Monday, January 26, 2015

Soapstone Literary Announcements January 25th

These announcements of events and opportunities of interest to the writing community have been sent to you by Soapstone. Feel free to send them on to your friends and colleagues or to invite them to join the list by signing up at:

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March 8

4:00-6:00 pm

Taborspace 54th & SE Belmont

To initiate the new Soapstone program of grants--EVENTS CELEBRATING WOMEN WRITERS--Ellen Goldberg is hosting this reading of feminist poetry. Readers will be: Fran Adler, Judith Arcana , Shawn Aveningo, Gail Barker, Judith Barrington, Emily Carr, Brittney Corrigan, Pam Crow, Linda Ferguson, Andrea Hollander, Tricia Knoll, Elise Kuechle, Carter McKenzie, Penelope Schott, Marilyn Stablein, Ila Suzanne, Carlyn Syvanen, and Sharon Wood-Wortman.

Free and open to the public.


The New Soapstone: Celebrating Women Writers 

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering two new opportunities for readers and writers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Small Grants to an Individual Woman or an Ad Hoc Group of Women

These funds are to support events and study groups celebrating the work of women writers. The application process is simple and the time between applying and notification short. For the first year, Soapstone board members will serve as the grant review committee.

All events and study groups will be open to the public and offered at no charge.

Go to our website for more details:


Leaning into Love: Creative Writing and Mindfulness Practices for Opening the Heart

In this four-week workshop series we will expand our capacity to take in love and let it sparkle out of us through guided meditations, freewriting exercises, and mindfulness practices. In a nurturing and supportive environment we will get in touch with any blocks we have to receiving and spreading love, then gently remove them as we cultivate inner spaciousness, a felt sense of worthiness, and deep joy. The wisdom and words of Rumi, Walt Whitman, Tara Brach, Ram Dass, Pema Chodron, and Tich Nhat Hanh will inspire and inform our time together. No experience required!

When: Four Wednesdays, February 4th-25th, 7-9pm Where: People's Yoga NE Second Studio: 4940 NE 16th St. Cost: $75-100, sliding scale

About the Facilitator: Becca Deysach is a cross-country-skiing, bread-baking, lichen-chasing creative writing and mindfulness-based coach and teaches for Prescott College, Cultivate Clarity, Breitenbush Hot Springs, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, and other organizations and schools throughout the country. For more information and registration, visit


Marilyn Sewell will be reading from her memoir, Raw Faith: Following the Thread, at Annie Bloom’s Bookstore on Thursday, Jan. 29, from 7:00-8:00 PM. Marilyn is the editor or author of 10 books, including the anthology of women’s spiritual writing, Cries of the Spirit. She is the Minister Emerita of First Unitarian Church, where she served as Senior Minister for 17 years.


CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS Monday, January 26 7:00-9:00 PM Hillsboro Main Library, 2850 NE Brookwood Pkwy, Hillsboro

Carl Adamshick is 2010 winner of the Walt Whitman Award and the William Stafford poet-in-residence at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. His Curses and Wishes won the 2010 Walt Whitman Award, and the Oregon Book Award. His work has been published in Harvard Review, American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review and Narrative. In addition, he is co-founder of Tavern Books Publishing.

Carl is both an author and a publisher of others’ poetry. As such, he will be able to talk about both parts of today’s poetry scene.


Community-Wide Read

Oregon City's 2015 Community-Wide Read is Lois Leveen's novel Juliet's Nurse, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet from the point-of-view of the hired wet-nurse. Library Journal described the novel as, "Beautifully written ... Leveen's intricate storytelling is impressive."

Free public programs include:

Feb 12: Lois Leveen discusses the historical research behind the novel Feb 19: Lois Leveen leads a program on the art and architecture of medieval and Renaissance Italy Feb 24: Original Practice Shakespeare presents scenes from Romeo and Juliet Feb 26: Gayle and Phil Neuman perform Renaissance music

Leveen will also lead an additional session for Clackamas Community College students studying Shakespeare.

More information at: and


The Oregon Poetry Association Spring 2015 poetry contest is open for entries.

The deadline is March 1, 2015.

Categories: Poet's Choice, Members Only, Dueling Judges, Traditional Form (Ghazal), New Poets, Themed: Endings, Experimental Poetry.

Entries can be made online at or by mail.


2015 Oregon Book Awards Finalists and Fellowship Recipients Announced

The Oregon Book Award winners will be announced at the 28th annual Oregon Book Awards ceremony on April 13, 2015 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory. Mitchell Jackson, author of The Residue Years, the Multnomah County Everybody Reads selection for 2015, will host the ceremony. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets.Com

In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Literary Arts and the newly established Brian Booth Writers' Fund, the program is granting an additional $30,000 for a total of $59,000 to Oregon's writers and publishers this year.



Smith Henderson of Portland, Fourth of July Creek (Ecco) Lindsay Hill of Portland, Sea of Hooks (McPherson and Co.) Cari Luna of Portland, The Revolution of Every Day (Tin House Books) Amy Schutzer of Portland, Spheres of Disturbance (Arktoi Books) Willy Vlautin of Scappoose, The Free (Harper Perennial)


Wendy Chin-Tanner of Portland, Turn (Sibling Rivalry Press) Emily Kendal Frey of Portland, Sorrow Arrow (Octopus Books) Endi Bogue Hartigan of Portland, Pool [5 choruses] (Omnidawn) Zachary Schomburg of Portland, The Book of Joshua (Black Ocean) Dawn Diez Willis of Salem, Still Life with Judas & Lightning (Airlie Press)


Kristin Ohlson of Portland, The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet (Rodale Press) Robert Sitton of Portland, Lady In The Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film (Columbia University Press) Cameron Stauth of Portland, In The Name Of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press) Noah Strycker of Creswell, The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human (Riverhead) Alex Tizon of Eugene, Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Justin Hocking of Portland, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld (Graywolf Press0 Lisa Ohlen Harris of Newberg, The Fifth Season (Newberg) Floyd Skloot of Portland, Revertigo (University of Wisconsin Press)


Kim T. Griswell of Ashland, Rufus Goes to School (Sterling Children's Books) Susan Hill Long of Portland, Whistle in the Dark (Holiday House) H. Joseph Hopkins of Portland, The Tree Lady (Beach Lane Books) Deborah Hopinkson of West Linn, The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel (Alfred A. Knopf) Elizabeth Rusch of Portland, Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World (Candlewick Press)


April Henry of Portland, The Body In the Woods (Henry Holt) Robin Herrera of Portland, Hope is a Ferris Wheel (Amulet Books) Lisa Schroeder of Beaverton, The Bridge From Me To You (Scholastic) Christina Struyk-Brown of Portland, Whisper (Orca Book Publishers)


Rich Rubin of Portland, September Twelfth Andrea Stolowitz of Portland, Ithaka Sandra Stone of Portland, Absurdist Or, Is It?: 3 Inter-related Plays George Taylor of Beaverton, Ghosts in the Canvas Nick Zagone of Portland, Blood on the Books or the Powell's Play


In addition to recognizing the finest achievements of Oregon authors in several genres, Literary Arts recognizes individual contributions with the C.E.S. Wood Award, the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award, and the Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award. The special awards recipients will be announced in February 2015.


