Stories of Setting, Characters of Place: Writing from the West—America's geographical frontier may be a topic of the past, but the West


Best of the Fest


Stories of Setting, Characters of Place: Writing from the West—America's geographical frontier may be a topic of the past, but the West and the fiction it influences continue to provoke discussion. Moderator Lesley Kaplan speaks on the subject with four literary pioneers whose work is both a product and a portrait of our country's western territory. Matt Briggs' debut novel The Remains of River Names maps one family's dissolution in the Snoqualmie Valley. Carlene Cross explores the strength of community in The Undying West, a collection of stories concerning inhabitants of the Camas Prairie. Kevin Canty's novel Nine Below Zero follows one couple's struggle to survive the wilds of Montana. And in Gregory Martin's memoir Mountain City, residents of a tiny Nevada town convey the importance of home. University Book Store Carver Stage, 10:15-11:30am.—D.M.

To Slam or Not to Slam: Poetry in Private and Public—So what if poetry doesn't sell? Members of Seattle's spoken-word community give the poetry-unfriendly publishing industry the big finger as they remark on the power of poetry and how public performances can mold an audience's personal tastes. Seattle Poetry Slam organizer Allison Durazzi moderates this fierce group of talent, which includes crowd-swaying poet and writing instructor Tara Hardy; Hop Hopkins, an organizer of the renowned hip-hop/spoken-word group Basement Nation; and Rachel Kessler, founding member of that three-woman poetry-production machine, Typing Explosion. Beard Stage, 10:15-11:30am.—D.M.

Ha Jin: Simple Stories—Despite Ha Jin's status as a major player in the literary world—his last novel, Waiting, won the National Book Award—the author knows it's the minor things that matter. Details speak volumes in The Bridegroom, Jin's new collection of 12 short stories concerning a China warming up to the West. Whether he's describing the employees of Cowboy Chicken, an American chain that causes a stir in Muji City, or discussing a bridegroom whose exposed homosexuality is interpreted as part of "Western capitalism and bourgeois lifestyle," Jin writes simple, compact stories that communicate the complexities of life. He speaks to Seattle Times arts editor Doug Kim. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, noon-1pm.—D.M.

From Suburbia to Subculture: Boys' Stories—Boys will be boys, and what boys they will be: In Kief Hillsbery's debut novel War Boy, a 14-year-old black deaf mute named Radboy flees a murderous father to SF, where he and his "kweer" pal Johnnyboy hang with a gay skinhead, speed-freak boyfriends, and a terrorist nurse. K.M. Soehnlein's first novel, The World of Normal Boys, tells the story of Robin MacKenzie, a gay 13-year-old exploring his sexuality in the suburban wasteland that is '70s New Jersey. Mark White, editor-in-chief of, speaks with the authors about their protagonists' search for family against all odds. Hall Stage, 12:15-1:15pm.—D.M.

Why Poetry?—Since sales of poetry books are ever so low, this panel discussion could be renamed "Why bother?" In the spirit of a shared artistic pursuit, however, that would be defeatist. Appearing here to reaffirm the validity of this ancient and often theoretical craft are Sherman Alexie (remember, he writes poems, too), poet and Open Books: A Poem Emporium's Christine Deavel, Eleventh Hour Productions and Seattle Poetry Festival honcho Bob Redmond, and poetry publisher Jenny Van West. Copper Canyon Press' marketing director Joseph Bednarik moderates what will be an entertaining group hug for the poet and his/her dream. Publishing Beard Stage, 1-2:15pm.—E.B.R.

Frederick Busch—Dubbed "a first-rate American storyteller" by The New York Times, Frederick Busch returns to the short-story format after receiving much praise for his last novel, Girls. His latest, Don't Tell Anyone, consists of 16 stories and a novella. Once again, Busch writes on family relations, memory, and (mis)communication, employing poignant prose that spans the range of emotion. He discusses the craft of fiction writing with Nancy Pearl, executive director of Washington Center for the Book. University Book Store Carver Stage, 1:15-2:15pm.—D.M.

