|Majestic Mount Hood.|
Karen and I are home from a very busy, beautiful long weekend in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge as guests of Hood River Reads, an annual program by the Friends of the Hood River County Public Library that encourages the community to read and discuss a book. This year, they chose mine. The group purchased enough copies of A Fire Story--nearly a thousand!--to distribute them free to the middle school, high school, and anybody who asked. Their one condition: I had to come and talk.
In the weeks before I arrived, Hood River Reads had kicked off the campaign with book club readings, mayoral proclamations, a poster contest, and creative classroom assignments built around A Fire Story. By the time I arrived on Friday, pretty much everyone I encountered had read the book. That's . . . unusual. I've never seen anything like it. The beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, the passion and kindness of the Friends of the Library, and the library and town of Hood River itself made for an exhilarating few days.
Here's all you need to know about the place and people: when we arrived, they had a gift box waiting in our hotel room, and among the many books and snacks in the box was a jar of homemade jam.
The Friends chose A Fire Story partly because the area has faced terrifying wildfires itself, most recently the Eagle Creek Fire which, like our Tubbs Fire, hit in the fall of 2017. We saw its scars on the drive east from Portland. No lives were lost and property damage was light, but the 48,000-acre fire burned for three months. The kids remember it, the adults will never forget it.
I gave three talks on Friday: a workshop for a library full of middle school students, a lecture for an auditorium full (200-plus) of high school students, and a workshop for a combined art and creative-writing class at the high school. My last three talks happened at the downtown library. I gave two on Saturday: a workshop for the community, attended by about 15 prospective (or at least curious) writers and cartoonists, and a community lecture on graphic medicine suggested by a Friend who'd read Mom's Cancer. On Sunday afternoon, I gave a concluding community lecture in which I made the case for literary graphic novels and tied my fire experience to theirs to talk about readiness and resilience.
Six talks in three days is a packed schedule, but between events Karen and I were treated to convivial meals and had time to explore the area, including a drive to the snow at the foot of majestic Mount Hood an hour away.
As is my way, I'll tell the rest of the story with pictures. Many thanks to our hosts--Laurie, Bonnie, Bill, Helen and others--as well as the librarians, teachers, and spouses involved in making us feel as welcome as could be. They're wonderful book-loving people (the best kind!) who live in a wonderful place. Thank you for inviting us up.
|A selfie at historic and scenic Multnomah Falls along the way. Of course we hiked up to that bridge! The volume of water rolling over the rocks into the mighty Columbia everywhere we looked was stunning to these drought-addled Californians.|
|Karen found this sticker in a copy of A Fire Story: "Please read this book and pass it along or return it to the library." Isn't that terrific?|
|They were ready for me.|
|It is profoundly surreal to walk into a school hundreds of miles from my home and see an accurate rendering of my backyard. Notice how this artist used quotes from the book as the melted iron bars in the gate. I wish I'd thought of that.|
|Rappin' with the yoots. I made them draw some comics themselves.|
|The high school students held a Fire Story poster contest. As with the middle schoolers, I was fascinated to see how they processed and interpreted my story.|
|Many entered, three won. I was very happy I wasn't asked to judge.|
|Saturday morning I did a writing workshop for a small but motivated group. This is an exercise where I draw an oval with two eyes and a nose, then have brave volunteers come up to add eyebrows, mouths, etc. and ascribe an emotion to the expression they created. The idea is to show the tremendous variety of complex and subtle emotions that can be conveyed with the simplest of graphics. Photo by Bonnie Withers (thanks Bonnie).|
|Sunday's community lecture in the library's great room, attended by 50 or so. Librarians Rachael and Mo were great and helpful hosts. I'm wearing my red shirt so you know I'm serious.|
|At liberty on Sunday morning, Karen and I headed south toward Mount Hood for some beautiful scenery and a snowball fight that Karen did not let me start. A shame. It would have been glorious.|