Lemony Snicket, photo: Meredith Heuer

Daniel Handler is the author of the novels We Are PiratesThe Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs, and Why We Broke Up, a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. As Lemony Snicket, he is responsible for many books for children, including the thirteen-volume sequence A Series of Unfortunate Events and the four-book series All the Wrong Questions. He is married to the illustrator Lisa Brown, and lives with her and their son in San Francisco. His most recent novel is All the Dirty Parts. You can catch him at Wordstock, or at the pre-festival variety show on Nov. 10th.

What books are on your nightstand? 

Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi, translated by Jessica Sequeira,  Something Sinister by Hayan Charara,  and Theft by Finding, David Sedaris's diaries.

What authors, films, music, illustrators inspire you? 

Lately?  Novels by Junichiro Tanizaki, poems by Morgan Parker, Duke Ellington's Latin American Suite, rewatching Twin Peaks with my wife, and the odd tones of Beaks Plinth.

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

All of it is exciting. Right now I am on the road talking about my new books, and occasionally jotting some notes in the very beginning phases of thinking about a new novel.  I am meeting people who are saying interesting things about my work, and I am staring into space where the beginning of a story is maybe, maybe appearing.

What are you looking forward to at Wordstock 2017?

I'm hoping to catch Kaveh Akbar — his poetry is very exciting to me.  But I like the serendipity of a festival.  You wander around and before you know it you are hearing words you never thought you would encounter.

Liz Crain by Malte Jager

Liz Crain is the co-author of the Toro Bravo cookbook and author of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland and Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis. She is a cofounder of the annual Portland Fermentation Festival. Her most recent work is Hello! My Name is Tasty.  Catch her at Wordstock at A Literary Dinner Party.

What books are on your nightstand?

Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman which will be published this fall. The book's publisher, Chelsea Green, sent me a copy and I've been really enjoying getting to know more about this rest-in-peace British food and travel writer born in 1917. Patience is known among other things for her love of foraging, her fierce independence and for living the last 30 years of her life in a remote area of southern Italy with her Belgian sculptor husband, Norman Mommans. They had no electricity, modern plumbing or even a telephone.

I'm about to start the debut novel Marlena by Julie Buntin. My friend Jess and I just started a book club of two. I've never been in a book club because I find the larger groups with several members challenging and just not for me. She and I are going to take turns choosing a book by a woman writer every month and then when we meet up to discuss the book at the end of the month we'll meet somewhere for  food and drink that the narrative somehow inspires. I also always have a bunch of cookbooks and magazines that I subscribe to around that I'm reading — Food & Wine, The Believer (it's back!), The Sun, and Koreatown: A Cookbook.

 What's the most exciting part of what you do?

 All of my writing projects are passion projects so choosing what's next is always a rush. I had three books come out over the course of three months this summer so I was pretty dang busy. Too busy to give much thought to what next. Now that those launches have all passed and those books are out in the world I'm getting energized about what next. The ideas sticking at the moment are a cookbook on pressure cooking, a hard cider book, a cookbook for Shalom Y'all and finishing (finally!) my novel.

 What are you looking forward to at Wordstock (at the Festival, pop-ups, and/or Lit Crawl events)?

I'm really looking forward to the Literary Dinner Party panel that I'm on, of course, but also to hanging out with my boss and dear friend Rhonda Hughes and talking with folks and selling books at the Hawthorne Books table. I've worked there as an editor and publicity director since 2009. I always really enjoy visiting with friends at various publishing houses that I love, particularly Sasquatch Books, Tin House and Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull. Julie Buntin, the author of Marlena, is going to be at Wordstock this year. I really hope I get to attend the panel that's she's doing with my friend Rachel Khong who edited Toro Bravo and also has a debut novel out that I loved — Goodbye, Vitamin.

Will you give us some  food/restaurant recommendations in Portland?

I actually wrote about that last year for Wordstock. One spot that I love that got cut off from that list is Maurice.  Oh and I'll also add that the previous location of Pollo Bravo is now Shalom Y'all which I also highly recommend. 

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.

Now that we're leaning into fall, we at the library are anticipating Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival presented by Bank of America on November 11. What are we looking forward to the most in this confection of literary culture?

  1. Librarians love book people — not sure if that’s out there? The idea of being surrounded by thousands of people who revere reading — well, that’s just our happy place. Then plop the whole festival down in the middle of the Portland Art Museum, a place we don’t get to nearly enough, and there just aren't enough superlatives to describe this bookish perfection.
  2. Nancy Pearl, our guru of all things readers’ advisory (a fancy way of saying "talking to people about books") will be in attendance, plugging her first novel. She’s so famous in library world, there’s even an action figure of her. We hesitate to guess how many Nancy Pearl action figures live on library desks around the country — we suggest the numbers are brobdingnagian. (Oh, we like words, too.)
  3. A lot of us bike to work and have been following Elly Blue since her early days at bikeportland.org. We love what she has to say about feminism and riding, and the positive economics of biking.
  4. A few of us are moderating panels, and youth librarian Tasha says, “I am super stoked about attempting to wrestle my inner fangirl to the ground while moderating a panel of some of my favorite illustrators and authors in an attempt to not have my interaction with the panelists devolve into a repeated refrain of "I love your work, I just love your work, like, I love your work so much. So much."
  5. Everybody has 5 bucks to spend on books; but what books should you buy? With so many inspiring authors, and a bounty of small press booths, it's a difficult decision. Meet up with one of our My Librarian team and get some one-on-one advice about where to spend your Wordstock dollars — we love the effervescent exchange of good reads with book lovers (not sure if we made that clear before?).

The comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time.

Walking folds the walker into the pace of the world, while providing respite from the cares attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the walking explorer: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world." 

If you're hankering for a long walk but have no time, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot.  :-)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man plagued by the sense that he has made nothing of his life. One day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, thanking him for a past kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that he must deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.

Walking memoirs abound, with a resurrgence tied to Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. But don't miss the earlier A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. Relax into the rhytm of Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country. I'm looking forward in particular to Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London for a female perspective on Baudelaire's phenomenon.

Happy reading, and happy trails.

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