Talk to Me: The Craft of Writing Dialogue—Mark Twain did it. Frank McCourt did it. And so can y'all. The task of writin' the way folks sound ain't so durned easy as ye thinks, but then you're in for a scintillatin' dialogue among local novelists Bharti Kirschner (moderator and author of Sharmila's Book) and Tom Orton (The Lost Plates of Wilfred Ng), literary agent Elizabeth Wales, and freelance editor Phyllis Hatfield. Cuz ye don't wanna be stuck in this here mud with me and my inner voices. Git yerself there! Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 1:15-2:30pm.—E.B.R.

Ana Castillo—Because sometimes it's just fine to have a one-on-one session in the midst of panel-mania, this one is sure to draw the uninitiated and die-hard Castillo fans alike. The five-time novelist sits down with Seattle Times writer Misha Berson. Castillo talks about cultural and physical identity as explored in her latest novel, Peel My Love Like an Onion (now in paperback). Carmen, the book's heroine, is a dancer and a cripple ("La Coja"), a lover and a victim. Castillo touches upon this memorable character's struggles and triumphs. I wouldn't be surprised if we get a lot more than this, so fasten those seat belts. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, 1:30-2:30pm.—E.B.R.

Peter Gillman—What compelled super-climber George Mallory to attempt the summit of Everest? "Because it was there," of course. So why is author Peter Gillman (The Wildest Dream, coauthored with his wife, Leni Gillman) at this year's Bookfest? More than likely he'll be offering up details about this mythological outdoorsman that we never knew before. Culled from Mallory's private letters and interviews with family members, The Wildest Dream focuses on the life of the athletic Cambridge grad with a knack for shimmying up trees, rather than the mysteries behind his untimely death at 38 years of age. Gillman's on his own here, so show him you care by having those questions ready. Qwest Maclean Stage, 1:30-2:45pm.—E.B.R.

The Passage to India: Past, Present, and Future—"India repressed and backward, America creative and advanced." Such was Pramila Jayapal's view during her childhood in America. In her travel memoir Pilgrimage, Jayapal reflects on her early rejection of her Indian heritage, her uninspiring investment banking and marketing job in Seattle, and her eventual two-year journey to India, where she both accepted and questioned her homeland. In Motiba's Tattoos: A Granddaughter's Journey into her Indian Family's Past, the New York City- and Portland-based Mira Kamdar also unearths her roots, tracing her family's history from her grandmother's birth in 1908 rural India to her own childhood on the 1960s American West Coast. With moderator Dawn Beckley, the two authors discuss India, its advantages and shortcomings, and its effects on identity. Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 2:45-3:45pm.—D.M.

Alan Lightman—The author of Einstein's Dreams brings his new allegorical novel The Diagnosis to town, scaring the bejesus out of us in the process. A Boston businessman forgets where he's headed on the train, recovers slightly, then falls victim to a mysterious paralysis that causes him to further deteriorate. And, like any contemporary family, his wife finds love online and his son hacks his way into a Web site about Plato. A riff on the information age, Lightman formulates an off-kilter sense of reality that reverberates with darker truths about our society. Have a listen. KUOW's Patricia Murphy sits down with the Kafka of the new millennium. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, 3-4pm.—E.B.R.

Flying High: Women Aviators Above, and Below, the Clouds—This just sounds like a fun one. Even if you hate to fly, hate those smaller seats and aisles and skimpy snacks, you'll have no problem living vicariously through women who thrill to the rush of being airborne. University Book Store's Kim Ricketts talks with biographers Susan Hertog and Lauren Kessler, both of whom focus their attention on ladies who take off and land. Hertog's book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, casts a glance into the life of a devoted pilot and mother, while Kessler hones in on the colorful Florence "Pancho" Barnes (The Happy Bottom Riding Club). Qwest Maclean Stage, 3-4pm.—E.B.R.

