This past year flourished with artist interviews, book releases, festivals, premieres, and a myriad of author readings. On the tail of our societal emergence from the shutdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic, Oregonians came together to experience the full-scale gatherings and events that make our literary community so special.
In March, I had the opportunity to speak with poet and Soapstone Bread and Roses Award recipient Carla Perry about writing, nature, and a life spent on the road. I then chatted with author Sara A. Mueller about her debut Gothic novel The Bone Orchard, released by MacMillan. Also that month, I had the pleasure of talking with 2022 Oregon Book Award finalist Jessica Mehta about poetry, her love of Sylvia Plath, and what it takes for her to maintain such a disciplined and rigorous working schedule.
2022: THE CULTURAL YEAR IN REVIEW
During the summer Dao Strom, winner of the 2022 Oregon Book Award for Poetry, spoke with me about her writing process, perspectives, and hybrid poetry work Instrument; and another Oregon Book Award nominee, poet Irene Cooper, talked with me about research, rejection, and releasing the bounds of genre.
When it came to book releases, 2022 did not disappoint. I met for a coffee with Shawn Levy to discuss his newest Penguin Random House release about the history of female comedians, In on the Joke, and discussed climate change and youth activism with the author of the children’s book Count on Us!, Gabi Snyder. Poet and illustrator Leanne Grabel’s 2022 Brontosaurus Illustrated took on issues of rape and perseverance, while the late Katherine Dunn’s Toad finally saw publication nearly 50 years after its completion. When I talked with Dunn’s son, Eli Dapolonia, about what the release would have meant to his mother, he called it a redemption and said that he hopes his efforts would have made her proud after the book’s initial painful rejections.
In addition to getting (performatively) ghosted by Allie Hankins in By My Own Hand, Part 1: Ghosting and transported to the Italian countryside by the meditative realism-filled films of the Portland Dance Film Fest, I attended and was inspired by the sheer volume of presenters, including George Saunders and CJ Evans, at this year’s Portland Book Festival, presented by Literary Arts.
In August, the Portland literary community was saddened by the loss of Julie Mancini, founder of Writers in the Schools and former Literary Arts leader, who passed at the age of 73 after a battle with lung cancer.
“Julie was a force of nature,” Literary Arts’ Executive Director Andrew Proctor wrote on the group’s website. “She was smart and wry and funny and caring and pretty much unstoppable. She was radically creative. I feel incredibly fortunate to have known her, and feel the force of her professional accomplishments every day as I continue her work.”
Toward the end of the year, my profile on Portland area artist and children’s book author Maggie Rudy featured our chat in her charming forest studio and showcased how a little bit of childhood magic mixed with goodwill, artistry, patience, and resourcefulness could bring joy to the hearts of many.
May we keep on with this theme of spreading happiness and radical creativity through the exciting holiday season and bring it with us into a bright new year. Wishing you all a good cup of coffee, a nice place to sit, and a great read.