Literary Arts is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowships to writers and to publishers. The judges named 14 writers and three publishers to receive grants of $3000.



Laura Christina Dunn of Portland Trevino Brings Plenty of Milwaukie, The C.Hamilton Bailey Fellowship A. Molotkov of Portland Hajara Quinn of Portland Ashley Toliver of Portland, The Oregon Poetry Community Fellowship


Colleen Burner of Portland, The Women Writer's Fellowship Airin Miller of Portland, The Friends of the Lake Oswego Library William Stafford Fellowship Justin Hocking of Portland

Literary Nonfiction

Otis Haschemeyer of Eugene Cheston Knapp of Portland Elena Passarello of Corvallis, The Leslie Bradshaw Fellowship

The nonfiction, fiction and poetry fellowships were judged by a panel of writers: Tara Ison, Lee Ann Roripaugh, and Matthew Vollmer.


Judge: Dare Clubb

Peter Malae of McMinnville

Young Readers Literature Judge: Jo Knowles

Addie Boswell of Portland, The Edna L. Holmes Fellowship in Young Readers Literature Christine Fletcher of Portland, The Walt Morey Fellowship


Judge: James McCoy

Big Big Wednesday of Portland The Masters Review of Portland Phantom Drift of La Grande


"The Road Less Traveled" Writers Workshop Winter 2015

Don't like groups? Don't think being a "good little student" has much relevance to real writing? Me neither!

Real writing usually requires a lonely struggle, ferocious and private. Yet. . . writing is also an act of connection: We offer our work to unknown readers. We respond to the feast of other writers. Giving and receiving, generosity is at the heart of the artist's life.

In this Wild Writers Seminar, we will explore the paradox of private and public, solitary and connected. We will use the group setting to challenge and support each other, as we find our own various ways toward authentic expression.

We will focus on poetry and very short "lyric essays." These two mediums have a lot in common, and together they offer great flexibility, range, and excitement. I can't wait to share what I've collected for this journey!

Take a turn as leader: Each participant will be asked to to lead a discussion, a reading, or an exercise -- briefly or at length -- as part of the practice of being a discoverer, not a follower. Anchor this in what you know. . . or what you want to find out

I will provide weekly readings, creative topics, and techniques to explore. At each session we will discuss readings as well as enjoy focussed writing time. Participants should aim to produce a poem or essay each week, and three writers (in rotation) will receive a constructive group critique (I will offer written comments on the others). We will work together, tell the truth, and leave room for ambiguity and quirkiness. This will be great fun!

DETAILS: February 8 to April 19: Ten Sundays from 3:00 to 6:00 (one "bye" is built in). We meet in a gracious older home in inner Southeast Portland. The space is quiet and professional, with plenty of dispersed seating (indoors and out) for solo writing periods.

Intermediate or advanced writers are invited to apply. Limited to ten participants.

Cost: $325 (includes one book of short essays and weekly xeroxes of poetry etc.)


Applications will be processed first-come/first-served.

About David Oates: My essays and poetry have received awards and a Pushcart nomination, and been published widely here and (recently) abroad. I have authored five books of nonfiction and poetry. I've been teaching writers for many years, in workshops and graduate programs, and I love helping writers recognize what is beautiful and effective in their work (and what isn't). This is an exciting, unpredictable process - it's wild. Wild Writers is always learning more about becoming partners with our own essential wildness.


Have books you want to retire and want to do good with?

Roosevelt High School in St. Johns, welcomes your donation of books in very good condition.

The teacher-librarian, Betsy Tighe catalogs what she can use, takes the remainder to Powell's to get credit for books her collection needs, and then puts what's left on a free shelf for the community to take. The school libraries struggle for funding, so this is an essential part of her collection development strategy.

Books in can be dropped school days between 8:00-3:30, and there is a driveway right up to the bookroom door.

Call ahead for directions and to confirm she will be there. 503 916 5260 x 71455


The editors of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions are pleased to announce the publication of the Winter 2015 issue. Twenty poets, five prose writers, five young voices and four artists fill the content-rich, visually-unique pages with new work.

The first celebration of journal contributors is scheduled for Thursday, January 29, 2015 from7:00–9:00 p.m. at Rain or Shine Coffee House, 5941 SE Division St., Portland, OR. The featured readers are Kelly Coughlin, Deborah Dombrowski, Stephanie Golisch, Christa Kaainoa, Annie Lighthart, and Audra McNamee.

Tiah Lindner Raphael, VoiceCatcher’s new president of the board of directors, will emcee the event. Come early for good food, drink and community!


Endi Bogue Hartigan, whose book Pool [5 choruses] is one of the finalists in the poetry section of the Oregon Book Award 2015, is the featured poet at Last Tuesdays Poetry on February 24. Our events run from 7pm to 8.30pm at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 7700 NE Fourth Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98662.

She will read from the book, which takes readers into a porous realm where singular and multiple voices fuse. Amidst high levels of public noise—reportage on wars, elections, more—these poems journey into the accruals, interstices, and resistances of pooled and individual song.

Here is the event page on the bookstore website:

As usual, there will be open mic slots that can be claimed on the night. If you want to do one, please rehearse a 2-3 minute presentation.


Willa Schneberg will be reading at Annie Bloom's, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy with Frances Payne Adler and Donna Prinzmetal, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, 7pm. For details go to the link:

She will also be reading at Glyph Cafe & Arts Space, 804 NW Couch, Monday, Feb.16th at 5:30pm with Heather Bourbeau, a poet from the Bay Area. The link:


The Manzanita Writers’ Series kicks off its 7th year at 7pm on Saturday, Feb. 21.

We’re excited to share an interesting mix of authors and books. Explore different worlds from a historical novel set in a lawless frontier town to an apocalyptic world in the sequel to the New York Times bestseller Robopocalypse. Learn what works and what doesn’t in anti-aging, and what it’s like to ride your bike across America. Step into a darkly humorous memoir and into a stark world where evil and magic collide.

