Ottawa to welcome cat video festival

An Internet Cat Video Festival in Oakland, CA. Photo: Mark Hogan, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

An Internet Cat Video Festival in Oakland, CA. Photo: Mark Hogan, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

So, there’s this thing called “Just for cats“, which quips that it offers “all the cattiness of the film fest, but with cats.” As their website puts it, the effort:

…honours our favorite pet with a masterfully curated compilation reel from the Walker Art Center.

Now there’s no need to search for funny cat videos alone – together we can enjoy the best clips up on the big screen, and help raise money for cat welfare in Canada too

The Canada-based Just for Cats tour involves showings at various locations to raise money for animal-welfare organizations. Ottawa Citizen arts reporter Peter Simpson says that’ll be coming to Ottawa sometime later this year. But hey, why wait? Start your viewing now. And make sure you enter your video for possible screening too, if you reside in Ottawa.

This all began as an Internet Cat Video Festival the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Their first screening in 2012 was written up by the New York Times as a giant hit. Subsequent screenings have also been very popular, according to this 2013 Walker press release:

Over the last year the Festival has spawned an international tour including events in Boston, San Diego, Austin, Memphis and Portland with upcoming festivals in Vienna, Austria and Jerusalem, and numerous lecture and conference presentations including SXSW and TEDx.

As Simpson writes in his always-fun Big Beat arts blog:

The Toronto date on the cross-Canada tour in April will be hosted by Laureen Harper, wife of the prime minister, who is a strong advocate for stray animals and shelters. If Mrs. Harper attends the Ottawa cat film festival, one must hope she brings her husband along, for nothing says cute and cuddly like Stephen Harper.

There are no shortage of cat videos for programmers to choose from. It’s widely held that cat videos account for almost all internet traffic, except for the small bits taken up by porn and pirated music.

His post includes links to many favorite cat videos, with appropriate commentary:

The cat numbers are staggering, and while people may think Grumpy Cat is the star, my lazy research shows that “Surprised Kitty (original)” is the leader, with more than 73 million views. And to think that all the Surprised Kitty does is to react when its belly is tickled. (Why does this remind me of Rob Ford?)

Youtube numbers aside, Grumpy Cat is the current star, with TV appearances from CNN to TMZ.  to commercials, etc. Grumpy Cat’s sole skill is an ability to scowl,which seems a genuine talent when compared to Lil Bub, whose is famous for letting her tongue hang out of her mouth. (Er, Rob Ford, again.) The zenith of cat videos is “Lil Bub Meets Grumpy Cat,” which is like Alien vs. Predator with naps.

I don’t see a working/direct link for how to enter your own cat video for the upcoming Ottawa event, but I gather there is a way. Here’s how that’s described on the Just for cats Facebook page:

Want to See Your Cat on the Festival’s Big Screen and Win Free Tickets?

To enter, post your cat video on our wall and tell us what city you are in (you must live in the city of the festival). Ask your friends and family to like your video. The top10 most liked videos will be juried and a winner announced. The winning video will be shown at your local festival!

Nice videos only, no hurting the kitties.

Our cat is getting on in years. Her antics are not terribly video worthy. But I tell you she is a world champion at detecting clean clothes and taking a nap on them. And the clever dear is black and white so her hair will show on anything. (True fact: she is in my lap as I type this post.)

What amusing (or not-so-funny) things does your cat do?