Alan Kaufman—The poet shares Jew Boy, a memoir that recalls the scars and smiles of one man's rather eventful life. Born in the Bronx to a Holocaust survivor, Kaufman suffered through years of his mother's physical abuse until, inspired by the Beats, he set off on his own. He hitchhiked, lived in a kibbutz, served in the Israeli army, wandered NYC as a homeless alcoholic, and, in San Francisco, eventually discovered poetry, sobriety, and his identity as a Jew. Seattle Weekly contributor Michael Hood joins the author for his reminiscence. Hall Stage, 3-4pm.—D.M.

Survival of the Hippest: Guides for the Modern Woman—Women, wimmin, and more womyn are sharing their secrets for the benefit of sistahs everywhere. Take Anna Johnson, who's written for multiple Vogues and now lifts up her Three Black Skirts, a survival tome in which she reveals everything from surefire stain-removers to clothes-shopping strategies and healthy habits. Ariel Gore, the hippest mama that ever was, talks about motherhood and the modern woman in her playfully insightful The Mother Trip (hey, even moms can have wild sex!), and Seattle writers Traci Vogel and Novella Carpenter convince us that living here under our rain-sodden skies isn't all that bad in Don't Jump! The Northwest Winter Blues Survival Guide. Chelsea Cain, a survivor of her countercultural upbringing (as chronicled in her memoir Wild Child), moderates this femme forum. University Book Store Carver Stage, 3:45-5pm.—E.B.R.

City Limits: Writing the Urban Mystery—What better place to set your mystery story than Seattle? It's dark, misty, cloudy, damp, dank, slippery, rain-streaked, foggy, chilly, gray, blurry, and just plain mysterious. But it's also a gritty urban setting, complete with cops on bikes, trash-filled alleys, a bustling port, and incessant ferry horns. Seattle Magazine's managing editor J. Kingston Pierce pieces together the elements required for a good big-city mystery by interrogating mystery authors Jan Burke (Bones), Janet Dawson (A Killing at the Track), Judith Smith-Levin (Green Money), and Andrew Vachss (Dead and Gone). Hall Stage, 4:15-5:30pm.—E.B.R.


Charles Johnson: A Hero's Journey—In Johnson's latest work King, the UW creative writing professor and author of the groundbreaking Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery maps the journey of one more man, the monumental Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In this photobiography Johnson's text accompanies telling photographs of the civil rights leader's life, from King the spiritual leader addressing his congregation during a bus boycott to King the father strapping sandals on his young daughter's feet. Seattle Times editor Mindy Cameron joins Johnson for a glance at this progressive man's life. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, 10:30-11:30am.—D.M.

New Paths for Old Journeys: Modern Day Explorers—Forget Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and that Captain Vancouver for a second. A new breed of explorer is charting the territory between extreme experience and philosophical awareness. Seems like the main prerequisites are 1) a waterproof laptop and 2) physical stamina. Librarian and moderator Betsy Lewis chats with some recent writer-adventurers: Kayaker Todd Balf recounts his saga of paddling through a remote gorge in Tibet in The Last River; Norma Cobb shares her stories of survival from her stint living in an Arctic Homestead; Benjamin Long traces the Lewis and Clark Trail in Backtracking; and Robert Sullivan accompanies the Makah for A Whale Hunt. University Book Store Carver Stage, 10:15-11:30am.—E.B.R.

Life Lines: The Language of Survival—Out of grief comes strength. And, in the case of these authors, so do stunning and revelatory accounts of each one's journey back to the world and its possibilities. At age 19, Judith Barrington's parents drown while on a family vacation, leaving her to cope with their sudden absence and her transition to adulthood. She writes about this difficult period in her memoir Lifesaving. Gregory Gibson, too, emerges from tragedy to reclaim his life, as told in Gone Boy, the investigation Gibson undertook following his 18-year-old son's murder at the hands of a high school classmate. Katherine Russell Rich recounts her decade-long battle with breast cancer in The Red Devil, proving that a woman's greatest fear is sometimes best met with your head held high and your sense of self intact. Northwest Bookfest president Virginia Felton moderates. Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 10:30-11:45am.—E.B.R.

