PNBA's Authors on the Map Breakfast
Oregonian novelist Willy Vlautin (The Night Always Comes) introduced 10 emerging Northwest writers at the Authors on the Map breakfast, a new-author spotlight feature of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show for more than 20 years. "We all know the best readers and writers and bookstores all live here in the Northwest," he said, eliciting several prideful whoops from the early morning crowd.
Themes of renewal after loss and preservation of invaluable history emerged swiftly. Portland author Thea Prieto spoke about her debut novel, From the Caves (Red Hen Press), which follows four people banding together against environmental catastrophe in a PNW devastated by wildfires, drought, extreme heat and a toxic ocean. They tell each other stories to survive the "dark sickness," in an oral tradition evolved to describe origins and endings at the same time.
Seattle author Arnée Flores, too, believes in the power of stories and books to give hope for the future. The Firebird Song (Bloomsbury Children's) is her middle-grade fantasy about a kingdom in crisis, and the boy and the princess-in-hiding who set out to save it. Flores gave the analogy of what one chooses to save in a housefire, and how it demonstrates a person's core value. "It's not just an object, it's a symbol of hope."
Laurie Easter is an author living off the grid in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon, and her non-linear memoir All the Leavings (Oregon State University Press) features essays about her rugged lifestyle, but also about illness, addiction and how one grapples with loss. She observed "how things have shifted, we've left behind this other way of being, now we're trying to find our way through a new way of being."
In Kirkland, Wash., author Leanne Hatch's picture book Unraveled (Margaret Ferguson Books/Random House), a boy's baby blanket is coming undone, forcing him to make a big boy decision. His mama, however, has a more difficult time with this decision, so she comes up with an idea of how to take old things with them in new ways.
Portland author Juhea Kim described her novel, Beasts of a Little Land (Ecco), as an "epic story of love, war and redemption set against the backdrop of early 20th century Korea." It's inspired in part by her maternal grandfather, as well as Korean folktales she heard growing up. The "disparate elements of my own family history and the Korean folktales all came together" as a "fateful encounter between people."
|Front row, l. to r.: Lara Kaminoff, Margot Wood, Waka T. Brown, Thea Prieto. Back row, l. to r.: Laurie Easter, Willy Vlautin, Arnée Flores, Leanne Hatch, Juhea Kim, Sasha LaPointe, Michael Herzog|
Sasha LaPointe, a Coast Salish writer from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit tribes who lives in Tacoma, also takes inspiration from ancestors in her memoir, Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk (Counterpoint). She opened with a greeting in her traditional language. "When I meet people, I want the first words they hear from my mouth to be in my ancestor's language." The book is "an active ritual of healing" for her, and a reminder for others "that Coast Salish folks do in fact exist. And we're thriving, and we're telling our stories. We're making films and art, singing in punk bands. This book... is for everyone who hears the word Native and thinks of something in the past."
Portland author Margot Wood recasts anecdotes from her own past, as well as Jane Austen's classic Emma, for her debut YA novel, Fresh (Amulet Books). She wanted to write "something fun and wild and exuberant. Something that would have turned 18-year-old me--that girl that never read anything--into a reader."
And speaking of wild and exuberant, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales have been updated and completed by Gonzaga professor and longtime Chaucer scholar Michael Herzog in Pilgrimage: The Completed Canterbury Tales (Will Dreamly Arts). He translated the Middle English poetry into accessible modern English prose, attempting to make it enjoyable and readable for modern readers while also being faithful to the original.
The wild fun continued as Seattle cartoonist and Elliott Bay Book Co. bookseller Lara Kaminoff presented the audience with How to Pick a Fight (Nobrow), an all-ages graphic novel about a troublemaker named Jimmy Ruckus who wants to make a name for himself in the world. "I have quite a lot in common with Jimmy Ruckus," Kaminoff said. "We both have pretty chaotic, energetic personalities." In promoting the book, she admits to have gotten carried away with herself, having built a prop of Jimmy's head, which she donned before walking offstage.
To close, Portland author Waka T. Brown discussed her second middle-grade book, Dream, Annie, Dream (Quill Tree Books), about a Japanese American girl cast in a middle school production of The King & I during the late 1980s. It was inspired by her own experiences of what it felt like to be one of the only Japanese Americans growing up in Kansas, with media representation being both sparse and problematic, and with the myth of the model minority on the rise. "My hope is that through Annie's experiences... I'm able to represent the breadth of Asian American backgrounds, cultures and dreams, in a hopefully relatable, sometimes funny and heartfelt way." --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness