Literature & Poetry
by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Seattle author Garth Stein will be visiting Bend, Sisters and Sunriver to promote his new novel, A Sudden Light, this February. Stein, known for his international bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain, returns with a multi-generational family saga that is steeped in the fantastical history of the Pacific Northwest.
“I grew up in Seattle, and I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the region, so ‘place’ always plays a role in my books,” Stein explained.
His novel centers around the relics of wealth and prestige of the fictional Riddell family, in a location that was very real to Stein growing up. “I spent my childhood in a neighborhood that was just north of a famous wealthy enclave called The Highlands. The Highlands was founded by the richest of the rich in Seattle around the turn of the 20th century, and it features gigantic mansions tucked into the forest on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. So, yes, the fictional place in my book, The North Estate, was based on my childhood memories of The Highlands.”
Although a book of fiction, many of Stein’s historical details and rich imagery were based on actual people, events and the culture of 19th century Seattle. “I think what most impressed me was the compact history of European settlers in the Northwest. This region has a very long history of Native people; it was in 1851 that the Denny Party arrived on Alki Point and the modern era of Seattle began.
“Learning about how the city developed over the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th century was quite fascinating. I think the most surprising bit of information I discovered is the prevalence of gay culture in Seattle throughout its history—the history of gay bars and same-sex dance establishments in Pioneer Square in the 1930’s; and the fact that King County was named after William Rufus King, our country’s shortest-serving vice president, who was James Buchannan’s gay partner.”
Stein will appear at Bend High School on February 11 at 7pm as part of the Deschutes Public Library Author!Author! Literary Series, February 13 at The Belfry in Sisters at 6:30pm, and February 14 at SHARC in Sunriver at 5pm.
“Writing a book is a very long process,” he explained. “A writer must learn about his characters and his story, of course, but he must also learn a great deal about himself. And so as much as we might want to rush the process, if we do, we will compromise the end result.
“I have made a promise to my readers that I will never put out a book that isn’t the best book I possibly could have written. I have too much respect for the reader to do otherwise. So I assure my readers that A Sudden Light is the very best book I have written…so far!”
Ellen Waterston, poet and author who will conduct her sixth Todos Santos writing retreat in February, announces the second printing of her verse novel, Vía Láctea: A Woman of a Certain Age Walks the Camino, a fictionalized account of Waterston’s 2012 pilgrimage on Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
Vía Láctea has garnered praise from poets and reviewers alike. John Brierley, author and publisher of the premier guides to the Camino, including A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, stated, “Many pilgrims who walk the Camino reach some form of new understanding of their life and its direction. A fair proportion of these wish to share their insights but words don’t lend themselves easily to describe the inner workings of the soul. Great sensitivity is required and this is where Vía Láctea bridges the gap so skillfully between the sacred and the mundane. Vía Láctea should be in everyone’s backpack, or at least on their bookshelf.”
The soft cover perfect bound version of Vía Láctea is available at Paulina Springs Books, and online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon. com and www.writingranch.com.
Waterston created the peregrina (pilgrim) as the guiding character in her story. Peregrina walks her way to unexpected answers to many of life’s questions along the ancient pilgrimage route and finds herself not only in conflict with herself, but also implicated in a battle between a caricature of the Catholic church and Camino Woman. The many real and imagined characters met along the Way, the variety of voices, poetic styles and forms, make this collection a provocative and lively adventure.
Author and poet Judith Barrington said, “This book is a story told through a number of poetic forms that seamlessly carried me along the Camino de Santiago. The narrative pulls readers along, yet the poetry insists that they linger with the music of words and the often-surprising images. Those who don’t usually seek out poetry will find this a compelling read, while those who do will appreciate the craft and creative innovation.” Barrington is the author of three volumes of poetry. A fourth, The Conversation, is forthcoming in 2015.
What if Gretel stayed in the forest? What does Death do on vacation? Come to the dark and delicious side of the folk stories you know and love with Bend poets Suzanne Burns and Judith Montgomery, guest readers at December’s Second Sunday. Second Sunday has often featured two poets reading together, but the pairing of Burns and Montgomery is more than just two poets reading in the same space on the same day. Both poets have explored fairy tales and myths in their poems and December’s Second Sunday provides an opportunity to observe how the voices of two poets can blend together. Open mic follows the reading.
Montgomery and Burns are both quick to point out what their poetry has in common. “We both infuse our poems with a love of language,” says Burns. “I am a confirmed dictionary lover,” says Montgomery, “and a hoarder of delicious words.” Both poets came to fairy tales and myths as young readers. “Fairy tales were the first stories I grew up hearing,” says Burns, “and I became enchanted when I found an illicit copy of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, filled with all the mystery and gore a pre-teen could hope for.”
Montgomery points to Edith Hamilton’s stories of Greek and Roman mythology as her gateway into myths and fairy tales. “Tales of minotaurs and wicked or maybe not-so-wicked, only misunderstood, witches offer delicious possibilities for exploring the ‘other side’ of any given story,” she says. According to Montgomery, Fractured Fairy Tales allow us to look at an ancient tale from the point of view of minor characters. “Fractured Fairy Tales open up new worlds, interior and exterior. Plus it’s just fun to break the everyday open into the wonder-full,” she says.
Montgomery’s poems appear in Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Measure and Prairie Schooner, among other journals, and in a number of anthologies. Her first collection, Passion, received the 2000 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her second, Red Jess, a finalist for several first-book competitions, appeared in 2006 from Cherry Grove Collections. Pulse & Constellation, a finalist for the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition, appeared in 2007 from the Press. She lives with her husband and Springer spaniel in Bend, Oregon, enjoys judging poetry competitions, and teaches poetry workshops throughout the state.
Burns writes poetry and fiction in Bend, Oregon (and sometimes in Paris, France). Red Paint Hill Publishing recently published Siblings, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel and the 2013 Diagram Innovative Fiction Prize winner. In autumn Futurecyle Press published the poetry chapbook, Love Songs for Las Vegas. Black Scat Books just released her first experimental novel, Sweet and Vicious. Dzanc Books will release The Veneration of Monsters, a follow-up to her debut short story collection, Misfits and Other Heroes, in the near future. Her stories and poems have appeared in newspapers and journals such as The Chicago Tribune, The Sunday Oregonian, Poetry Midwest and the High Desert Journal. She is currently working on a new novel.
Sunday, December 14, 2pm. Brooks Room, Downtown Bend Library, 610 NW Wall Street, Bend. www.deschuteslibrary.org