Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Latest word on Wordstock

Latest word on Wordstock
by Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
Wednesday August 19, 2009, 5:15 PM

Wordstock 2009 is about booked up. Most of the big names are signed, the program is about ready to be printed, and everything is moving forward for the literary festival Oct. 8-11 at the Oregon Convention Center. Here are a few highlights:

• Headliners include Sherman Alexie, Ethan Canin, Dan Chaon, Richard Dawkins, Pete Dexter, James Ellroy, Julia Glass, Jacquelyn Mitchard and Jeannette Walls.
• Alexie and Dawkins will be separate-admission events away from the main floor. Those purchasing tickets will receive a copy of their new book, similar to the way Powell's does its events at Bagdad Theater.

• Wordstock patrons have been asking for Alexie for five years. His story "War Dances" is in the Aug. 10-17 issue of The New Yorker.

• Ellroy may do "Live Wire!" as part of his Wordstock experience. His new book, "Blood's a Rover," is generating some heat.

• Five writers from the International Writing Program, based at the University of Iowa, will read at Wordstock.

• 2nd Story, a storytelling theater group from Chicago that uses music in its performances, will appear on Oct. 8. Portland is awash in storytelling events right now, and these guys are supposed to be the real thing.

• The 150 or so writers participating in this year's Wordstock are "down by design" from the 210 to 230 of the past two years, according to executive director Greg Netzer. There were logistical problems with so many writers, and the smaller number is easier to handle.

• Local arts organizations will get in on the act with partnership events beginning Oct. 3. Write Around Portland, the Oregon Council for the Humanities, the Independent Publishing Resource Center, the Flash Choir and the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center are among the groups planning something special for Wordstock.

• Some of the Oregon Book Awards finalists will read on Oct. 11.

• There's going to be an emphasis on food writing, memoir and young adult fiction this year, with more than a dozen writers from each genre.

• Floor space at the convention center will be smaller, but (yet another) new configuration is supposed to help the sound problems that have bedeviled the festival throughout its history.

• All major sponsors from last year are back, Netzer said, and only one decreased its commitment. Given the economy, finances are going OK.

Jeff Baker: 503-221-8165;

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