10 November 2015

Wordstock 2015 Highlights

A well-used program
For those who need one more reason to love Portland, Oregon, I present Reason #8,764: Wordstock, Portland's annual literary festival and the epitome of lit geekery.

Wordstock 2015, run by Literary Arts, consisted of a full day (9am to 2am) of events geared toward readers and writers alike: readings, author talks, writing workshops, a book fair, book signings, a Lit Crawl, and an after party.

Thousands of lit lovers converged on downtown Portland on Saturday for the main events, waiting in long lines out in the rain and cramming shoulder-to-shoulder in the Portland Art Museum's halls to see big names such as Sandra Cisneros, Barry Lopez, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Jesse Eisenberg as well as dozens of lesser-known but nonetheless wonderfully talented writers. In the evening the festivities moved to the east side of the river for the Lit Crawl and the after party.

My highlights:

Hearing Sandra Cisneros read "A Tango for Astor" from her latest book, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Choice quotes from the talk that followed:
  • Writing is about "transforming demons." - Sandra Cisneros
  • "Being a writer is the complete opposite of being an author. Writing is the daily practice of pushing away the ego. You will never become a writer if you're thinking about being an author." - Sandra Cisneros

Talking to Bobby at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) table. People who've been following my blog for a while will know that I'm a proponent of writers and artists controlling their own means of production, and IPRC is exactly about that. In addition to offering workshops and a certificate course that teaches writers and artists how to design and produce their own books, they host readings and show-and-tell sessions and, according to Bobby, produce an e-newsletter that lists all the literary events happening in Portland in a given month. Sweet! In addition to discussing the IPRC's offerings we discussed our mutual love of Jay Ponteri's work. So much lit love.

My new t-shirt
Finding out about Mother Foucault's Bookstore. This was my volunteer station for the Lit Crawl. I'm ashamed to admit I'd never even heard about it before. It's a quirky, warm space that sells mostly used books and is home to a number of interesting characters. The owner, Craig, is technology averse to the point where cell phones and computers are not allowed (they've only just recently begun accepting credit cards; they were formerly cash-only), so they don't have a website, but they do have a Yelp listing and a Facebook page (not monitored by the owner). The shop regularly hosts readings and is the hub of a book club called Read the Russians. They also, so I'm told, offer a super-duper-secret writer's residency program (shhh, don't tell anyone!) that consists of the use of a large desk in one of the side rooms. Because no computers are allowed, you have to write either by hand or with a typewriter, but there is a typewriter available for use of the writer-in-residency.

Being inspired. During my shift at Mother Foucault's I had the pleasure of listening to readings hosted by ZYZZYVA, which caused little poetic fragments to flit through my mind. Anytime I'm inspired to write, I consider it a win.

A collaborative literary critique of a poem. After the reading came a collaborative critique exercise hosted by Tavern Books' The Honest Pint wherein Ed Skoog chose a poem at random ("A Man Said to the Universe" by Stephen Crane) and had the audience members write down their own critical analyses on paper provided by the organizers. All the analyses - whether brilliant, silly, or bad, he assured us - will be included in the next issue of The Honest Pint.

Being at this point exhausted and overwhelmed by the crowds, I skipped the after party, but the day confirmed for me that Portland continues to be a haven for lit geeks such as myself. Now if only we could do something about the cost of rent in our fair city.

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