana Writers Rodeo will take place at the Helena Avenue Theatre at 1319 Helena Avenue. This engaging conference encourages writers of all genres and across the state of Montana to gather for inspiration, story education, author readings and networking.

The Workshops

Session I: High, Wide & Handsome


How do you put Big Sky Country on screen? Many have tried! Some have succeeded. The presenter will share scenes, scripts, and book-to-script examples showing Montana depicted over the years, and how your writing can interpret the place we call home. Explore how to translate the written word to visuals in screenwriting in this illuminating workshop.


Session II: How to Write a Play in 5 Minutes


Write fast! Well, there’s a little more to it than that. After your burst of creativity writing a very short play and a reading of said play, you’ll do it again. And again! This workshop on playwriting basics focuses on the importance of rewriting.


Session III: Novel Writing 101


A bikini at a black-tie affair? Knowing reader, agent, and editor expectations makes a difference in a book’s reception. Join Angela Breidenbach in Novel Writing 101, so your novel isn't underdressed when you're ready to pitch her to the prince. We'll cover pantzer/plotter writing styles, what to tell and not tell, powerful prose, active voice, scene/sequel (action and reaction), creating fully dimensional characters, story world, and more. Be ready for a rapid-fire teaching session.


Session IV: Screenwriting Jump Start


You have a great idea for a film but don’t know how to start writing a screenplay or improve your script in progress. Learn about the essentials of screenwriting from former Hollywood reader and creative producer Barbara Schiffman. She's read tens of thousands of scripts over the past 40 years and knows what must be on your pages to get attention from script readers, agents, and producers.

The Presenters

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Montana Film Commissioner ALLISON WHITMER

For over 20 years, Allison has been involved in filmmaking – beginning with the Robert Redford classic, The Horse Whisperer. A member of the Directors Guild, Allison’s filmography includes 30+ movies and numerous television and documentary credits. Notable credits include the adaptation of the Native American breakthrough novel Winter in the Blood, penned by the acclaimed author James Welch; Certain Women, which brings the everyday stories of Montana women to life; and Walking Out, which captures the very real consequences of interacting with the Montana wilderness. Over her career Allison has worked with many clients in print (Valentino, Italian Vogue), sports (SLC Olympics), and commercials (Ford, Toyota, Jaguar). She is a graduate of Montana State University with degrees in Media and Theatre Arts and Consumer Economics.  Screenwriting was included! As the Montana Film Commissioner, Allison is an expert in the business aspects of filmmaking. She strives to market Montana as an Ultimate Location and prove the value of our industry through economic reporting, managing incentive programs, and advocating for Montana filmmakers.


Playwright and Podcaster JAY KETTERING

Jay is a native Montanan living in Missoula. His young adult plays have been produced by Montana Repertory Theatre’s Educational Outreach Tour, and his radio comedies by Montana Public Radio (MTPR). Upcoming productions include The Girl with the Ivory Ankle: A Montana Musical, premiering at the Orphan Girl Children’s Theatre (OGCT), Butte, MT, in the spring of 2024. Recent productions include his stage short The Meaty Gourmet, Lake Shore Center for the Arts, Westfield, NY, May 2023; and audio short Cacophony, produced by his podcast Words Out West ( in partnership with MTPR, 2022. Jay has had the good fortune of leading writing exercises in the past for the Montana Playwrights Network, OGCT, and the Missoula Writing Collaborative. More info at

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Bestselling Author and Genealogist ANGELA BREIDENBACH

Angela is a bestselling author, professional genealogist, podcaster, and speaker. With a volume of appearances online, television, stage, and radio, Angela loves to share her knowledge to help others. Favorite hobbies include pursuing music in harp and voice, working on her fairy garden, and writing cat comedy with the help of her fe-lion assistant, Muse. She passionately preserves family history as the executive director for the International Institute of Genealogical Studies. She’s spoken and trained nationally for organizations and groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, International Christian Visual Media (ICVM), Christian Booksellers Association, UNITE, the Christian Authors Network, libraries, industry conferences, and a myriad of writing conferences including Mount Hermon, RWA, ACFW, the Munce Group, Colorado Christian Writing Conference, Philadelphia Christian Writing Conference, etc. on genealogy, publishing for genealogists, marketing, online marketing, social media, creating book club/special events using Zoom, Google Hangouts, YouTube, Skype, Facebook; the craft of writing; family history as inspiration; and speaking for women’s events on becoming a woman of confidence, courage, and candor.


Hollywood Screenplay Consultant and Instructor BARBARA SCHIFFMAN

Barbara was a Hollywood screenplay consultant, screenwriting instructor, and career coach for entertainment industry pros before "retiring" to Montana to live near her grandkids. She has written about screenwriting from a script reader's POV for Writer's Digest and other industry publications. Her chapter on "what you need to know before you write a script" was published in the anthology Now Write! Screenwriting. She's also published personal development books and articles about “living, loving and expressing your life story.” Barbara has guided writers and others to overcome their fears about public speaking as a clinical hypnotherapist. She also co-founded two Toastmasters clubs designed to help all types of writers learn skills for confidently speaking about their work and themselves. She now mentors writers in NW Montana on screenwriting, story creation, and public speaking.

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