A couple dozen of the region’s best authors gathered Saturday at Southern Oregon University for the fourth annual Ashland Book & Author Festival — a conclave that lets them sell a few books, attend seminars on marketing and, probably the biggest draw, helps them network, reinforce the camaraderie of the writer clan and pick up some moral support for this often lonely profession.
Most are self-published and offered multiple titles — and there were complaints that the authors outnumbered the book shoppers in SOU’s out-of-the-way Hannon Library.
“It’s about community outreach, bringing our writers together with readers,” said university Librarian Jeff Gayton, organizer of the event. “It’s a great opportunity to make connections and talk with fellow authors, amid a lot of helpful workshops.”
Classes covered a huge range of topics — true life stories, Kafka, kid’s books, spiritual memoirs, making nonfiction engaging, publishing with a small press, self-publishing with CreateSpace (which most authors seem to have used), dialog, killer crime, writer’s block and, of course, lots of readings.
“Write what you know” is always great advice and Tanya Savko, an SOU graduate, followed it, fictionalizing her grandmother’s immigration to America, at her children’s urging. Just out, it’s called “Enough to Go Around." Her earlier “Slip” takes a similar approach — telling her story of raising an autistic son.
“I’m a behavioral consultant … and work with challenging behaviors,” says Savko. “I like to do a lot of research before and during writing and outline the story, but not be afraid to deviate from the outline. I use several beta readers — people who read the story as I write it and give me feedback.”
Dale Vidmer, SOU professor of library science, didn’t think he had much to write about, but his creative writing teacher at the university, Lawson Inada, encouraged him to write a novel based on his long commutes in Cleveland.
“I wrote what I knew and it turned out to be black humor that was funny and inspiring, as it was the protagonist’s only moments of freedom in his whole life,” says Vidmer.
The book, “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way” starts with this: “Lenny stopped playing guitar the same day he bought his first suit and landed a job as a sales rep for Still Collections. Pamela thought it was just as well because she had had enough of his jeans and flannel shirts, his music, and dreams of doing something more than pounding nails.”
Ornithologist and poet Pepper Trail of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory here, calls the festival “a gathering of the clan” to celebrate literary Ashland. His poetry book, “Shifting Patterns,” explores global warming and, he notes, has proven prophetic as it predicted a snow-free Mount Ashland and smoke-clogged Ashland summers. His just published “Flight Time” reflects on human activity as seen from “the perspective of an angel” on a long jet flight home from India.
Other Ashland authors include hynotherapist Victoria Leo, writing on Seasonal Affective Disorder, quick meals for busy people, overcoming writer’s block, a children’s book about adoption and “Taking Back Your Lost Heart.”
Gaea Yudron is author of “Songs of the Inner Life,” about growing as you age, not just growing old; owner of Sage’s Play, which holds programs that "explore creative aging, wellness and spirit," including programs on “Retirement and Inspirement Coaching” and “Elder Honoring Ceremonies." (This paragraph has been updated to make corrections.)
Pioneering Ashland feminist and women’s empowerment advocate Rosemary Dunn Dalton is author of “That Was Then, This Is Now,” about finding healing through connection, reflection and self-care. In it, she formulates theories from her case studies. The purpose of the book festival, she notes, is “to integrate your life story into whatever you’re writing about that’s personal and very compelling.”
Amy Miller, publication projects editor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, has just published “White Noise Lullaby,” her 11th chapbook of poems. “I love meeting readers here, eye-to-eye and find out what interests them,” she says. “To me, poems are like snapshots, rather than layers of what I feel. They put something in context.”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.