This week, it’s all Wordstock all the time!
For the past two years, Portland’s biggest literary festival has been on a bit of a hiatus. But Nov. 7, another Portland nonprofit for word nerds is resurrecting the festival from the grave. This time, it’s at the Portland Art Museum, and OPB is hosting one of the stages.
On this episode of “State of Wonder,” we dip into the archives to revisit interviews with some of our very favorite Wordstock authors, a surprising number of which are more than fitting for Halloween.
But first, we begin with a conversation with Wordstock director Amanda Bullock. You can see the complete Wordstock schedule here, and make sure to check out our “Greetings from the Northwest,” a special collection of stories about Wordstock and other Northwest authors that includes an interactive map to sites featured in our favorite books.
In 2010, a series of videos appeared on YouTube called “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.” They were DIY, “Blair Witch Project”-style episodes that followed a charismatic 16-year-old who wanted to prove the existence of ghosts to her mom. With 180 million views, it became one of the most successful YouTube series in the Northwest. This year, the actor behind it all, Paige McKenzie, released a young adult book and inked a TV deal with the Weinstein Company. This week, she premiered a trailer for her second book, due out next March, on “Entertainment Weekly.”
Next weekend at Wordstock, she’ll be joining a panel of other young adult novelists to talk about witch hunters, monster boys, and other things that go bump in the night.
Author Benjamin Percy’s writing has racked up a stack of awards, including two Pushcart Prizes and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Percy has written for GQ, The Paris Review, Tin House and Esquire, where he’s a contributing editor. He also has several TV and movie projects in development.
Percy’s most recent novel, “The Dead Lands,” is set in a post-apocalyptic St. Louis where water is rapidly disappearing. A bookish scholar named Lewis Meriwether and a free-spirited alcoholic soldier named Mina Clark form an uneasy partnership to lead a small group west toward Oregon, searching for a new home.
At Wordstock, Percy will be joining authors Jami Attenberg, Glenn Taylor and Scott Cheshire to talk about what it’s like to spin futuristic fictions out of real historical events.
Lidia Yuknavitch found a wide audience with her 2011 memoir, “The Chronology of Water.” It’s an inventive and harrowing account of her youth, her parent’s abuses, her career as a champion swimmer, and her later drug abuse and recovery.
Her newest book, “The Small Backs of Children,” imagines a young girl whose life was destroyed by a Balkan war. A photographer snaps an award-winning photo of the girl at the pinnacle of tragedy, and the rest of the story explores lives spiraling outward in the grip of grief and guilt.
On Nov. 7, Yuknavitch will join three friends who, with her, make up Portland’s most infamous writing group (Chelsea Cain, Monica Drake, and Suzy Vitello) for a special taping of “State of Wonder” on the OPB stage at 5:00 p.m.
If you don’t recognize Carson Ellis’s name, chances are you do know her detailed, fanciful drawings of Victorian soldiers, talking badgers and storybook towns. You see them on the album covers and posters of the iconic local band The Decemberists, and they lace through the best-selling young adult fantasy series “Wildwood.”
In February, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “Home,” which is exactly where we visited her for this story. Now, Ellis is wrapping up a new book, and she and her husband, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, are about to get to work on another illustrated novel.
You can be certain we’re going to ask them all about it when they join us for a special taping of State of wonder at Wordstock on the OPB stage with Colin’s sister, the author Maile Meloy.
Zach Dundas is a longtime Portland journalist and co-editor of “Portland Monthly.”
He also happens to be a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan. In his book “The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes,” he set out to ask: What is it about this brainy, unlikely hero that continues to capture our imagination?
Dundas will be joining Lauren Redniss, Luc Sante and Rob Spillman Nov. 7 to talk about unconventional histories. That’s at noon on the McMenamins stage.