Maria Coffey—Coffey is a survivor in the worst possible sense. Involvement with world-class British mountaineer Joe Tasker meant having to accept his passion for dangerous ascents and uncertain climbing conditions. It meant saying goodbye as if it might be for the last time, whenever he pursued his passion. When Joe didn't return from his 1982 Everest attempt, the devastation of being left behind while knowing Tasker died attempting to fulfill his dream complicated Coffey's sense of loss. In her book Fragile Edge she deals with the grief process and explains how she ended up visiting the country from which Tasker never returned. Coffey sits down with Peter Potterfield. Qwest Maclean Stage, 10:45-11:45am.—E.B.R.

From Bra-Burning to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Defining the Millennium Heroine—A single working mother, an edgy individual, a woman who falls for a carjacker. . . . Chances are these modern romance heroines want more out of life than a bare-chested Fabio and a box of bon-bons. The creators of these characters discuss today's romance heroine, a woman who just might be less a product of fantasy, and more a product of culture. Moderator Carla Neggers (The Waterfall), Katherine Garbera (Her Baby's Father), Lisa Jackson (If She Only Knew), Ann Major (Inseparable), and Terese Ramin (A Drive-by Wedding) articulate. Hall Stage, 10:45am-noon.—D.M.

Who's In Charge? The Changing Forces Behind Contemporary Culture—Despite a booming economy, dot-com mania, apparent gender equality, and a Starbucks on every corner, not all are content in the American Empire. Moderator Alene Moris channels three voices of dissent. In cyberculture expert and former Wired writer Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech, the author scrutinizes the high-tech world under a less-than-flattering light, describing the industry as "violently lacking in compassion, ravingly anti-government, and tremendously opposed to regulation." Literary agent Brenda Feigen's memoir Not One of the Boys recounts her remarkable past: cofounding the National Women's Political Caucus and Ms. with Gloria Steinem; working with Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project; running for political office in New York; and making movies in Hollywood. In Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson's The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, the two authors point to 13 years of research studies to prove that a large chunk of the US population actually gives a hoot about environmentalism, peace, social justice, spirituality, and self-expression. Qwest Maclean Stage, noon-1:15pm.—D.M.

Mark Salzman—From China (Iron and Silk) to suburbia (Lost in Place), Salzman has surveyed the way people inhabit their particular culture and make sense of their environment. His latest, the novel Lying Awake, tells the story of a Carmelite nun in Los Angeles who's simultaneously suffering and rejoicing from severe headaches. During these episodes she receives holy visions that sustain and inspire her, but when they're diagnosed as seizures, she stands at the familiar intersection of science and religion. Washington Center for the Book director Nancy Pearl discusses the implications of salvation and healing with Salzman. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, 1:30-2:30pm.—E.B.R.

Being There: Making History Come Alive—A group of local talent meets to discuss the craft of making artifice seem real. Moderator Jana Harris is the author of The Pearl of Ruby City, a novel about a Manhattanite who moves to a Washington state mining town in 1893. Charles Johnson's text accompanies a collection of photographs in King, a photobiography about Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (see above). Like much of her other fiction, Laura Kalpakian's short-story collection, The Delinquent Virgin, concerns the occupants of St. Elmo, California. Hot off the press, Shelby Scates' War and Politics by Other Means: A Journalist's Memoir offers a glimpse inside the professional writer's life. Learn about the pleasures and pitfalls of recreating history and turning fact into fiction at Qwest Maclean Stage, 1:30-2:45pm.—D.M.