Featured authors for 2015 include: Lauren Kessler Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Antiaging, Feb. 21; Anna Keesey, Little Century, on March 21; Ariel Gore, The End of Eve: A Memoir, May 16; Brian Benson, Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America, Sept. 19; Daniel Wilson, Robogenesis, Oct. 17: and Rene Denfield, The Enchanted, November 21.

The admission price for the evening author events will be $7.

This year we’ve added a “suggested theme” for Open Mic for each event. Writers are welcome to write on that topic for their 5-minute piece although it is not a requirement.

Our annual PoetryFest on April 18 will include morning and afternoon workshops followed by readings at 3:30pm, open to the public.

That same evening we’ll host our North Coast Squid literary magazine launch party, with Open Mic readings from the Squid entries. This is the 4th edition of the Squid.

We’ll have one other special poetry event on Sunday, Sept. 13 as Judith Barrington reads from her fourth poetry collection The Conversation at 2pm.

The events are programs of the Hoffman Center and will be held at the Hoffman Center (across from Manzanita Library at 594 Laneda Avenue.)


The Studio Series: Poetry Reading and Open Mic will feature Mary Szybist and Heather Hodges on Feb. 8 at Stonehenge Studios, 3508 SW Corbett Avenue, Portland 97239 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Free and open to the public, the Studio Series is held monthly on second Sundays. For additional information, please contact Leah Stenson at

Mary Szybist is most recently the author of Incarnadine (Graywolf Press), winner of the 2013 National Book Award. She teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Heather Napualani Hodges is like you. But part of her bottom lip is dead. She and her lip live in Portland, Oregon, where they taught Intro to Poetry Writing at Portland State University, and received their MFA in Creative Writing. Poetry instructor at Show:Tell, the Workshop for Teen Writers and Artists, visiting poet and workshop leader at Oregon Episcopal School, volunteer poet mentor at the IPRC, and private creative writing consultant, Heather and her lip are trying to make ends meet. Their dream is to facilitate a creative writing workshop that extends to various parts of the Portland community--from teeny tiny hands and hearts, to those who have been around for longer. Heather and her dead lip hope they have the guts to follow through. Contact them at:


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The Timberline Review

Submissions are open now through March 31 for the Summer 2015 issue of The Timberline Review, a new literary journal from Willamette Writers.

Established and emerging writers are welcome to submit short fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, and poetry. Submissions are free to Willamette Writers members and $5 per entry for non-members. Electronic submissions only will be considered via the journal’s website,

For more information, please visit or email


Reading at Broadway Books for the fall 2014 issue of Windfall: a Journal of Poetry of Place

Thursday, February 5, 7:00 p.m. at Broadway Books 1714 N.E. Broadway in Portland 97232

Come hear 5 fine Portland poets whose work appears in the fall issue, together with co-editors Michael McDowell (author of The Hundred-Year House) and Bill Siverly (author of Steptoe Butte):

David Filer, author of The Fear of Love

Ursula Le Guin, author of Finding My Elegy

Paulann Petersen, author of Understory

Carlos Reyes, author of Poems of Love and Madness / Poemas de Amor y Locura

Penelope Scambly Schott, author of How I Became an Historian


“A Couple of Poets” David Meltzer and Julie Rogers

8pm Thursday, April 23 Free

Angst Gallery 1015 Main Street Vancouver, WA 98660

A Couple of Poets, David Meltzer and Julie Rogers, have been performing their work together since 2010. Each will read solo and they’ll cap the evening with a back and forth poetry improv, referred to as “Fours” in the jazz world.


‘Become Your Own Publisher’ is a one-hour workshop that provides authors with all the tools and guidance necessary to become their own successful publishers. Including aspects of professional editing and design, logistics and distribution, and publicity and marketing, the goal for this presentation is to offer enough details to make writers ‘publishing professionals’, with an insider’s knowledge of the business and unique manners of approaching the marketplace.

The workshop includes a half-hour to forty-five presentation on the ins and outs of contemporary publishing, followed by an audience Q&A.

Hosted by Inkwater Press.

Inkwater will be hosting this workshop six times in early 2015. Please join us at one of the following:

Wednesday, January 21 @ 6:30pm at the Camas Library (Camas, WA)

Tuesday, January 27 @ 6:30pm at Hillsdale Library (Portland, OR)

Wednesday, February 4 @ 6pm at Hollywood Library (Portland, OR)

Tuesday, February 17 @ 7pm at Tualatin Library (Tualatin, OR)

Tuesday, March 31 @ 7pm at Lake Oswego Library (Lake Oswego, OR)

Thursday, April 9 @ 7pm at Oregon City Library (Oregon City, OR)


On Tuesday, February 3rd, at the Old Church in downtown Portland, Willamette Writers welcomes celebrated author and coach, Gigi Rosenberg, who will introduce us to the world of grants, how to research them and even how to enlist the help of friends and colleagues in writing them.

The Old Church doors open at 6:30 and the meeting gets underway at 7. The Old Church is at 1422 SW 11th, near PSU.

Meeting info is available at or by calling 503-305-6729. Meetings are free to members of Willamette Writers and full time students under 25, $5 for guests of members, and $10 for non-members.


HandCrafted Sharpen Your Tools. Shape Your Writing.

A recurring workshop series, with a new theme each month, and 2 opportunities to attend.

February's theme is Expansion & Constriction. We will hone in on the sensations & thoughts that arise around breath. Inhalation & Exhalation. Inspiration & Expiration. Things that open & things that close. What happens when we focus on writing a line that expands meaning? What happens when we focus on writing a line that constricts meaning?

Each workshop provides a supportive space and the opportunity to

Practice writing with specific, guided exercises

Engage creatively with language

Experiment with new ideas

Push the boundaries of your own writing

2nd Monday Afternoons, February 9th, 1-3PM @ ShoutHouse (SE Portland)

3rd Wednesday Evenings, February 18th, 6:30-8:30PM @ Knott Street Health Center (NE Portland)

Cost: $25 per workshop, $20 earlybird rate applies when registered one week in advance.

Learn more & register:


Community Announcements from Soapstone by soapstone

622 SE 29th Avenue Portland, OR 97214 USA

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nancy Pearl Interviewed on Authors Road

A bit of whimsey from . . .

Nancy Pearl: Librarian, Author, Book Activist

“So many lives I wish I could have led, . . . that’s why I read, so I can lead those lives. ”

The Authors Road has now completed nearly 50 interviews with writers and experts, and what they all share is a love of reading and the magic of the written word. But this, our 44th interview, is with someone who adds one more passion to the list of reading and writing, and that is her gift for putting people together with the right books at the right time. Perhaps that’s why she is best known as The Librarian, having been chosen as "Fiction Reviewer of the Year" in 1998 and “Librarian of the Year” in 2011 by the Library Journal.

