News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Literary festival hits high note in Sisters

Authors and book enthusiasts came together to celebrate writing, books and the importance of a good story at the inaugural Sisters Festival of Books last weekend.

Authors of various genres came from around the nation to take part in the festival events. Friday kicked off with a special local-author reception honoring Sisters-area authors (see story, page 1).

Saturday featured presentations from various authors throughout the day at Sisters Middle School. Some of the authors in attendance included: David Oates, Kelli Estes, Joe Wilkins, David Joy, Megan Griswold, Molly Gloss and many others. Each author conducted a 40-minute session that included reading segments of their book, as well as a question-and-answer portion.

The downstairs of Sisters Middle School became a bookshop, with tables filled with books by all the authors in attendance, available for purchase, and to have them signed by the author.

A number of attendees had shared similar thoughts on the variety of presentations by authors, from one author speaking on slavery in Oregon, to poets using their descriptive language to captivate audiences.

Author Joe Wilkins, author of “Fall Back Down When I Die,” read a few chapters from his novel as well as from his poetry book, “When We Were Birds.” Wilkins’ novel takes place in the Bull Mountains in Montana, near the area where he grew up. Some of the characters and lifestyle in the book come from his experience growing up in a rural community.

Wilkins read two chapters from the novel, chapters about two of the main characters, Wendell Newman, “a young ranch hand in Montana, (who) has recently lost his mother, leaving him an orphan, as his father met a violent end more than a decade earlier.”

Wilkins transported the audience to the Bull Mountains, introducing them to another world within his novel. He also read from his poetry book, containing poems for his wife and children. He read a poem for his daughter about imagination and other worlds. He used descriptive words of a rural landscape in a love poem for his wife, making “the map of love.”

Wilkins said he got into poetry after taking a poetry class in college while being an engineering major.

The poetry influence shows in his prose, with flowing and descriptive sentences.

Wilkins is in the process of writing another novel.

Wilkins was happy to see an event such as the festival.

“It is cool to see a rural community celebrating language and words,” he said.

Wilkins ended his presentation with a poem from the title of his poetry book that he had made up for his son, “When We Were Birds.”

David Joy, author of “The Line That Held U,” was one of the Saturday-afternoon presenters. Joy, from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, is about as country as you get.

“I wouldn’t leave my mountains, but I think this place is beautiful,” he said.

Joy met event director Lane Jacobson at the bookstore Jacobson managed in North Carolina, before moving west to take ownership of Paulina Springs Books.

Joy and Jacobson instantly became good friends, bonding over their mutual love for the same books and authors. When Joy found out Jacobson was moving out to Sisters, “I knew I had to figure out a way to get out there,” he said.

So, when the book festival came to fruition, Jacobson recruited Joy to be one of the featured authors at the event.

Joy began his presentation with reading the beginning chapters of his novel, using lots of description of the area in which he grew up and where it takes place in the mountains of North Carolina. He introduces us to main character Darl Moody during a hunting trek where he accidently shoots a man digging ginseng, a golden crop that grows in the mountains.

Joy grew up in a storytelling tradition and was taught to listen at family gatherings.

“I didn’t read much growing up, but I was obsessed with story,” he said.

He grew up where people and place were inseparable, describing the importance of one’s land, basing his characters and story off of some of what he grew up with, including having to be defensive over your place.

Not only has Joy released two bestselling novels, he has essays published in The New York Times and on NPR.

Joy, an avid fisherman, wanted to be able to create a program involving fishing.

“I can write a half-ass story, but I am good at fishing,” he said.

Joy participated in putting out a book based on fishing stories, “Gather at the River.” He called up a number of fellow writers to produce their own fishing-related essays for the book. The royalties for the book go to Cast for Kids, which takes disabled kids and their caretakers fishing. Twenty-five authors, including Joy, contributed to the book with essays on experiences with fishing and with water.

Joy was able to get in some fishing time in Sisters, taking to the waters of the Metolius River with former Forest Service employee and bookseller Rod Bonacker for a guide.

The rest of the authors offered similar presentations throughout Saturday’s event.

Sunday’s events all took place at Paulina Springs Books, making a free family- and community-focused day. The events included story hour with local authors, history lessons, coloring and singing with children and community members. Lisa Loving and Stephanie Feldstein read from their books focused on journalism, activism, and creating a better world.

Jacobson, event director says of the event’s future: “I hope to bring in other diverse authors, after we have the track record of this year’s event. We hope to have this as an annual event at the same time every year. The time of year is perfect.”


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