Wordstock PDX

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Today I attended my first Wordstock PDX. I hear from others that it was the best.Despite the oil light in my car throwing my morning out of balance, I made it in plenty of time to get a good seat to hear Sherman Alexie. I’m a huge fan. His irreverent sense of humor is right up my alley. He mocks and laughs at everything. His reading of his new picture book was punctuated with stories and explanations of jokes and gestures for the radio audience. Look him up soon on OPB’s Think Out Loud. I bought his book to read to my classes.


Photo credit: ASU English Department via Foter.com / CC BY

The rest of the author talks were spread out within a few blocks, old churches and new theaters and the Portland Art Museum. The rainy day only added to the Portland dreary-weather-let’s-just-grab-a-book-and-read atmosphere. Throughout the festival, there were author pop up talks amid Andy Warhol prints in the modern art museum and book signings in the ballroom. My only complaints were that I’d left my umbrella at home and that I had to pick and choose authors to listen to.

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Oh, well. I’ll be back next year, and next time I’m bringing my book-loving friends.

My new reading list includes:

Chicago, by Brian Doyle
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, by Ramona Ausubel
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
People Like You, by Margaret Malone
The Folly of Loving Life, by Monica Drake
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Substitute, by Nicholas Baker
The Remnants, by Robert Hill

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A City of Books

aidaneus / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

As I walk through the doors, I smell heaven in the form of book glue and musty pages. I have just returned to Powell’s Books main store, located on the corner of 10th and Burnside in Portland, Oregon. I have always said that all I needed was a bed and I would be content spending the rest of my days here. (And oddly, though it’s not my style, I always picture that bed to be an antique wrought iron style.)

They even have coffee! I’d be set!

Powell’s City of Books indeed feels like a literary metropolis. Though they now have multiple locations, and you are guaranteed to find good books at any of them, it is the downtown flagship store that I talk about when I say I’m entering heaven. This place is quintessential Portland, before the city became hipster and trendy. It occupied the Pearl before the Pearl was a hip and happening place. It’s a place of quiet browsing for standard or oddball titles, where used books and new books commingle. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the selection of over a million new and used books, the staff has recommendations handwritten on cardstock hanging from the shelves. They even highlight local authors! I’ve been happily surprised by many new titles that I may not have ever known about thanks to these shelf tags.

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giuliaduepuntozero / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Wandering around the store, you will find staggered floors reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter, color coded to subject matter. You may get dizzyingly lost, but there are color coded signs hanging from the ceilings as well

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to point you in the right direction. Need a rare book? Powell’s might have it in their rare book room, an enclosed space that is open on the weekends or by appointment, but be sure to leave food and drink outside. Personally, I have never entered the rare book room, but I love that it’s there. Maybe on my next trip I will peruse its shelves.

My family hates to go to Powell’s with me. Don’t get me wrong, they like the store, but they are not all readers, and even the most avid bibliophile among them doesn’t love books the way I love books. They enter with a bit of excitement mixed with groans. They know they will find things to interest them, (Powells boasts an interesting display of gift items in addition to the books) but they know once we enter the doors, I will get lost in the shelves for hours. I usually don’t have to worry about the meter, though. Validated parking is always free because I never leave the store empty-handed (though I prefer to take my tiny Soul into the closet of a parking garage).


gonzalo_ar / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Powell’s ranks number one on Tripadvisor for shopping in Portland, above the Portland Farmer’s Market and Saturday Market, both of which are iconic local experiences. I guess that means I’m not alone in my love of this place. And for you authors out there looking to self-publish, head on up to the Espresso Book Machine. I might have to make use of this someday.

If you love books and are ever in Portland, check this place out. I frequent book stores, and I’ve never seen anything that comes close to Powell’s. Have you?


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Two Books

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

When I think of my young literary life, two books stand out. Did they influence me to be who I am or was I drawn to them because of who I am?

Velveteen RabbitThe first was The Velveteen Rabbit. If you are unfamiliar with this book, it’s about a stuffed rabbit who is loved by a little boy. He has become threadbare and has a button eye where his eye fell off. He is looked down on by the fancy toys that have springs and gears. There is another toy in the boy’s room, the skin horse, that one day tells the velveteen rabbit about becoming real:

You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Margery Williams

I held onto this quote, put it in my quote book. Even as a young child I could see the true meaning of the words, about being an authentic person and accepting the things in your life that make you who you are.

The LoraxThe other book I loved, dog-eared loved, was The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. I have always loved nature, and the idea that someone could carelessly and thoughtlessly destroy my world was disturbing to me. I hung onto the words at the end of the book

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss

Well, I was going to be that someone.

I am not a conspicuous consumer. I carry my own water bottle. I recycle and compost. I enjoy nature and leave it as I found it. If you follow my blog, you will see an environmental activism thread running through it. But before you dismiss me as a radical, let me tell you that I’m not going off the grid or giving up my car. But given a choice, I will choose conservation and stewardship of the earth. And you can thank Dr. Seuss.