Wordstock Spotlight: Elly Blue

Elly Blue photo by Amanda Lucier

Elly Blue is a writer and bicycle activist. Her previous books include Everyday Bicycling, Bikenomics, Pedal Zombies, and more. She tours annually with the Dinner and Bikes program that she co-founded, and is co-producer and director of Groundswell, a series of movies about people using bicycling to make their communities better. She is co-owner and marketing director at Microcosm Publishing. Catch her pop-up talk with Cynthia Marts at Wordstock.

What books are on your nightstand?

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben -- the coolest, kookiest, most wonderfully sensitive book about nature and empathy; How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh, because I often struggle with this basic life skill; my journal; oh, and Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, which I just bought from Fred Nemo at Black Hat Books. He recommended it to me on the condition that I not read the blurbs before finishing the book, and taped over them to make sure I wasn't tempted.

What authors inspire you?

Rebecca Solnit has a voice and scope that is aspirational for me as a nonfiction writer. As for fiction, the most recent novel I loved was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- it reads like having a deep conversation with a brilliant friend about race, class, countries, and of course hair... but every time you come up for air you realize she's casually doing these incredible literary feats on every page.

What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?

In my publishing work, it's helping authors find their voices and connect with readers. As a writer and editor, producing feminist bicycle science fiction anthologies like Biketopia is especially satisfying. So much of our experience of the world is stories, whether it's the ones we're told on the news or those we tell each other on social media. Science fiction is so powerful because it lets us really push the limits of our imagination in ways that can liberate us from some of the thinking traps in everyday life. If we can imagine a world where we're more free, then it's easier to find the choices and paths that make us actually more free.

What are you looking forward to at Wordstock 2017?

I'll be spending most of my time behind the Microcosm table in the exhibit area, talking about books with people who love books, and that's one of my favorite things to do.

Any tips for biking to Wordstock and/or around Portland?

Yes! I find driving and parking downtown super stressful, but biking is relatively easy.  If you don't have a bicycle, the orange Biketown ones can get you there from anywhere central.  My main advice for biking downtown is to take the lane—that means, ride right in the middle of the rightmost lane that doesn't have train tracks in it. Since the lights are timed to encourage everyone to go about 10 miles per hour, you'll be going pretty much the same speed as car traffic and there's no reason to put yourself in the car door zone off to the right.

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