A Voice of the Valley

Mary B. Kurtz finds inspiration for her writing in the landscape of rural northwestern Colorado. It’s there, in the Elk River Valley, where she shares the intimate intersection between her conscious life and place. In that meeting, she’s moved to make note of the still of a heavy snow, the sleek gait of the elk, and the light – the crimson, the salmon, the beginning of the night.

Her writing "...is not only deeply felt, but deeply rooted in its place. Its density and cadence capture the weight and flow of the valley...It moves along, one thought opening to another, just as our lives and our natural world do."
                                                       --  Ann Stranahan
                                   Author of Window on the River

Recently Released

Recognized in Nonfiction

Mary’s work has appeared in Amsterdam Quarterly, The Hong Kong Review, The Colorado Sun, Ruminate Magazine, Braided Way, BlueHouse Journal, Speckled Trout Review, The Writers Workshop Review, and Ankle High, and Knee Deep: Women Reflect on Western Rural Living. Her second collection of essays, Apertures: Findings from a Rural Life, was recently released from Shanti Arts Publishing.

Her first collection of essays, At Home in the Elk River Valley: Reflections on Family, Place, and the West, was recognized as a 2012 Regional Nonfiction Finalist by the National Indie Excellence Book Award program. It was also the recipient of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s 2012 Bronze EVVY Award.

She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University in Denver, Colorado.

Mary finds inspiration for her writing in the landscape of rural northwestern Colorado where she and her husband raise hay and quarter horses in the Elk River Valley. She and her husband have two adult children and four grandchildren.



It’s possible, said William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.” In this beautiful collection of essays, Mary Kurtz proves Blake right. The lenses provided by her forty years on a ranch in northwestern Colorado—in sight of the Rockies and not far from the Elk River—allow her to write of local life in a universal way, a way that opens into the world of our senses and the world of mystery. No matter where or how you live, these deeply lived and well-told stories will illumine your life. Or so it has been for me.

Parker J. Palmer

author of On the Brink of Everything, Let Your Life Speak, A Hidden Wholeness, and The Courage to Teach

French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote, ‘Attention is the natural prayer of the soul.’ If this is true, then Mary Kurtz is a woman who lives her life in prayer, lavishing attention on the land she’s rooted to: the Elk River Valley in the alpine altitudes of northern Colorado, where her family ranch lies. With Apertures: Findings from a Rural Life, she joins the great tradition of Western American literature, conveying the beauty of the land on a scale both vast and intimate. She gives us both the close-ups and the big picture in her crystalline, contemplative essays.

Jenny Shank

author of Mixed Company, Colorado Book Award Winner.

These exquisite essays centered on the author and her husband’s ranch in the Rocky Mountain foothills illuminate a rural American place, its river and cottonwoods, its elk and cougar, its heavy snows and morning light. The lives of the people, too—their work of feeding and fencing, their love of an old horse, their faithful dogs, a mother’s death—are told with grace and insight. The quiet attention brought to this place and these lives make Apertures a deeply satisfying read.

Priscilla Long

author of Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Loyalty to place, once a given, is increasingly rare. This deeply felt tribute to a classic western  landscape reminds us of its power to enrich our lives.

William deBuys

author of The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss

Mary Kurtz’s memoir-in-essays, Apertures: Findings from a Rural Life is the quiet revery of a ranch woman who has lived and worked the land alongside her husband for forty years in the Elk River Valley. Under the gentle and wise ministry of Kurtz, this dark and light landscape of cattle and fireweed, of heartwood and wooly bears, of deep winter freezes and spring lupine ascends into a beautiful backdrop for her spiritual quest and awakening. Kurtz’s contemplation of life and mortality in “each holy place” of this valley, through seasonal and family ritual, places Apertures alongside the finest of Western writing.

Kathryn Winograd

author of Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children

Mary Kurtz’s graceful, pliant sentences leave a charming imprint on the Western landscape. After finishing this book, I went back to the beginning for another round, pausing this time to re-read her most eloquent passages, stunned anew by their grace and beauty.

David Hicks

author of White Plains, 2018 Colorado Book Award Finalist, Director of the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Wilkes University

Mary B. Kurtz astounds and delights in this meditative collection of personal essays, reflecting, refracting, and luxuriating in the richness of a decidedly rural life. Kurtz wanders through family, community, the natural world – not outside of human dwelling but woven intimately around and to it – and the connection between selfhood and landscape, never pushing towards a specific destination but allowing the reader, always, to enjoy the ride. 

Meredith Grace Thompson

editor of BlueHouse Journal, co-editor of orangeapplepress

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