Christmas morning photo of "Spot", who cannot object to being a camera guinea pig. Photo: Lucy Martin

Spot says: “Did someone do laundry? My nap throne awaits!” Photo: Lucy Martin

Rideau Canal Skateway season ends

Skating the Canal - one of the best things about Ottawa! Photo: Lucy Martin

Skating the Canal – one of the best things about Ottawa! Photo: Lucy Martin

Well, today we’re all hunkering down for yet another winter storm. But take heart, spring is around the corner. That’s why the National Capital Commission (NCC) closed the Rideau Canal yesterday, ending the 44th Skateway season

And what a run it was. It opened (relatively) early and featured some really good ice. Here are some stats, from the NCC press release:

Family Day on the Canal photo: Lucy Martin

Family Day on the Canal photo: Lucy Martin

The 44th skating season on the world’s largest skating rink started on December 31, 2013, and lasted 71 days. Over that period, 58 skating days (including a stretch of 38 consecutive days that overlapped with all three weekends of Winterlude) welcomed more than 1, 200, 000 visits on the Skateway. With over 3, 900 Twitter and 31, 000 Facebook followers, social media was a popular way for the public to share their experiences, pictures and feedback.

NCC’s CEO applauded the staff and ice crews who made it happen:

“I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all staff that were able to make this skating season an exceptional one. Public feedback about the quality of the ice has been extremely positive and I want you to know that this would not have been possible without your hard work and dedication,” said Dr. Mark Kristmanson Tuesday. “I would also like to thank maintenance crews, skate patrol, concessionaires and other contractors for contributing to the Rideau Canal Skateway, a vibrant winter meeting place.”

NCPR organized a bus trip to Ottawa February 8th, lead by Todd Moe and Barb Heller. Here’s more from Todd and Barb on that outing. Sarah Harris put together a whimsical postcard about Winterlude and skating the canal that aired locally and across the country on NPR’s Weekend edition.

We joined thousands of others the Skateway for Family Day (a provincial holiday) for the last gasp of Winterlude. The sunny day made it a real pleasure to skate up and back the whole length: 7.8 km, or almost 5 miles in a single stretch. I expected the ice might be skate-worn as the crowds were fairly thick. But it was quite good. I was impressed. And grateful.

I’m not sure how the NCC counts visits, and many skaters go more than once. So it’s not like 1.2 million different people hit the ice. But tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands? – do. The tradition makes it possible for residents and visitors to go outside and have a great time, promoting good health and a happier community. We love it.

Increasing sunshine and rising temperatures are here. And (let’s face it) most people are plenty ready for spring. But what a season of skating that was!

The end - until next season. Photo: Lucy Martin

The end – until next season. Photo: Lucy Martin

 

 

Winter robins and songbirds

Robins toughing out the winter in Wisconsin. Photo: Jonathan Bloy, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Robins toughing out the winter. Photo: Jonathan Bloy, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The arrival of red-breasted robins is generally taken as a sign of spring, something many will be eager to welcome this year. But here’s more for the “I-did-not-know-that” file: some robins stick around,  all year. Even in a winter like this one.

I got onto this topic after reading a 2/28 article by the Ottawa Citizen’s science writer, Tom Spears.

The Ottawa Field Naturalists have spotted a winter flock of about 30 robins near the Britannia Woods, and 25 robins — possibly the same group — a couple of kilometres south, on Iris Street.

The trick for the robins is to find food once the frozen ground cuts them off from worms.

Necessity has taught them to fish. In one corner of Mud Lake, in Britannia, there’s a pool of open water most of the winter, fed by underground seepage that keeps it ice-free.

Naturalist Dan Brunton says this supplies the water with oxygen and draws a huge crowd of small lake creatures — minnows, tadpoles, even aquatic insects that stay active all winter.

And robins have learned to stand at the edge of the ice and pick live minnows right out of the water.

Spears has a cute photo of a minnow-catching robin on his twitter account.

Here’s more about the American robin from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Once I started looking, I found lots of similar discussion online about robins that surprised people by staying through the winter. Here’s something written in January from bird columnist Arlene Koch who writes for Lehigh Valley Live in Pennsylvannia, “Not all American robins head south for the winter“:

This week’s column is about American robins because recently I’ve been asked several times why people are seeing robins in their yards. The answer to that question is simple. There are always robins in the Northeast every winter in spite of the fact that seeing one is supposed to be a symbol of spring.

