A lot of the work of being an author is the dull and dry sitting at a desk (even when that desk is in a tree) and writing day after day. But every now and then an event comes along that you know you’ll remember forever. The American Indian Cultural Festival in The Dalles last week was just such a moment. It was a celebration of literature and poetry and music and dance. It involved a group of books that I admire and authors I feel honored to share the stage with: Elizabeth Woody, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Craig Lesley, acclaimed author of contemporary western literature, and National Book Award winning writer Sherman Alexie.
I was lucky enough to spend time with an adult book club and share a poetry reading with some truly outstanding young poets. I got to hear the culture club from Lyle school in Washington give their very first performance in the Sahaptian language with traditional dancing. They were simply amazing. I’m so proud of all they’ve accomplished in a year. I meet with some avid writers in the North Oregon Juvenal Detention Facility, and best of all I got to dance with the Taholah drum group from the Quinault Reservation. My favorite part of the whole thing was the series of classrooms who came to hear me and the Taholah drum group speak. They had all kinds of great questions about the culture and art of the Quinault and Makah and the practice of tribal whaling. It was the sort of mind-opening conversation that cultural festivals are made for. I am very grateful to Julian Peterson and Marko Black and all the tribal dancers from Taholah who shared their songs and prayers and dances so generously, and who invited the students to dance and drum along so whole-heartedly. I know those are memories the students will always cherish.
Thank you to Jim Tindale the librarian at The Dalles School District who made this all happen in conjunction with the great booksellers at Oregon’s oldest bookstore Klindt’s who sold all the books and hosted many of the events. Tina Ontiveros is the manager at Klindt’s and Joaquin Perez is the owner. The fundraising for this event was truly a community affair with donations coming from area schools and libraries, educational foundations, local congregations, Oregon’s poet laureate program, the Wasco County Cultural Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. It’s inspiring to see so many community members come together in support of literacy and the cultural understanding of our local American Indian communities. Thank you!
Have you got a young person in your life who loves to read and write? Maybe a teenager who is wondering about pursing a career in the book world? Come to the Cedar Hills Powells this Saturday and hear what Laura Stanfil has to say about the publishing process. Laura is our own local publisher of Forest Avenue Press, and she is going to take our League members step by step through the process of how pages on a writers screen become books that find their way into bookshops like Powells. It’s going to be a great conversation. Come join us Saturday January 14th at 2pm. The Cedar Hills Powells is at 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd
Did I mention that Laura is the ultra-cool publisher of City of Weird? A book about strange, and spooky happenings in Portland? Did I further mention that the Cat in the Hat has nothing on Laura Stanfil! I bet she can even juggle fish! Come join us. It will be a blast.
Today is the feast of Saint Lucia, which is traditionally celebrated with a procession involving a girl wearing a crown of candles and a tray full of cookies or sweet breads. The custom commemorates an Italian teenager who, during the Roman persecution of Christians, spent her dowry to bring food and books and letters to Christians who were hiding in caves to survive. The story goes that she wore a crown of candles to light her way in the dark and give the refugee Christians light to read by.
My family has made a custom of baking sweet bread and sharing it with people who are light- bringers in our lives. For the past 21 years that my children have been attending public schools, we have brought sweet bread to their teachers with a note of thanks for all the unsung work they do to make their classrooms and the lives of my children a brighter place.
My youngest will graduate from high school this year, so I wanted to take one last opportunity to thank all of my children’s teachers and librarians over the years, their 16 primary school teachers and the the primary school librarian. their 72 middle school teachers and the middle school librarian, and their 96 high school teachers and high school librarians. All of them teaching in the Beaverton School District in Oregon. I am inspired by your dedication to excellence in the classroom, by your creativity, your steadfastness in a culture that shows little respect for education and even less for those who have dedicated their lives to teaching. Even in those years where one or another of my children struggled with illness or injury or immaturity, you were a steady hand in their young lives. Even in years when you struggled–I remember those too–the year your mother went blind, the year you were pregnant with twins, the year you were critically ill or grieving a death in your family. You were still faithfully in your classroom day after day trying your best with a dwindling pool of resources.
And I want you to know that even though I will no longer have children at home to send to your classrooms, you are still all my local teachers. And my work of advocating for better schools and more just funding of educational needs and wise allocation of the funds you have, will go on. Your value extends far beyond what you can do for my immediate family, and I will continue to do what I can to support the light you bring to our community.
Lots of talk lately about the role books play in helping young readers develop empathy and expand their world view. I don’t have definitive answers on that score but I will be talking about all of those meaty book issues with some fellow authors this weekend. I’ll be hanging out with Fonda Lee the author of EXO, Tina Connolly the author of SERIOUSLY SHIFTED and Mary Elizabeth Summer the author of TRUST ME I’M LYING. It will be lots of fun. There might even be cookies.
It’s a ANOTHER READ THROUGH, an indie new and used bookstore in Portland at 3932 N Mississippi Ave . We will be there at 1:30 this Saturday December 3rd. Hope to see you there