Friday, May 26, 2023


The mighty Columbia. The beauty of the Gorge is hard to capture in a photo. It's impossible not to stand on its banks and think, "This is the same magnificent landscape that Lewis and Clark saw." Minus the towns and bridges and buildings and stuff.

I'm killing a little time in Stevenson, Washington this morning before heading home after my marathon "Fire Story" day yesterday. As you may recall, the local library system chose my book as their Community Read for the year and invited me to visit. I gave two morning talks and workshops for high schoolers, two afternoon talks and workshops for middle schoolers, and an evening community lecture. It all went great!

First, the Columbia River Gorge is an exceptionally beautiful slice of the planet. Second, Stevenson is a little town full of nice people--I had a meal in a brewpub in which I swear everyone but me were all friends with everyone else and their dogs--and, true to form, librarians are the nicest people of all. Third, they seem to raise their kids right; at least the groups I talked to were attentive and respectful, except for a table of four middle school boys whom I won over in the end by inscribing their "Fire Story" copies with their names followed by "Chicken-ass," which they thought was hilarious. It's an inside joke, you had to be there.

I didn't take many photos because I'm traveling solo and was working most of the time. A long day--I pretty much lost my voice by the end of it--but folks in this fire-scarred region really seemed to appreciate my story and message. It's been a wonderful trip. Now I get to go home.

I started my day at the library, entering through a side door before business hours to be greeted by my poster. They were kind enough to give me one to take home.

The first two workshops were held in the library's art gallery space. This is a group of kids from the private Pacific Crest Innovation Academy working on making a comic strip. After talking with two groups of 14 sharp students, I asked one of the teachers how many kids the school has. "Twenty-eight." "Twenty-eight? In the whole school?" "Yep." "You mean I just met ALL of them?!" "Yep."

One of the fire-themed pieces of artwork on display in the gallery. I liked this one.

Another piece of fire-themed art, this one inspired by the passage in "A Fire Story" in which I wrote about having three keys that didn't do anything anymore but I couldn't bear to part with them. I'm honored. By the way, I still have the keys.

Lunch with my hosts, the Friends of the Library. My main contact was librarian David Wyatt, sitting across from me. Very nice people.

Getting ready for my afternoon sessions at Wind River Middle School. A bit more raucous than the older kids in the morning, but their teacher seemed impressed by how well I held their attention.

Librarian David Wyatt preparing to introduce me. We had about 30 people turn out, which I was assured was great for an event like this in a town this size. I spoke for about an hour and we had a long Q&A after, ranging from whether my family and I huddled and wept after the fire (not really) to updated building codes.

Cruise ships ply the mighty Columbia and I happened by when one was docked at Stevenson. This might be a nice trip to take sometime.


Anonymous said...

Sturgeon hatchery, must visit.

Brian Fies said...

I'll have to put it on the list for the next time I'm back there, thanks!