People have been talking about seeing winter robins in Northern Ontario (CTV video report), which mentions that while annual Christmas bird counts prove this happens year in and year out, the numbers of over-wintering robins seen in, say Sudbury, remain small – averaging only one or two counted in any given year.

In the US here’s coverage on winter robins out of New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin (where the birds were observed eating insects near a river), and in the upper mid-west.

The reporting sounds similar because people are struck by the presence of robins in a very cold winter. They get noticed and discussed, as illustrated by this article out of Indiana:

Robins in January in northern Indiana, anywhere in Indiana, or in February are birds to talk about. Two days after I saw the robins in my yard, a friend told me she had recently seen a small flock of robins near her home. Two days later, I stopped at the garage where I have my car serviced, and one of the mechanics asked, “Hey, Neil, what’s with the robins?”

He, too, had recently seen robins. Later that same day when I went in the bank, two men told me they had seen a flock of robins days before.

Todd Moe chatted with naturalist Conner Stedman about bird language and songbirds that stay all winter on Friday morning. This discussion did not involve robins, but included details about other birds we can expect this time of year.

I’d be interested in hearing about what you saw this winter in terms of robins, birds and wildlife in general.

Watch this–on public radio

Oregon family "watching" the radio in 1925. Photo: US Dept. of Agriculture

Oregon family “watching” the radio in 1925. Photo: US Dept. of Agriculture

One of the attractions of radio listening is that you produce the accompanying images in your own head. And, of course, you can listen and drive at the same time. Increasingly, however, public radio producers are adding a video dimension to their work for online audiences. Some of the results are outstanding, some are OK, some not so much. But let me introduce you to some of the outstanding.

NPR Music has been producing and curating great music-oriented video for a number of years now. If you are a weekend visitor to NCPR, you will often find a great (often new) artist showcased in a Tiny Desk Concert, or a Studio Session, or a Live in Concert feature. NPR Music will be at SXSW in Austin next week, streaming live video from a number or top performers. Folk Alley has also featured some great music video recorded and produced by Beehive Productions, which has a studio in Saranac Lake. And NPR has used embedded video to flesh out many of its radio features online, such as these current stories: one on samba music in Rio during Carnival, and one on music of the Santeria religion in Cuba.

Here is a Beehive Productions video recorded in West Hurley, NY:

Aoife O’Donovan – Red & White & Blue & Gold from Beehive Productions on Vimeo.

A number of radio programs broadcast on NCPR have their own corresponding Youtube video channels. For example, you can watch Krista Tippet’s  interview with singer Bobby McFerrin from last week’s On Being. If you missed John Gorka’s performance on Mountain Stage two weeks back, you can watch part of that. Afropop Worldwide has 87 music and interview videos on their Youtube channel, and Q just posted a new video today, of Hayden performing “Almost Everything” live in Studio Q.  Many stations also have channels on Youtube, including NCPR. I recommend our recent videos of young indie-pop harpist Mikaela Davis, a student at Crane School of Music, but a seasoned and remarkable performer nonetheless.

Here’s Mikaela playing “River” in the NCPR studio:

One of my favorite recent discoveries is a series of archive interviews called Blank on Blank. If you listen to our Public Radio Remix station WREM in St. Lawrence County, you might have heard this series, curated from interviews recorded by a wide spectrum of music and entertainment journalists. In cooperation with PBS studios, these audio-only features are accompanied by fantastic animations. Two I’ve watched this week are Jerry Garcia On The Acid Tests and Janis Joplin on Rejection. (On the basis of these choices, you should be able to guess my age within a few years.)

Here’s an example of the work from Blank on Blank:

I’m always on the lookout for great video to feature and share with NCPR visitors. Recommend some of your favorite sources for eye and ear candy, musical or otherwise, in a comment below.

Big names: last day at the AWP writing conference

Sherman Alexie, a star presenter at the conference. Photo credit, ALA.

Sherman Alexie, a star presenter at the conference. Photo credit, ALA.