Pearl’s life has orbited around the book in too many ways to count here. She’s worked in bookstores, served as the executive director for the Washington Center for the Book, pioneered the idea of an international program for citywide reading (One City, One Book), taught library sciences, written best-sellers on recommended reading, and appears regularly on public radio discussing books.

Pearl also gave a TEDxTalk called 'Reading with Purpose' during which she introduces readers to her "rule of 50" where she gives permission not to finish a book they aren't enjoying (except in a few cases), and her "pie chart book review." As she says, "Reading should be a pleasure, it should be joy." And she has spent her life connecting readers and writers to find that end.

And if all these achievements aren't enough, in 2003 a company made an action figure based on her, The Librarian. And yes, when you push the button on the back of the five- inch tall figure, her arm raises and a finger crosses her lips reminding us to keep quiet. At the end of this interview, Nancy demonstrates this skill with all the aplomb a true librarian must have.

Read more about Nancy or watch her interview at AuthorsRoad

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soapstone Announcements December 27th

These announcements of events and opportunities of interest to the writing community have been sent to you by Soapstone. Feel free to send them on to your friends and colleagues or to invite them to join the list by signing up at:

For more information about receiving the announcements or sending your own announcement to this list, go to

We never lend or sell our mailing list. If you no longer wish to be on this list, you can unsubscribe by clicking the “unsubscribe” link at the end.





To initiate the new Soapstone program of grants: EVENTS CELEBRATING WOMEN WRITERS, Ellen Goldberg is organizing an International Women’s Day poetry reading, March 8, 4:00-6:00 pm at Taborspace. (Free, open to the public, mark your calendars.)

She is looking for a diversity of many women’s voices to read one or two poems each. Interpret “feminist” however you wish. Submissions will be read anonymously.

If you’re interested in reading your work, please submit one to three poems, with titles, of any length in the body of an email. For extra credit, submit a copy of one feminist poem by a poet-matriarch that has inspired you in your life or work. (Some of these will be read or displayed.)

Email the poems to Include your name and very brief biographical statement including age. Subject line: Submission to Ellen Goldberg.

Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2015


The New Soapstone: Celebrating Women Writers 

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering two new opportunities for readers and writers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Small Grants to an Individual Woman or an Ad Hoc Group of Women

These funds are to support events and study groups celebrating the work of women writers. The application process is simple and the time between applying and notification short. For the first year, Soapstone board members will serve as the grant review committee.

All events and study groups will be open to the public and offered at no charge.

Go to our website for more details:


MRG is on the search for a talented and dynamic woman writer & performer of original theatrical work to perform at Justice within Reach on May 15, 2015. And the application deadline has been extended to 5 p.m. on Monday, January 5th!

The Lilla Jewel Fund for Women Artists provides $2,500 for a social change artist to perform at Justice within Reach on May 15, 2015. Women of color and +$*@# women are especially encouraged to apply.


The 2015 William Stafford Commemorative Events & Activities, and the January Birthday Parties in Honor of Poet William Stafford

This January, as it has done the past 15 Januarys, the Friends of William Stafford celebrates and honors the late Oregon poet and teacher with a variety of programs in venues throughout the Northwest, plus one in Nevada.

These events, known formally as the William Stafford Birthday Commemorative Readings, and informally as the “Stafford Birthday Parties,” local and regional poets and writers, artists and musicians will present a variety of programs.

Free to the public and sponsored by the Friends of William Stafford (FWS), the “birthday parties” will be held in libraries, bookstores, and art galleries, on college campuses, in cafés, churches, and even a correctional facility--wherever appreciative audiences can gather for poetry.

Here is the latest posting of the events:

• January 14, 2015 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Birthday Celebration - West Linn Library, West Linn, OR West Linn Public Library, West Linn, OR

• January 15, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Portland, OR Broadway Books, Portland, OR, Portland, OR

• January 17, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Village Books, Bellingham, WA Village Books, Bellingham, WA

• January 18, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Holy Names Heritage Center, Lake Oswego, OR Holy Names Heritage Center, Lake Oswego, OR, Lake Oswego, Oregon

• January 19, 2015 9:00 am - 10:30 am Birthday Celebration - Nevada Correctional Center, Virginia City, NV Nevada Correctional Center, Virginia City, NV, Carson City, NV

• January 20, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Lake Oswego, OR Lake Oswego Public Library, Lake Oswego, OR

• January 21, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Annie Bloom's Books Annie Blooms Books, Multnomah, OR, Multnomah, OR

• January 22, 2015 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm Birthday Event – Clackamas Community College, Clackamas, OR Clackamas Community College, Oregon City, OR

• January 24, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration - Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, OR Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, OR

• January 25, 2015 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Multnomah Central Library, Portland, OR Multnomah Central Library, Portland, OR

• January 29, 2015 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Birthday Celebration – Hannon Library, SOU, Ashland, OR Hannon Library, SOU, Meese Rom 305, Ashland, OR

Friday, December 26, 2014

Notes on Wild the Memoir and the Movie, by Bill Johnson

I’m always intrigued when a best-selling novel or memoir is turned in to a movie because they are such different mediums. A memoir allows us to share and experience what the author is feeling and thinking (and remembering). A movie shows us what happened, supported by dialogue and some thoughts (via voice over).

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild starts with what in screenwriting is called an inciting incident, her throwing a hiking boot off the Pacific Coast Trail. The memoir has the same incident and more; it offers a context for who Cheryl is, a now bootless orphan in a very bad situation.

Same situation, but the memoir gets to a deeper place about who Cheryl is, that her mother has died, her step-father has left, and her brother has drifted away. She’s an orphan with one choice on the trail, and in life: to keep walking.

The memoir does a better job of pulling readers in to want to know more about Cheryl’s life and how she found herself in this situation and what she’ll do about it. The movie quickly and neatly shows what happens, Cheryl accidently knocking one boot off a cliff, then throwing the other boot after it.

Continuing with the memoir’s chapter one, Cheryl learns her mother is dying. Her mother’s death is a primary cause of how Cheryl ends up on the trail. The movie goes down a different path; it shows what a free spirit the mother is and how much her children love and adore her.

Again, the memoir is more deeply felt about what gets Cheryl to the trail; the movie is more visual about her life with her mother before her fatal illness.

The movie, then, does a great job of showing why the mother’s death would have such an impact on Cheryl, but it also leads the movie to having a slower, more episodic pace as scenes of her childhood are mixed with scenes on the trail. As Cheryl hikes, different situations evoke different memoires of her life.

In terms of storytelling, it’s not that either choice is wrong, just that one (the memoir) gets readers to a deeper place than where the movie takes viewers.

