Sunday, October 11, 2009


Wordstock, Portland, Powells

It's awfully nice to start a book tour with an unexpected upgrade into the First Class cabin. There was a funny moment when my mother and I were crossing the little red boarding carpet for First Class passengers: "That's just for First Class!" barked the ticket taking woman.

"Is this okay?" My mother whipped out her ticket.

I guess we don't look like we are accustomed to red carpets.

I am a window seat junkie, and was thrilled to see the mountains from the plane as we approached Portland-Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mr. Rainier. The landscape is for me at once familiar--this is the west--and yet slightly different. Oregon isn't California.

I have yet to have a definitive explanation for the low growing scarlet vegetation in between the trees, but it was beautiful; fall is on its way here in the Pacific Northwest.

I have a number of photos to post from my experience--these are just a few from my iPhone, which are easy to download. I'll post more later as I have the time to get pictures off of the camera. In the meantime, I apologize for the scatter-shot presentation of my time here in Portland.

But I was here in Portland for the Wordstock Festival, an annual gathering of writers and booksellers, crowned by the king of independent bookstores, Powells. I still remember my first visit to Powells when I was a teenager. I think I nearly drooled over a signed first edition of East of Eden which I was too stupid not to buy (not that I could have afforded it). But I did manage to go home with some hard-to-find paperbacks by the wonderful writer Theodore Sturgeon, whose work I was pretty excited about at age 15.

On my first day here, before the festival was really underway, I met up with an old high school friend, whose picture I somehow never managed to take. We had brunch, and trekked out to Powells, which was proudly demonstrating its support for Wordstock.

It made us all very happy to find my book sitting there, on the shelf, in the debut authors section.

Portland is so very beautiful and well kept. And environmentally conscious. I forgot to take a picture of a trash can marked "landfill"--which makes it quite clear where your non-recyclable trash is going. But I did have the presence of mind to snap a picture of this sign, which you can find in a number of toilets. It shows quite simply that when you urinate, you should push the handle up, as this will use less water than if you push the handle down (which you will want to do when you do something other than urinate). This struck me as very sensible.

We stayed in the lovely and historic Benson hotel--more photos at a later date. There's a wonderful history to this place, and to the story of Mr. Benson.

One night, we awoke to the sound of a fire alarm, and quickly evacuated the building in the middle of the night. I don't think I've been woken up by a fire alarm like this since I was in college, and my feet automatically took me down the stairs and outside. I have to say, I was impressed by how quickly the fire department responded, and by just how nice and cooperative everyone was. Portland is a friendly city.

As an author participating in Wordstock, I was allowed access to the Green Room which had an oxygen bar.

I never did try the bar myself, but my mother gave it a try. She is sampling something here called "Serenity."

On Sunday afternoon, I participated in a panel with the writers Naseem Rakha, and Patrick DeWitt. We had a wonderful conversation about our novels--our first--and how we had come to see our work in print. Both are generous and thoughtful writers--the very kind of people you want to have on a panel when discussing books. But it's important to point out that part of the reason why the conversation went so well was because our discussion was moderated by Emily Harris, of Oregon Public Radio, who went out of her way to read our books and familiarize herself with our stories. I was impressed. The audience was smart and attentive and asked good questions and so for me, the conference really ended on a high note.

Congrats again - and your Mom is so cool!
My Mom is cool. It is true. She took very good care of me-and I think she had a good time herself!
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