Cherry blossoms! The pruned tree leaned toward the sidewalk and I took a big gulp of the sweet perfume of the flowers. Every morning before going downtown I meandered the streets near my friends’ house in Lake City, looking at houses built on steep hills, houses with backyards that bordered on a merrily running creek and my favorite—a sophisticated skinny house built on and behind a garage on a long skinny lot. I told my friend Dave about the garage house but he wasn’t pleased. “I know the place,” he said. “It’s a problem in Seattle, splitting up house lots.”

He explained that in rapidly growing Seattle space is at a premium and garage houses are a not-quite-legal way to get more dwellings in a neighborhood. Another thing to do is to tear down a small but adequate house and put up a huge house, or apartment building, that fills the whole lot. I didn’t say it, but I still liked the garage house.

Dave and Jen were visiting a friend south of downtown so they gave me a ride to Cyclops, a slightly run down café and bar, where I met Ginnie Zech, a friend who I met at the Colgate Writing Conference and who is now getting an MFA at the University of Montana in Missoula. Of the over twelve thousand attendees at the AWP conference perhaps half of them were MFA students.

When Ginnie arrived she needed coffee immediately. She’d gone to a poetry reading the night before that started late and was prefaced with hours of drinking. We hadn’t been to any of the same events so we filled each other in on what we’d been doing at the conference. She admitted that the huge crowds at the convention center had kept her away and she’d been going to “off campus” events in other parts of the city.

After my scrambled eggs and sweet potato and kale hash I decided to walk back to the AWP anthill and found the Book Fair swarming with people. Reason? Most of the small presses and literary magazines were offering their wares at a deep discount so they didn’t have to carry all their materials back home. I tried to not look as I walked through the displays, though of course I was drawn in by the siren call of shiny covers and interesting titles. I didn’t have room in my luggage to carry back a boxful of books. Well, I could take a few.

The AWP annual conference moves around the country each year and the invited speakers come from each region. Science Fiction master, Ursula K. LeGuin, lives in Oregon, near her friend and former student, Molly Gloss (her newest novel is The Hearts of Horses). I arrived early enough to get a good seat in the ballroom where the two authors would be speaking and sat with other LeGuin fans. LeGuin started writing science fiction in the 1950’s and has published more than 60 books, including several volumes of poetry.

The two women walked up onto the stage. Gloss has gray curls and a long stride. LeGuin is now 85 and a bit stooped but as soon as she opened her mouth I could tell she hadn’t lost any of her vibrancy or wit. Gloss read a piece that she’d written in a sci-fi workshop she’d taken from LeGuin many years ago. It was vivid and brutal, with a tribal woman hunting down a man and killing him with an arrow. “I wrote this twenty years before The Hunger Games,” she said when she finished. The audience clapped and laughed at Gloss’s “oh well” shrug.

Ursula LeGuin. Photo:

Ursula LeGuin. Photo: K. Kendall

LeGuin stepped up to the microphone saying, “How would you like to have a student like that?” More cheering. LeGuin read a couple of poems, pieces that began as assignments (“I don’t like the word ‘prompts’”) in a writing group that she and Gloss created.

The best part of the Leguin/Gloss presentation was their discussion with a moderator. He asked about their writing group, and their process. Gloss explained it is important to isolate specific places in each piece of writing, a place that is working well, and a place that needs work. “Don’t just say it sucks,” Gloss said. “That’s right,” said LeGuin. “And don’t say ‘It’s f****ing awesome.’”  The audience howled in delight.

When the moderator asked LeGuin about her writing process she said, “I’m a lone wolf writer. I didn’t have time to be in writing groups when I was younger. I was raising three kids.” He asked if she attended writing retreats. LeGuin answered, “A retreat sounds to me like you’ve just lost a battle.” More roars of pleasure from the crowd.