Natural Causes: When the Environment is the Fire in Your Heart and Pen—Nature writing comes in all forms, but these authors infuse their multiple perspectives and contribute to a greater understanding of our surroundings—while constantly surprising the reader in the process. Tim Egan's destined-to-be-a-classic Lasso the Wind contemplates the entity that is the West, its landscapes and its symbolic power; Mike Gauthier's Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide penetrates our regional landmark; Nick Jans revels in the Alaskan wilderness in Tracks of the Unseen; and Brenda Peterson further explicates her relationship to our local landscapes in Singing to the Sound. Skye Kathleen Moody (Habitat) gets all these folks to come in from the outdoors and talk about nurturing nature through the craft of writing. Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 1:30-2:45pm.—E.B.R.

The Wide World of Publishing on the Web—Less expensive than print publishing, offering a speedy turnaround for writers' work, and reaching the whole damn planet in the blink of an eye, Web publishing could very well be to print publishing what the computer was to the typewriter: a quick, painless death. Technophobes and naysayers should attend this event, at which moderator Muriel Dance, director of the UW Extension Writers' Programs, joins Amy Carroll of eMerging Technologies, freelance writer Michelle Goodman, Kathy Ice of Alexandria Digital Literature, and Charlene Minn of Xlibris to explore such Web-related publishing issues as marketing, self-publishing, and finding content-writing work. HomeStreet Bank McCarthy Stage, 1:30-2:45pm.—D.M.

Take Me To Your Leader: Authors and Their Mentors—You may not realize whom they are at first. It took me a few years until, in a creative writing class, I found myself drawing a chart on the chalkboard for fellow students, sharing how a guide (writer) has to deliver his companions (readers) through an enchanted forest (short story) without going down too many dead-end paths (unnecessary tangents). Chalk connected to blackboard, I remembered who first told me about that enchanted forest. Moderator Shawn Wong (American Knees) and panelists Rebecca Brown (The Dogs), Allison Green (Half-Moon Scar), Teri Hein (Atomic Farmgirl), and Terry Tempest Williams (Leap) swap similar memories related to the people who helped them hone their writing skills. Qwest Maclean Stage, 3-4:15pm.—D.M.

Adam Gopnik—We've pored over his cushy life in The New Yorker, in his "Paris Journal" installments. What a life—Paris, writing, culture, cuisine, and all that is mythological and wonderful about the Continent. He's there, living it, chronicling it. And are we jealous? You bet! KUOW's Steve Scher sits down with the man whose new book, From Paris to the Moon, captures his conversations with famous chefs and intellectuals and also focuses on his family and baby son and the adjustments they've undergone to live abroad. As he tells it, there's a lot more to living in the City of Light than getting lost in the Luxembourg Gardens. But hey, we're still jealous. Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 3-4pm.—E.B.R.

The Legacy of Race: Our National Obsession—Two authors grapple with racial issues in two very different books. Scott L. Malcomson writes an authoritative history of race in America in Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race. Longtime crime journalist Jack Olsen tells a story of oppression in Last Man Standing, in which a Black Panther gets a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. Bill Radke, of KUOW and "Rewind" fame, might just get serious about this. University Book Store Carver Stage, 3:45-4:45pm.—E.B.R.

Living the Dream: Doing What You Love and Getting Paid to Write About It—Just imagine making a living off of watching movies, reading novels, listening to CDs, eating fine foods, and traveling, and then writing about those activities. . . . Could the job be as good as it sounds? Find out when moderator Deb Levine (The Joy of Cybersex) speaks with former Publishers Weekly book reviewer and novelist Patty Friedmann (Odds), Seattle Magazine food editor Cynthia Nims, and The New York Times rock critic Ann Powers (Weird Like Us) about the joys—and sorrows?—of cultural criticism. Barnes & Noble Stafford Stage, 4:15-5:30pm.—D.M.

Jane Hamilton—As if The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World weren't enough, Hamilton had to push her talent further. In her latest novel, Disobedience, she gets inside the head of a 17-year-old boy who discovers that his mother is having an affair. Choosing whether to keep the secret, and his family intact, the tension rises. A writer who above all captures the family in all its glorious and tenuous circumstances, Hamilton talks shop with Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur. Seattle Times Hugo Stage, 4:30-5:30pm.—E.B.R.

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