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10 Essential Events at Wordstock 2010


With the first events of Wordstock 2010 about to begin at the end of this week, people are sitting down with their event schedules and beginning to make some difficult choices between readings, talks, and workshops. As usual, you will wish you could go to everything, but with so many worthwhile events packed into just a few days, you’ll want to plan ahead. The list of authors and events can seem a little daunting, especially if you don’t recognize many of the names, so I’ve put together this list of five readings and five “other” events I think are especially worth your consideration:

1. International Writers Project—Friday, October 1st, 6:30 pm. Pacific Northwest College of Art, Swigert Commons.
This reading by writers from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program presents a rare opportunity to hear visiting writers from South Africa, Guatemala, Iran, England, and China. It isn’t just that this sort of thing doesn’t happen everyday, it almost never happens at all. With nothing competing against it on the schedule, this should be the first event you commit to this year.

2. From the Front Lines—Saturday, October 9th, 11:00 am. McMenamins Stage, Oregon Convention Center.
A conversation with Matt Bors, Tatjana Soli, and Kilong Ung, moderated by Tim DuRoche, about wartime stories. I can’t think of a subject or genre where the stakes are higher to “make it new,” so to speak.

3. Why Write Short?—Saturday, October 9th, 12:00 pm. Columbia Sportswear Stage, OCC.
A conversation with short-story writers Anthony Doerr, David Vann, and Aimee Bender, moderated by Meg Storey of Tin House Books. A conversation about a, perhaps, under-appreciated form, including Aimee Bender, one of the form’s best contemporary practitioners and one of the standouts at this year’s festival.

4. Aimee Bender & Lan Samantha Chang—Saturday, October 9th, 1:00 pm. Powell’s Books Stage, OCC.
Your second chance to see Aimee Bender at Wordstock 2010, this time reading her work. Bender reads her work as well as she writes it, so do not miss this chance to see her in person. And, she’ll be sharing the stage with Lan Samantha Chang, a novelist and short-story writer, and the first female director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

5.  People that aren’t Jonathan Lethem—Saturday, October 9th, 3:00 pm.
This might be the most difficult time in the entire schedule at Wordstock to decide where to go. And I’ve got nothing against Jonathan Lethem, really, but (stay with me, now) I think you could do better by seeing some of the other writers that will be reading at the same time. You could see poets Kim Dower & Christopher Howell (Mountain Writers Series Stage #2), or fiction and nonfiction writers Steve Almond & Kristin Hersh (Columbia Sportswear Stage), or poets Susan Rich & Kelli Russell Agodon (Mountain Writers Series Stage #1). Christopher Howell’s poems would be worth missing Lethem for alone; Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich reading together could easily be a “headlining” act; you will never forget seeing Steve Almond read (but do not bring your grandmother—learn from me). Trust me, Jonathan Lethem’s going to do just fine without you.

6. The Fifth Annual Text Ball, presented by the Independent Publishing Resource Center—Saturday, October 9th, 7:00 pm. p:ear gallery.
The theme for this year’s Text Ball is “Text Appeal.” Read about it here.

7. The Future of Reading—Sunday, October 10th, 11:00 am. Powell’s Books Stage, OCC.
A National Book Critics Circle conversation with Matthew Stadler, Michael Schaub, and David Biespiel. In a city full of readers, what could be closer to home than this issue?

8. Jess Walter—Sunday, October 10th, 1:00 pm. Powell’s Books Stage, OCC.
Jess Walter is a talented writer and a great reader. He is the author of five novels and two books of nonfiction, most recently the novel The Financial Lives of the Poets.

9. Cracking Up is Hard to Do—Sunday, October 10th, 2:00 pm. McMenamins Stage, OCC.
A conversation with Steve Almond, Jess Walter, and Paul Provenza, moderated by Courtenay Hameister, about writing humor, one of the most difficult things to do as a writer. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in writing to make people laugh, with some of the funniest writers working today in this conversation, it’s going to be worth listening to them.

10. Myla Goldberg—Sunday, October 10th, 3:00 pm. Columbia Sportswear Stage, OCC.
A writer whose name keeps showing up in reviews and recommendations, Myla Goldberg is the author of three novels (including Bee Season) and one book of essays. Her newest novel, The False Friend, will be released only five days before her reading.

You can see the entire schedule for Wordstock 2010 and buy your tickets on the Wordstock Festival website.