I loved hearing LeGuin talk about her first years as a writer. She said when she started writing in the 1950’s, science fiction “was a beautiful untapped field.” There were only about 70 writers in the US making a living off writing sci-fi, almost all of them were men, and most of them knew each other. The men wrote a kind of “engineering science fiction” and LeGuin saw a need for a less technical genre. She and a few other younger writers “took over” from the tech sci-fi to create a more literary form. LeGuin said when she started she wrote “like a man” and she had to learn how to write like a woman, something that 1960’s and 70’s feminism helped her do. “A woman needs to write in her own voice.” I’d say she’s got that one down.

Molly Gloss grew up reading her father’s cowboy novels, where the hero was always a man. Even in the occasional Louis L’amour novel where the protagonist is a woman, she is given a gun and behaves just like a man with a gun in his hand.

Ursula LeGuin interrupted, “ Take the gun out of ALL the hands and see what happens.” This got the biggest round of applause of the day.

We stood up to clap when the talk was over and let the authors get out into the hall before we lined up for a book signing. I’d hoped to have two books signed, one for each of my sons, but the AWP workers were insistent that we present only one book, that it be a new one bought at the conference, and that the authors would not do personalized autographs. I did manage to have a mini-conversation with LeGuin and got her swoopy signature on a copy of The Left Hand of Darkness.

Gish Jen. Photo:

Gish Jen. Photo: Asia Society

After that fantastic event, I rushed off to listen to another author duo. I’d heard Gish Jen read at SLU a couple of years ago so I knew she was smart and funny. She read two sections from her novel World and Town. The first scene was a funny email from a Hong Kong relative and in the second scene a Chinese-American Hattie teaches a Cambodian woman English, but the stilted conversation is only the surface to a deep worry both women have about the Cambodian family’s teenage children.

Tobias Wolff, (This Boy’s Life) read a very funny piece from his novel Old School about a boy in a private school competing for a literary prize.

Novelist Jess Walter moderated the discussion after the reading, and I think he felt more comfortable on the stage than the other moderators I’d heard. Asked about becoming a writer, Wolff said that the distance between what you’re writing and what you want to write is so far when you begin. He compared the writing process to practicing an instrument; practice is the only way to get better.

Jen said that she never even considered being a writer until she was a junior in college. “I’m an immigrant’s daughter.” She was supposed to do something practical but she dropped out of the Stanford Law School to get an MFA. One of Jen’s literary heroes is Grace Paley. She had “a balance between what she gave and what she produced.” At the end the crowd stood up for Gen and Wolff and clapped and clapped. It was fun to be with a group so appreciative of the work and talent it takes to be a great writer.

Before the last event of the day I needed to get outside and find a bookstore to get a copy of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas for my friends and hosts, Dave and Jen. They’re going to the Big Island of Hawaii and Cloud Atlas has some great scenes set there. Feeling a little guilty, I walked a block to the Barnes and Noble. The Elliot Bay Bookstore is independently owned but it was at least a twenty-minute uphill walk to get there from the Convention Center. And besides, I wanted to buy books from a variety of Seattle businesses.

The good thing about being a party of one was that in each event I could find a single empty seat toward the front of the room. The big ballroom filled up with hundreds of people for the final “main stage” event of the conference—Timothy Egan and Sherman Alexie. The young women next to me were excited to hear Sherman and hoped that he would be first.

He wasn’t and when Timothy Egan stood up he said he was the warm up act for his friend Sherman Alexie. This got some laughs but it was partly true. Egan is no slouch—he won the National Book Award for his non-fiction book about the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time. His book The Big Burn made the rounds among my Forest Service friends and his new book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, is winning awards. Egan was comfortable and funny on stage and read a beautiful passage from his book about the Northwest, The Good Rain. He said when people ask him why there are so many writers in Seattle he tells them that people in dark, cold places like to go into caves and tell stories. (Then we should have thousands of writers in the north country!)

