On July 13, the 2012 Oregon Book Awards Author Tour brought two poets and two nonfiction writers to Baker City, Oregon for an evening of readings and conversation.
The event happened inside the first floor of the Crossroads Art Center and hosted in part by the Oregon Literary Arts Commission, the Baker County Public Library, and the Friends of the Baker County Public Library.
The four authors were nonfiction writer Roger Porter, memoirist Jennifer Lauck, poet Emily Kendal Frey, and poet Daniel Skach-Mills. Each author is also a finalist for the prestigious 2013 Oregon Book Award, which recognizes published Oregonian authors who have distinguished themselves in the professional world of literary arts.
Roger Porter is the author of Bureau of Missing Persons. His book analyzes several memoirs written by adult children who discovered their fathers had led secret lives. Porter is also a professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Memoirist Jennifer Lauck lives in Portland and has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. She has been a published professional writer for 30 years. Her most recent acclaimed work includes four New York Times bestseller books, which are Blackbird, Still Waters, Show Me the Way, and Found: A Memoir.
Lauck is also a former professional journalist and currently teaches professional writing classes at The Attic Institute in Portland.
Poet Emily Kendal Frey lives in Portland and is the author of The Grief Performance, as well as several chapbooks and chapbook collaborations, including Airport, Frances, and The New Planet.
Poet Daniel Skach-Mills is a former Trappist monk lives in Portland and works at the famous Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland. His book of poems, The Hut Beneath The Pines, is primarily based on Skach-Mills’ ongoing immersion in the Portland Chinese Classical Garden. The poems illuminate the possible role the Chinese tea ceremony has towards the Tao, or "letting whatever unfolds be enough."
During the evening’s event at Crossroads, Skach-Mills read several poems from The Hut Beneath The Pines. He also read several more poems he wrote that were not included in his book.
Next, Porter read one long excerpt from Bureau of Missing Persons about a young Jewish child who escaped from a German Nazi concentration camp during World War II after witnessing the execution of his family. A group of soldiers who raised him to become a Nazi soldier later captured the boy.
Frey then read several short poems from The Grief Performance. The poetry was very elegant, powerful, and visionary. Thoroughly enjoyable and captivating, Frey’s work made a lasting impression on the audience.
Last, but not least, Lauck read two experts from Blackbird, which was a memoir about her own personal experiences trying to find the name of her real mother who died when she was a young girl. At one point, Lauck’s reading made the audience laugh out loud as she described a conversation she had with her teenage son where he said a nasty swear word.
At the end of the readings, the audience had an opportunity to ask the authors any questions. One member of the audience asked for each author to describe how long it took him or her to discover their own writing process.
Some of the authors described the discovery of their writing process as something they encountered at an early age, either during or after high school. For example, Lauck discovered her passion for writing while attending high school. After graduating, Lauck immediately went to college and pursued a professional degree in journalism. It was not until after she had earned her degree that she seriously thought about becoming a published memoirist.
After the authors finished answering the question, several of them immediately walked to the back of the room and sat down behind a table that displayed copies of their book that were for sale. Lauck and Skach-Mills began signing copies of their books and handing them to members of the audience who bought them.
As the evening ended, the audience slowly left the room one-by-one. A slight buzzing of excitement waft among many of them as they eagerly anticipated the arrival of next year’s distinguished visiting authors.