The first chapter of the memoir ends with powerful writing, among the lines... ‘It took me be the woman my mother raised.’

The memoir evokes, step by step, starting from page one, that journey. The movie doesn’t begin that aspect of Cheryl’s journey until the death of her mother.

Returning to the movie, when Cheryl checks in at a motel the night before she begins hiking the trail, the memoir has a pivotal scene. Cheryl has difficulty checking in to the cheap motel because she doesn’t have an address. She’s not going back to where she came from, and she doesn’t know where she’ll end up. This is a lovely metaphor for the situation Cheryl finds herself. The movie, instead, focuses on the hotel clerk insisting that Cheryl will have to pay more for the room if she shares it with anyone (i.e., a boyfriend or a trick).

The memoir gets across something deep and true about Cheryl’s life at that moment, while the movie goes for being clever and witty.

When Cheryl sets out the next day, the movie does quickly and neatly show Cheryl’s alertness about which men appear trustworthy and which are scary and potential predators. And in both the movie and memoir, with some men it’s just not clear if they are a threat until a scene progresses.

Both the movie and the book deal with the breakup of Cheryl’s marriage, but the memoir more clearly puts the break up in the context of Cheryl’s life after her mother’s death. The first third of the movie tends to cross cut between the trail and the marriage ending and the aftermath, when Cheryl turns to drugs and casual sex to ease her pain over her mother’s death.

These Paul scenes in the movie play well, but they also tend to give the marriage and its breakup a more prominent role then they have in the memoir. The memoir does a better job of weaving all these threads into a whole picture of Cheryl’s life then.

Returning to men, and specifically the men Cheryl meets on the trail, the memoir conveys more of her friendly encounters and some on-going contacts based on notes left at stations along the trail. The memoir gets to a deeper place about how magical and charming some of these encounters are (and also strange and disquieting). In the movie we get an encounter with a ranger looking for a sexual conquest, while in the memoir that situation is a continuation of an encounter Cheryl has had with three free-spirited young men.

Another significant difference between the movie and memoir is that the movie suggests a fox Cheryl comes across is a kind of spirit guide or totem that accompanies her on her journey. In the memoir, Cheryl tends to have mostly encounters with rattlesnakes and can sometimes hear but not see larger animals.

Continuing with the movie, it conveys in a heart felt way the immediate aftermath of the death of Cheryl’s mother.

Once the movie gets to that death, the movie has more dramatic tension. The work done previously to established Cheryl’s close bond with her mother now pays off.

In both the movie and memoir, once Cheryl gets past Ashland, the pace of the story picks up significantly.

Having read (and loved) the memoir first, I wasn’t in a position to completely judge the movie on its own merits. I enjoyed the movie but didn’t love it.

How the memoir and movie each set out to tell the same basic story offers a lesson in how a literary work can be reimagined as a movie, and the pitfalls involved.

That said, I don’t envy anyone the job of transforming a popular literary work into a movie. It’s a job fraught with difficultly.


To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, available on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Soapstone List of Literary Annoucements (12/13/2014)

These announcements of events and opportunities of interest to the writing community have been sent to you by Soapstone. Feel free to send them on to your friends and colleagues or to invite them to join the list by signing up at:

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To initiate the new Soapstone program of grants: EVENTS CELEBRATING WOMEN WRITERS, Ellen Goldberg is organizing an International Women’s Day poetry reading, March 8, 4:00-6:00 pm at Taborspace. (Free, open to the public, mark your calendars.)

She is looking for a diversity of many women’s voices to read one or two poems each. Interpret “feminist” however you wish.

If you’re interested in reading your work, please submit one to three poems, with titles, of any length in the body of an email. For extra credit, submit a copy of one feminist poem by a poet-matriarch that has inspired you in your life or work. (Some of these will be read or displayed.) Submissions will be read anonymously.

Email the poems to Include your name and very brief biographical statement including age. Subject line: Submission to Ellen Goldberg.

Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2015


The New Soapstone: Celebrating Women Writers 

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering two new opportunities for readers and writers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Small Grants to an Individual Woman or an Ad Hoc Group of Women

These funds are to support events and study groups celebrating the work of women writers. The application process is simple and the time between applying and notification short. For the first year, Soapstone board members will serve as the grant review committee. All events and study groups will be open to the public and offered at no charge.

Go to our website for more details:


Waterston Desert Writing Prize to Recognize New Perspectives in Desert Literature

New Board Announced, Submission Deadline March 15

The newly created Waterston Desert Writing Prize will annually honor creative and literary nonfiction that illustrates artistic excellence, sensitivity to place, and desert literacy. Inspired by author and poet Ellen Waterston’s love of the high desert of Central Oregon, a region that has been her muse for over 30 years, the Waterston Desert Writing Prize will recognize the vital role deserts play worldwide in the ecosystem and the human narrative. The nonprofit, under the guidance of an eight-member Board of Directors, invites emerging, mid-career or established nonfiction writers to apply. Submissions will be evaluated using a peer review process. For submission guidelines, visit ( Applications will be accepted via Submishmash starting January 1, 2015.

The prize is funded from an endowment managed by the Oregon Community Foundation, with the impetus for the creation of the endowment provided by actor Sam Waterston, after whom the prize is named. As the endowment for the prize grows, so will the annual prize amount. Tax deductible donations to the Waterston Desert Writing Prize can be mailed to PO Box 640, Bend, Oregon 97709.

Submissions will be accepted from January 1 through March 15, 2015 with the inaugural prize awarded in June, 2015. The recipient will receive a $1,000 cash award, a reading and reception at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, and a four-week residency at Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon.

Of the High Desert Museum’s participation, Dana Whitelaw, President, says: “The Museum is delighted to be a part of recognizing award-winning desert writing. It’s a natural extension of our mission to further the awareness of the natural and cultural resources of the High Desert region.”

Deborah Ford, Executive Director of Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon, a residency program for artists and scientists, says, “The Waterston Desert Writing Prize complements our mission to explore the desert from both creative and scientific perspectives. We are honored to supplement the award with a residency at Playa.”

The launching Board of Directors includes: Julia Kennedy Cochran, journalist, rancher, Tumalo, Oregon; Jennifer Delahunty, author, editor, Kenyon College dean, Sisters, Oregon; Louise Hawker, editor, founder Watermark Communications, Bend, Oregon; Ted Haynes, author, Haynes and Company consultants, Sunriver, Oregon; Gail Hill, journalist, Tumalo, Oregon; Dick Linford, author, founder Echo River Trips, Bend, Oregon; Charles McGrath, rancher, founder/CSO Grace Bio-Labs, Bend, Oregon; Jeff Tryens, international consultant, Sisters, Oregon; and Ellen Waterston, author, president Writing Ranch, Bend, Oregon.

