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Wordstock 2011 Preview

Portland’s literary shebang is back again! Rebecca Waits and Kate Degenhardt highlight some can’t-miss events.

By The Culturegang October 4, 2011

Don’t you dare mistake Wordstock for a mere “book fair.” Our city’s annual celebration of all things writerly has always been something much more nebulous and stimulating, and it continues to grow enthusiastically in scope and scale with each passing year. In addition to our local literary heroes, Wordstock 2011 will overflow with talent from all over the world—plus lively lectures and talks, films, vendor booths and workshops. And in response to growing demand, this year’s lineup will include more childrens’ books and authors, as well as more kid-friendly events within the fest, than ever before. Is trying to choose between 170 presenters giving you a bookish brain-splosion? Relax; we’ve assembled a short list of our top picks of events and speakers you can’t afford to miss. So put on your glasses—prescription or poser—and hop on the Booklearnin’ train!


Wordstock presents
“To Be Heard: A Documentary”
McMenamins Bagdad Theater
3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Tickets will be available at the door and online.
Opening night event Oct. 6th- $10

“Half of what we do is all about education—teaching teachers how to teach writing to kids. We put writers in the classroom to work with kids, K-8, occasionally high school classes.” With executive director Greg Netzer’s passionate mission, it only makes sense that this year’s opening night event is something completely different—a documentary about the power of words. Shot by a team of socially-geared documentarians, “To be Heard” follows three teens over the course of four years in a Bronx high school while they participate in a “Power Writing’ program, which works with inner-city youths teaching valuable performance and writing skills. This moving journey shows how strongly poetry can change lives, and stresses the importance of empowering young people through creativity.

Wordstock Book Fair
Sat Oct 8 & Sun Oct. 9
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Oregon Convention Center
777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd
$7 for one day or $10 for both days. Children 13 and under free of charge.
Tickets will be available at the door and online.

This delightfully chaotic weekend is truly the heart and soul of the festival. Half performance festival, half trade show, 75,000 sq feet of the Oregon Convention Center will get taken over by hundreds of nonprofits, magazines, bookstores, writers’ collectives, and publishers. The fair also houses three large stages, which lends to a lot of interplay between booths and presenters. This year, 36 of the scheduled performance slots are going to be moderated “talks” between more than one writer.“Whenever we put groups of writers together on a stage, no matter who they are, people come out to see them interact,” says Netzer. Panel topics include “censorship/self-censorship”, “the elusive male reader”, “America’s sexual literary issues”, and many more.

“The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” With Director Jerry Aronson
Sun Oct 9, 7:00pm – 8:45pm
The Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium
1219 SW Park Ave.
7pm Tickets: $6-9
Tickets will be available at

After Eighteen years and 120 hours of footage to root through, filmmaker
Jerry Aronson finally finished his opus of sorts in 1994: a kind, moving tribute to Beat Generation founding father, activist and history-changing poet Allen Ginsberg. Aronson will travel to Portland to give an in-person Q&A at this screening of his long-awaited portrait of a man who became a key artistic figure in our nation’s sexual and spiritual liberation.
Aronson will also be speaking about the film at the bookfair on Sat, Oct 8, from 5:00pm – 6:00pm
at the Attic Institute Stage at the Oregon Convention Center


Jennifer Egan
Literary superwoman Egan conquers every realm of writing that she enters. Her career has culminated in the heavily lauded novel “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She has written acclaimed articles including “The Bipolar Kid,” and a New York Times cover story on homeless children that received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award. She is a master of characterization and dialogue, and her background in nonfiction solidifies her reputation as a formidable Jill-of-all-trades in the writing world. Appearances:
Oct. 8th, 1-2pm. Reading-National Endowment for the Arts Stage
Oct. 8th, 4-5pm. Panel- “Pushing the Limits of Form in Fiction” with Charles Yu, John Freeman, Elissa Schappell. Wordstock Community Stage at the OCC
Oct 8th. 8pm-Livewire! Radio live taping. At the Aladdin Theatre.

Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis
Arguably one of the most Portland-y couples in existence, Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, have teamed together to create a series of children’s books inspired by Forest Park—The Wildwood Chronicles. A decade of incubation and collaboration produced this gloriously-designed, visually dense tale of a little girl whose baby brother is stolen away by a murder of crows, and her subsequent adventure into The Impassable Wilderness, a secret forest-world of fantastical beasts and warring creatures.
Sat Oct 8. 5-6pm. McMenamin’s Stage.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin attracts a whole lot of labels for an author who defies normalcy so completely. She is called feminist, anarchist, environmentalist, Taoist, queer theorist, anthropologist. Best known for her science fiction and fantasy novels, Le Guin has also published poetry and children’s books, and in 2009 she withdrew from the Authors Guild in an open, daring opposition to the direction of corporate Internet publishing and copyright (ahem, Google books). This woman can tackle important and complex theories while blowing your mind with richly detailed universes and plot lines that call everything about human society into question—all in one short story! She once said of her gift, “My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it.” Leguin might agree that labels can be dangerous and limiting, but at least one label should stick—the woman is nothing if not imaginative.
Oct. 9th. 11am-12pm. Reading with Emily Warn. Attic Institute Stage at the OCC

Craig Thompson
After massive critical acclaim (and numerous industry awards) for his 600-page autobiographical opus, Blankets, local graphic novelist Thompson has taken seven years to finish his long-awaited newest work, Habibi, “[A] love story between a prostitute and a eunuch” within an Islamic culture. This moving work about the politics of love and religion will be released just the week before Wordstock, with plenty of time for you to grab a copy.
Oct. 8th. 3-4pm. Mcmenamin’s stage.

Daniel Woodrell
Woodrell is the author of eight novels, most of them set in the Missouri Ozarks. Most notable is Winter’s Bone (2006), which was adapted by Debra Granik into a highly-acclaimed 2010 film. Woodrell has, appropriately, termed his self-invented genre of dark and gritty crime fiction “country-noir”.
Oct. 9th, 3-4pm, Reading-with Chelsea Cain, McMenamin’s stage at the OCC
Oct 9th, 5-6pm, Panel-“Writer as an American Citizen” with Steve Almond, David Biespiel, David Marin. National Endowment for the Arts Stage.

Lili Ristagno
In an attempt to continue expanding their genre base, Wordstock has added graphic novelists to their speaker list in the past couple years. This roundtable includes local artist and writer Lili Ristagno, whose debut work, Short Fuse, recounts the fascinating true tale of Charles Starkweather and Caril Anne Fugate, two teenagers in muskrat love who embarked on a strangely motiveless, eight-day killing spree in 1958 Nebraska (kind of a Natural Born Killers for the poodle-skirt set. If this story sounds familiar, you may remember it from the 1973 Terrance Malick dramatized film version, Badlands, starring a very young and eerie Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek). Ristagno’s well-researched graphic adaptation is brought to life by haunting, lovely watercolor illustrations and a mixed-media approach that lends to the feel of leafing through a particularly disturbing scrapbook.
Oct 8th, 1-2pm Panel- “Graphic Novels: Not Just for Geeks” with Darren Davis, Shannon Wheeler, Vera Brosgol. Oregon Cultural Trust Stage at the OCC.

Wordstock 2011 will be held Oct. 6-9 at various venues around Portland. For more about Portland arts events, visit PoMo’s Arts & Entertainment Calendar, stream content with an RSS feed, or sign up for our weekly On The Town Newsletter!

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