Since moving to Portland, I've been seriously homesick for Los Angeles. However, last Saturday, was a turning point. It was a magical, amazing day.
This most wonderful day, even began with a double rainbow over Portland. This is the view from our bedroom window.
Besides the rainbow, what was so great about Saturday, November 5th?
The second annual Wordstock: Portland's Book Festival was taking place across the street from my apartment. A major book festival, with authors that I love was minutes from where I live. By a long shot, this has been the best thing that has happened during our time living in downtown Portland.
Based on advice garnered from the festival website, I purchased my tickets in advance. The tickets are a steal, just fifteen dollars each. The tickets include first-come/first-serve admission to all of the author discussions, entry into the book fair, and a five dollar coupon good at any vendor in the fair. I bought a ticket for Dan, but work prevented him from attending with me. I did get to use his coupon for more books though!
I prepared for the festival by emptying my messenger bag to fill with festival purchases, just bringing a small notebook to record writer's wisdom gleaned from the panel sessions. After filling my bag with books during AWP, I learned to travel light and leave room for acquired bookish things. I'm practically a book magnet at these fairs!
The staff and volunteers for Wordstock were amazing. The festival was primarily based at the Portland Art Museum, but events spread out over neighboring churches and theaters, everything within a few blocks of the museum. The clear signage and large amount of volunteers, made the festival a breeze to navigate.
When I arrived, I found two lines for tickets; one for pre-sales, and one for day-of purchases. I had my pre-purchased tickets printed and within minutes, I was scanned, given my book fair vouchers, and a volunteer wrapped a red plastic bracelet around my wrist. The bracelets are required for all of the events, making it easier than fussing over tickets.
The first panel started at 10am, so I headed to the book fair.
The book fair was spread over two ballrooms in the Portland Art Museum, and featured approximately a hundred vendors, many were independent presses. I scanned through everything, but honed in on three vendors.
Tin House Books- A longtime favorite of mine. I love much of what they publish and I always like to scoop up the latest offerings.
Rare Bird Books- They are from my hometown and during the 2016 AWP Conference, I discovered their books and had a lovely conversation (book talk and tons of recommendations) with the woman running their booth. I was happy to see her again at Wordstock.
Hawthorne Books- Portland based, I had not yet heard of them, but the very friendly woman at their booth drew me over to check them out. If I hadn't been on a tight budget, I certainly would have purchased more. I have a gut feeling that they may be my new favorite indy press. Their booth was absolutely swarming with book lovers that were very enthusiastic about their love of Hawthorne Books.
The panels were the best part of Wordstock. I attended four panels and was going to try to squeeze in a fifth, but I needed to take a lunch break. I will just have to catch Alice Hoffman another time. I learned the hard lesson at AWP, that you can't attend it all and breaks are key for my overall event enjoyment. Speaking of lunch, I ran home, but this being Portland, there were food trucks a-plenty brought in for the event.
Panels I attended =
Skeletons in the Closet with Jade Chang, Adam Haslett, and Gina Ochsner, moderated by John Freeman. - The topic focused on family secrets, whether entirely fictional or real life secrets tweaked to fit a fictional story. I recently read Chang's debut novel, The Wangs Vs. The World, which made me want to attend this panel. Chang was every bit as hilarious as her writing.
Women First with Laurie Notaro, Chandler O'Leary, and Jessica Spring, moderated by Elly Blue. A funny thing about this panel, is the name wasn't supposed to be, Women First, it was a misprint in the program. This wasn't a Portlandia reference and Blue made sure to let everyone know right at the start. This was a panel on feminism. I'm a huge fan of Laurie Notaro, so pretty much the panel could have been about anything, and I would have attended. This was my #1 event of Wordstock. Notaro didn't disappoint, but neither did the other panelists. I had never heard of O'Leary or Spring, but was fascinated by their, Dead Feminists Project, that combines art and History to tell the story of famous and not-so-famous, deceased feminist from around the world. There was a lot of discussion about female rights and representation in the world of publishing, which is overwhelmingly male and white. Blue brought out an fascinating statistic, that the American demographic that buys the most books is college educated African-American women, yet the powers that be in the industry, does not represent this demographic at all. Change is very slow.
Tale of Two Americas with Richard Russo, Karen Russell, and Kevin Young, moderated by John Freeman. This was easily the most popular panel that I attended. The line was around the block and the venue, First Congregational United Church of Christ, was packed. I was excited to see Russell and Russo, but I was happily surprised by the discovery of Young, a poet with a great sense of humor. I will definitely be adding him to my reading list. The part of this panel that most resonated with me, was Russell reading from her new essay that speaks about her move to downtown Portland and living in a beautiful Historic apartment located over a homeless shelter. She writes about her feelings and experiences with Portland's homeless population. Being new to Portland, I related heavily to her essay and look forward to reading it in its entirety. It made me really think about my own feelings living downtown.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl with Carrie Brownstein, moderated by Jon Raymond. Not quite as packed as the previous panel, but the line was still around the block. I waited in line for about thirty minutes in the pouring rain, no umbrella. It seemed the Portland thing to do, rain Brownstein. I've not yet read her memoir, but the excepts she read, are enough to make me add the book to my list. She was funny, sharp, and entertaining.
I'm already pumped to attend Wordstock 2017. Advice for next year, you can't do it all, so plan wisely. They also offer writing classes, which must be pre-booked, but looked fantastic. Beyond the panels, the fair is filled with "pop-up readings", where authors read sections of their works in the art museum. The pop-ups are listed in the program, so you can plan to attend them. Most of the authors had book signings, but often they were not in the same venue as where they spoke, a majority of the signings seemed to take place in the book fair halls. Really, it boils down to picking a few must-dos and taking whatever else you can squeeze into your schedule.
I'm ending on a picture I took from the queue to see Carrie Brownstein. Portland book lovers in the rain.