For more information about the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, visit, email or call 541.480.3933.


We're happy to announce the 28th annual Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers Faculty & Workshops taking place July 6-12, 2015 at Wallowa Lake. Summer Fishtrap features twelve distinct workshops in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, nature writing, digital storytelling, youth programs, and our eighth Yearlong Workshop.

Generative Writing Workshops

Sherwin Bitsui - Poetry Allison Hedge Coke – Poetry Perrin Kerns & Kim Stafford – Digital Storytelling Tom Kizzia – Prose/Nonfiction Page Lambert – Memoir Craig Lesley – Fiction Jane Vandenburgh – Prose Erika T. Wurth – Fiction Yearlong Workshops Karen Fisher (new by application) Teresa Jordon (continuing) Outpost Workshop Robert Michael Pyle Youth Workshops

Myrlin Hepworth & Tomas Stanton – Spoken Word (ages 14-17) Shelley Toon Lindberg & Katie Basil – Digital Storytelling (ages 10-14)

Keynote Address: Timothy Egan

Closing Address: Winona LaDuke

Registration opens February 24, 2015 at 9am pacific time.

Mark your calendars!

CLICK HERE to learn more about the engaging workshops and fantastic faculty we've assembled for next summer.

The 2015 Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers will celebrate the 100th

anniversary of the birth of one of our founders, Alvin Josephy. Josephy was a marine, a journalist, and an historian. He became deeply interested in the history of Native Americans, especially the Nez Perce whose homeland is here in Wallowa County. Among many books, he edited Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes. Josephy was dedicated to getting the whole story, especially those stories which have been widely ignored or devalued by the general population. In his honor, the 2015 Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers theme is Hidden From History: Stories We Haven’t Heard, Stories We Haven’t Told. 2015 Fishtrap Fellowships

Emerging writers! You still have time to apply for a 2015 Fishtrap Fellowship. Fellowships include advanced registration in a Summer Fishtrap workshop as well as food and lodging for the week plus, mentorship and community that is unique to the Fishtrap experience. CLICK HERE to learn more about Fishtrap's long standing Fellowship program. The deadline to apply is Monday, December 15.


Mountain Writers Series at Concordia University presents a poetry reading

Harold Johnson & Clem Starck Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 12:00 PM George R. White Library and Learning Center, Room 108 Concordia University 
2800 NE Liberty Street, Portland OR 97211

Sponsored by Concordia University Libraries' Art & Culture Program 
and Mountain Writers Series

Free and open to the public Harold Johnson is the author of Citizenship, a book of poems published in 2014 by Many Voices Press (Kalispell, MT). He is a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, graduating with degrees in English and art from the University of Portland and Portland State. For many years, he taught English in high schools, grade schools and colleges. A former editor of Fireweed, his work is featured in many journals and anthologies, most recently New Poets of the American West. Now retired, he has recently completed his first novel. He lives in Portland with his wife, artist-professor Anne Johnson.


Mountain Writers Series at Glyph Cafe

presents an evening of poetry and music featuring

Clem Starck & Friends

Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 7:00 PM
Glyph Cafe & Arts Space • 804 NW Couch • Portland OR 97209 Suggested admission $5

Clem Starck is an award-winning poet who has published five books of poetry and two CD recordings. He is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and the Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His poems have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies. He lives on forty-some acres in the country outside of Dallas, Oregon, in the mid-Willamette Valley. Starck will be joined by noted Fisher Poet Musicians Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, founders of the annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. Together they will perform their unique blend of spare musical accompaniment alongside Starck's engaging poetry that draws on his life as a Merchant Seaman and journeyman carpenter.


Winter 2015 Literary Arts Classes at the Multnomah Arts Center

To register for classes, call (503) 823-3187 or visit the Literary Arts website to read more detailed course descriptions. The Multnomah Arts Center is a part of Portland Parks & Recreation located in the heart of Multnomah Village. We offer affordable classes for all levels of students. Scholarships are available. Contact with questions.

Classes for Adults:

Writing Poetry That Pops with Christopher Luna 1019150 Mon. 1 – 2:30 pm Jan. 12 – Mar. 9 $98 [7 classes

Fiction Writing with Michael Cooper Mondays 7 – 9 pm Jan. 26 – Mar. 16 $120 [7 classes]

Memoir Writing with Rob Freedman Tuesdays 10:00 am - 12:30 pm Jan. 13 – Mar. 10 $180 [9 classes]

Memoir Writing with Aaron Raz Link Wednesdays 7 – 9 pm Jan. 14 – Mar. 4 $136 [8 classes]

Writing Our Lives As Story with Nancy Linnon Wednesdays 1 – 3 pm Jan. 14 – Mar. 4 $136 [8 classes]

Rites of Passage Writing Workshop with Donna Prinzmetal Thursdays 1 – 3 pm Jan. 15 – Feb. 19 $102 [6 classes]

Reading and Writing about Portland with Christine Colasurdo Fridays 10 am – 12 pm Jan. 16 – Mar. 6 $136 [8 classes]

Saturday Workshop: Writing from Art with Judith Pulman Saturday 10 am – 3 pm Jan. 17 $46 [1 class]

Classes for Youth:

Creative Writing Workshop with Amy Minato Tuesdays 4:15 – 5:30 pm Jan. 27 – Feb. 17 $50 [4 classes]


Spring Creek Project

As we head toward the turn of the year, we wanted to give you a heads-up about some very special upcoming events, as we continue our inquiry into the relationships among “Humans and Other Wild Animals.” Events will include a major lecture by award-winning environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, a duet in music and words by Rachelle McCabe and Kathleen Dean Moore, a free writing workshop with author Melissa Hart and a reading by Melissa Hart and Elena Passarello. Mark these on your calendar, and we’ll send more details in January. Until then, our best wishes for deep and peaceful holidays.

Wednesday, January 21, 7:30 pm Corvallis-Benton County Library “Rage, Rage, against the Dying: Global Warming, Extinction, and the Call to Life” A Duet of Music and Words by Rachelle McCabe and Kathleen Dean Moore

Monday, February 2, 7 pm LaSells Stewart Center, Austin Auditorium, OSU Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Sixth Extinction”

Saturday, February 21, 2-5 pm Avery House Nature Center Workshop: “Writing about Animals in the Age of Extinction” with Melissa Hart

Saturday, February 21, 7 pm Corvallis Arts Center Reading by Melissa Hart and Elena Passarello


A night of music, poetry, and multi-media performance

Friday, December 19 7:30 pm (doors at 7:00)

Newspace Center for Photography (back room) 1632 SE 10th Avenue

Open to the public / $5-10 suggested donation

Ian Hatcher is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, programmer, and performer. He lives in Brooklyn. Ian writes and reads poetry inflected with data aesthetics. His book, Prosthesis, will be published by Poor Claudia in 2015. Ian is also the co-author (with Amaranth Borsuk and Kate Durbin) of Abra, a forthcoming artist's book and iOS app supported by an Expanded Artist's Books grant and the Center for Book and Paper Arts. Another app, Vniverse, created with Stephanie Strickland, is available from the App Store. Ian is also an art editor at Drunken Boat, former designer of The Claudius App, and a freelance software developer.

