Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival

Moving to Portland this year has been excitement in of itself, but the excitement just keeps on going because there is always something to look forward to. Just last week I attended the film festival, the week before that I went out to the pumpkin patch and corn maze, earlier I attended Vegfest where I got endless samples of vegan food, and also happened to see that there was also a coffee festival going on at the same time! So when I found out there was going to be a book festival, I was over the moon.

The passes were only $15 which I thought was a reasonable price, but I do wish the festival was more of a weekend thing than just a one-day event. There were other tickets you could purchase that got you into different workshops and bigger panels, but they were upwards of $100-200. If I had the money, I would’ve gone to a few workshops for sure!

The day started out with the bright idea of seeing Lemony Snicket speak. My boyfriend, Cole, and I arrived about 15 minutes before the speech started to pick up our tickets. I laugh now because really, there was absolutely no way we would’ve gotten into the speech even if we’d showed up an hour beforehand. Even though we bought our tickets online, we were told to wait in a line that wrapped around over an entire block! It was a little humorous because everyone in line was cold and furious that there was no mention of a long line on our pre-purchased tickets or anywhere on the website. I figured we could just waltz right into the show with our paper. But no, we stood in line for about thirty minutes to get a wristband as the Lemony Snicket speech started without us.

Our first big score of the day was getting into Ta-Nehisi Coates. Once again we waited in a line that wrapped around an entire block and more. It was only because they broke up the line halfway through and because of the size of the venue that we were able to get in at all. Cole knew more about the man than I did but I knew he’d written a couple books and had seen an interview or two of him speaking. He seemed like a respectable and well-kept guy. Then the speech happened and I was completely blown away. The man was really inspiring. He touched on a wide range of topics from issues with Trump and comparisons to Obama, the pressure of being not only a black man, but a well-respected speaker in general, the craft and act of writing itself, and how one can play a positive part in their community. Something he said that really resonated with me was ““Figure out what you love and how to angle it toward the struggle you care about.” So for me, this would be writing and telling stories and I would angle that towards either animal rights and the environment, or encouraging others to follow their creative dreams.

Afterwards, Cole and I attended a panel of three fiction authors- Jenny Han, Sandhya Menon, and Zan Romanoff. Though I am familiar with the authors, I’ve never read any of their books (yet!) but the panel was so much fun! The authors had some really helpful information and tips on writing and getting published, and they were all really inspiring. I left feeling encouraged to continue working on my two books I wrote a few years back.

The last panel we attended was about how we humans see ourselves in animals and sometimes see animals in ourselves. The speakers were Steven Church, Elena Passarello, and Oliver Uberti. I found the panel extremely interesting and the range of speakers were great because we had a guy who was more of a funny, pop culture guy, a girl who has a huge background and literature and talked about the animals in such a beautiful and romantic way, and then we had a guy with a strong science background who showed maps and research. The one thing I was disappointed about was that each speaker discussed how much we are in awe of many beautiful creatures, and yet, they never brought up the idea of animal rights or their personal views on the matter. Either they didn’t want to offend anyone or they didn’t truly believe in what they were trying to sell to us.

Earlier in the day we walked around a room full of book publishing companies and writing groups, gathering up business cards to look into later. It was located in an art museum downtown and the museuem was offering free admission that day. We skipped out on that only because I wanted to dive more into the book festival.

Overall though, I’d definitely attend again. If you’re thinking of going next year I’d just recommend arriving at least an hour early to all events and finding a way to fit in as many things as possible because all of the events were definitely worth it!


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