Kaia Sand is the author of A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money that Lost its Puff (Tinfish Press forthcoming); Remember to Wave (Tinfish Press 2010); and interval (Edge Books 2004); and co-author with Jules Boykoff of Landscapes of Dissent (Palm Press 2008). Her text appears in two books in Jim Dine’s Hot Dream series (Steidl Editions 2008). She is a member of PEN American Center and represented on the British Archive of the Now.

Skylar Leaf

Robert Tyree works to empower artists and engage audiences of contemporary performance. Tyree grew into dance between the University of Washington, dancing in clubs and danceWEB at ImPulzTanz (2011). He has performed for a number of choreographers in Portland, Oregon—notably for Tahni Holt. In 2013, Tyree’s collaboration with Romanian poet Andra Rotaru, Lemur, briefly toured the US, Romania and Austria. Tyree is co-director of FRONT, a newspaper devoted to writing from the field of contemporary dance. His own writings on performance have been published online (Performance Club, PICA) and as an indie book (Intensive Dance).


Event Title: Discovery Lecture Series at Oregon State University featuring Cheryl Strayed Event Date: January 15, 2015 Start Time: 7:30 P.M. End Time: 8:30 P.M. Address: 875 SW 26th Street, Corvallis, OR Website: Event Description:

A Wild Life

Cheryl Strayed New York Times Best-selling author

Shattered by her mother's sudden death and the end of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed decided to confront her emotional pain by trekking more than 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. In her best-selling memoir, "Wild," Strayed tells the amateur hiker's tale with grit and humor, peppered with the colorful characters she encounters as she struggles to find inner peace and stability.

Thursday, January 15 7:30 P.M.

LaSells Stewart Center Austin Auditorium FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Book sales and signing by the author to follow.

Accommodations for disabilities may be made by calling 541-737-0724 or


Turnstone Books of Oregon is pleased to announce publication of three new books of poetry by prize-winning poets. We invite you to join us at our release party at the Newport Public Library, 35 NW Nye Street, Newport, on Sunday, January 11, 2015, at 1 p.m. to meet the poets and hear them read from their works. Their books will also be for sale at this event.

Ruth F. Harrison of Waldport presents among the cat tales, illustrated by Anita Sue Andrews. Of this volume Jean Esteve says, “Real poems! About real cats! . . . a charming litter of rhyme, rhythm and whimsy, . . . gorgeous lines, quiet philosophy of acceptance of life’s uninvited surprises, and the extraordinary insight into the heart of the feline Other . . . clearly the work of a mature and accomplished poet.” Harrison is author of three chapbooks and four poetry collections, including her most recent West of 101 and How Singular and Fine.

Sue Parman of Hillsboro will read from The Carnivorous Gaze, according to Brian Doyle, “Thorny, witty, braided and woven and webbed, startling; dark and sweet and sad and funny; lines and passages that will haunt you for days; and behind it all a wry sharp intelligence and large open bruised heart. A terrific read.” Parman’s previous collection is The Thin Monster House from Finishing Line.

Sandra Mason of Seal Rock will share work from Lost and Found. Oregon book award finalist Toni Hanner remarks that these poems “display the poet's deep scholarship and her command of formal constraint, while at the same time they sing a wild love song to the body and the world of nature, jazz, lovers and loved ones. Mason's spirituality is woven through this diverse collection, culminating in the lovely, wry 'Taoist' poems. Her humor is never far from the surface in these poems, leading us easily from loss to light and back to inevitable loss. 'Lost and Found' is an impressive collection.” Mason’s collection of poems based on the Chinese masters, Poems Along the Way, was released in 2012.


NATIONAL NOVEL EDITING MONTH is looking for someone to run social media.

NaNoEdMo is inspired by National Novel Writing Month, and open to anyone writing fiction who wants to make it better. The EdMo challenge is to spend 50 hours over the course of thirty one days editing your writing project.

The event is every year in March, so apply now to get on board the team for this coming year!

We’ll be doing monthly team chats to set goals that build up to the event.

Our goal is to put on a fantastic event, and have a lot of fun doing it. Those of us already on the team are people who’ve been doing EdMo for years now and love it that much.

The social media person is most active leading up to March and during the event itself, but will also help shape what we do and what sites we’ll be active on. You’d be tweeting for EdMo and possibly running a Facebook event. This could be a lot of fun for someone who enjoys sharing, pepping, and connecting with other writers.

Contact Amber at nanoedmo [at] yahoo [dot] com and check out the website at


Last Tuesdays Poetry presents Doug Westberg: January 27, 7pm, Barnes & Noble, Vancouver, WA

Doug Westberg is the featured poet at Last Tuesdays Poetry on January 27. Our events run from 7pm to 8.30pm at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 7700 NE Fourth Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98662.

Westberg will read from his collection Papa Doug's Light Book of Little Verse. This is a collection of funny, often irreverent, verse poems, including limericks, haiku, double dactyls, as well as longer story poems and song lyrics. Westberg is a freelance writer, author, columnist, and recording artist.

As usual, there will be open mic slots that can be claimed on the night. If you want to do one, please rehearse a 2-3 minute presentation.

We will not have a December 2014 event.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Win a Copy of A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Story Is a Promise & the Spirit of Storytelling by Bill Johnson

A Story Is a Promise & the Spirit of Storytelling

by Bill Johnson

Giveaway ends December 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Story as Physical Journey, Notes on Cheryl Strayed's Memoir Wild

by Bill Johnson

Coupling a story to a physical journey is one way to create a clear quality of movement, that underlying dynamic that makes a story 'work.' The stages of the physical journey can correspond to the stages in the story.

Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild is a wonderful example of this kind of storytelling.

Wild starts with a prologue that takes a dramatic scene from deeper within the story, when Cheryl has lost one hiking boot and tosses another off the trail. This raises powerful questions: what brought her to this point, and could she continue the hike, or how could she continue, in this situation?

She also conveys she is alone, a stray; that with her mother's death her step-father withdrew from her life and her siblings drifted away, and she drifted into odd jobs, drugs, and casual sex.

This leads to an answer to why she is on the Pacific Crest Trail: to find herself. This raises the question, will she find herself by finishing the hike? We have to read to the end of the book to find out. Because as a reader I want to know, the prologue has done its job.

The prologue ends with the line that even bootless, Cheryl had one option, "To keep walking." This is also a powerful metaphor for how to live life.

Cheryl then goes to the beginning of the hike, the thoughts that crystallized the idea, the preparation, the packing, the real decision to begin the hike, which makes her realize the hike had another beginning, her mother's death from cancer.

The plot of the memoir - the hike along the trail - now connects to a deeper layer of emotions and understanding.

Many people think of plot as a sequence of events, but those events must be connected to something deeper to have meaning. This is true whether the story is Fellini's 8 ½ or the action film Lethal Weapon. The action of the plot events striking characters puts characters into deeper states of feeling, and the reader gets to experience those states.

But first, Cheryl sets the story and plot into motion together in the prologue. Then, when we want to know more about her, she gives us more, by returning to her life with her dying mother and the exchange:

I did not want to do this, but I did, inexplicable, as if I had a great fever that could be cooled only by those words. I went so far as to ask her directly, "Have I been the best daughter in the world?"

   She said yes, I had, of course.

   But this was not enough. I wanted those words to knit together in my mother's mind and for them to be delivered, fresh to me.

   I was ravenous for love.

This is pure, heartfelt emotion and need.

When her mother dies, Cheryl writes...

I didn't know where I was going until I got there.

   It was a place called the Bridge of the Gods.

Now that we understand something about Cheryl, now we are ready for the hike to begin, at least if Cheryl can check into a motel for a night. Because she doesn't have a home to return to or knowledge of where she'll live when the hike is over, this moment of trying to check into the cheap hotel reflects something deeper about Cheryl's situation in this world. By not having/owning/nesting some place, she's free to chart her own course.

Most worldly people surround themselves with things (job, home, spouse, child) and feel rooted to this world, or, in some cases, stuck, bound to a life half-lived out of duty and half lived out of fear.

At this moment, Cheryl thinks back to her marriage with Paul, again matching the journey to emotions.

This chapter ends with, 'I only knew that it was time to go, so I opened the door and stepped into the light.'

The use of the word light here echoes with that understanding of dying and going into the light. Cheryl is giving birth to a new life for herself. She's not withholding the purpose of the trip, she's setting it out with bold, lucid clarity, so her readers can share the moment and the journey. Struggling writers can't escape the flawed idea that storytelling is about withholding information, instead of being about revealing information that allows readers to share a story's journey.

The physical journey onto the trail in Wild is announced as Part Two of the book. It has a comical beginning, with Cheryl at first unable to get her heavily loaded backpack hefted onto her shoulders. The natural metaphor is of the heavy baggage we all carry, but in Cheryl's case, she's aware of the weight of her baggage for the first time.

When she needs to get the pack on again and a young man offers to help, she turns him down. The Cheryl before the trail probably would have been glad for the help. It's subtle, but it defines how her character is changing even in the opening moments of the journey.

Within an hour, her mind is telling her to give up, but Cheryl had made a deal with herself:

'I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I choose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me."

A powerful realization, and because she's using it in a situation that would seem to be overwhelming, it has a powerful impact. But she still has to prove out this new identity by finishing the journey.

Getting through to her first night on the trail, Cheryl reads a poem over and over again, 'Power.'

On this second day, she comes to the realization, 'I was in entirely new terrain.'

Now she experiences the reality of a mountain and as the days mount, she comes to understand after an encounter with a bull, '...was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay.'

So she walks on, choosing to go forward, not back, into this new life that will not be numbed down.

If Cheryl had taken the path of writing one chapter in the present and then one in the past, she would have needed to find another way to create the same powerful fusion of story and plot and physical journey. For some struggling writers the underlying problem is they want to use writing about the past as a way to explain or introduce their story, plot, and main character, before setting their story into motion. It risks making the beginning of a story a recitation of details of events and situations and people, without giving a reader a context or a reader to care or feel invested in what happens next.

As she continues the hike, Cheryl finds herself in a now awareness. 'I saw no one, but, strange as it was, I missed no one.'

She experiencing life in her own skin, not as an on-going reaction to others that is constantly mulled over and dissected into dust, until the next anxiety train pulls into the station.

As she continues on the trail, Cheryl begins to hear about the snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and she meets an experienced hiker who tells her it might not be possible to get through the snow-covered trail. That gives her pause, but his belief that she's doing fine also lifts her spirits. Now she has a new mantra at night:

Who is tougher than me? No one.

The sadness for most people, they have a different answer.

As she continues, Cheryl realizes she can bear the unbearable. She continues...

'I had only just begun. I was three weeks into my hike, but everything in me felt altered. I lay in the water as long as I could without breathing, alone in a strange new land, while the actual world all around me hummed on.'

Going through a period of hot sun and lack of water, she appreciates the unending depths of pleasure in drinking a Snapple.

Facing hiking a section of the trail with now too small boots and only sandals, she must 'ride into battle like a warrior' to get through the next section of trail and the new boots waiting for her.

Here we catch up to the prologue, when losing one boot, she throws the other after it. Now she must finish this portion of the hike in sandals that are held together with duct tape.

In a clear cut forest, she sees a metaphor for the destruction of her family after her mother's death. And half way through her hike, she realizes she's had so many amazing experiences, she no longer need feel amazed that her step father abandoned her when her mother died.

'There were so many other amazing things in the world.

'They opened up inside me like a river...I laughed with the joy of it.'

'I felt fierce and humble and gathered up inside, like I was safe in this world, too.'

She is transforming, and she writes in a way that allows us to share the moment.

The memoir continues, the hike now moving into Oregon, stopping in Ashland, then back on the trail.

Now, she confronts her feelings about her mother, who kept her and her siblings isolated from others, who died before Cheryl could grow up and feel distant to her, to share her failings with friends. Until she realizes, her mother had always given her all the love she had to offer; and Cheryl begins to heal inside.

Now the story picks up pace, and she writes about hiking through Oregon, 'I skipped it, I spun it, leapt it in my imagination...'

As she nears the end of the trail for her, sleeping in a futon with three young man, she realizes, 'For once I didn't ache for companionship. For once the phrase woman with a hole in her heart didn't thunder through my brain.'

As the hike comes to an end, she is now ready to release the final weight she carries on the trail, the burden of her memory of her mother.

Now at the end of her journey, she thinks to the universe, 'Thank you,' and, 'it was enough to trust that what I'd done was true.'

Wild, a powerful, powerful work, deserving of its acclaim.


To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, books, and plays, check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise, available on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.