And, at last, what we had all been waiting for, Sherman Alexie. He wore a suit and walked stiffly up to the stage. “I’ve got a bad cold,” he said, “And I hurt my back playing basketball. I’m wearing a corset, and in Tim Egan’s honor it’s made of salmon bones.” This was the first of many, many laughs for the audience. Alexie could probably make an excellent living as a standup comic in Las Vegas.

Looking out at the crowd Alexie said, “It’s so great to be around so many dorks” and “you make me feel like a Beatle.” He got a bit of excited screaming out of that one.

The laughter was almost non-stop when he read an essay he’d written about having gay basketball players in the NBA. He talked about guys taking showers together in locker rooms and the homo-erotic sport of basketball where men watched the players race around in shirts and shorts, almost like their underwear. He made fun of his own aging body and in the process of all the hilarity he read an excellent essay about why there shouldn’t be a fuss about letting an openly gay athlete play in professional sports.

Flipping through a book with his next planned reading, Alexie realized it was too long and his sore voice would never hold out. He picked a shorter piece, from a Young Adult book he’s working on called 99 Tiny Stories About Love. And he picked a story about going to the Prom. The text was very funny but Alexie’s delivery made it outrageously hilarious, and sad, and real. It was a pleasure to see and hear a master storyteller at work. The audience rose together in a big bravo when he’d finished the reading.

Once again, I didn’t have time to stand in line for the book signings. Feeling a bit like Cinderella keeping her eye on the clock as she flees the Royal Ball, I rushed down the many escalators to the main floor and pushed open a door out onto the street. Saturday night was in full swing—brightly lit restaurants and the streets filled with people. The walk to my bus stop was less than ten minutes but I wanted to be waiting on the platform, not galloping down the stairs, when the bus drove up.

Bus number 41 appeared out of the bus tunnel in a few minutes and I stepped on, finding one of the last seats. My bag was heavy with books so for twenty minutes I had the pleasure of admiring my portable library, dipping in here and there, remembering the faces and voices that went with the words. Ah, bibliophilic success.

Best new alt-tracks of 2014

Photo: RafeB, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: RafeB, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

So we’re a few months into the New Year and new music has been feeling a little scarce. I mean, personally I feel like I’ve had the same songs on repeat for weeks now! I know I’m not super patient, but I can’t sit around, anxiously waiting for the great songs of 2014 to come and sweep me off my feet. So I did a little digging, and came up with these eight new tracks.

Speedy Ortiz- “American Horror”

Speedy Ortiz’s debut album Major Arcana was arguably one of the best albums of 2013. But ”American Horror,” one of the songs off Speedy Ortiz’ recently released EP Real Hair, delivers. Singer/guitarist/90′s princess/lioness Sadie Dupuis continues to spew out a mouthful of meticulously crafted lyrics, but the tone of “American Horror” feels a little more uplifting than the tracks on last album. Dupuis continues to spew out a mouthful of meticulously crafted lyrics and Robidoux’s gut-wrenching guitar riffs continue embellish Dupuis’ shrill voice. But the overall tone quality of this single feels a little more uplifting than some of the tracks on Major Arcana.

St. Vincent- “Digital Witness”

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through NPR Music’s webpage looking for new music, and her new self-titled album was all the hype. Her album  was portrayed as the one of the first and most highly anticipated albums of the year. Her single “Birth in Reverse,” powers ahead on a propulsive beat topped with guitar licks, dense, chunky rhythm parts and crackling synthesizers. But it’s “Digital Witness” that really grabbed me. Maybe it’s the propulsive beats topped with bursts of trumpet bumps. I think the bursts of energy in these songs is what really grabbed me.

Hospitality- “I Miss Your Bones”

If I were a musical talent, I would want my music to encapsulate the sound and the quality of this song. This was the first single released from the whimsical indie-pop band’s new album Trouble. Singer and guitarist Amber Papini lays some quirky but melancholic lyrics over her distorted bubble gum guitar licks. But Papini’s voice is unique. When she repeats “I Miss Your Bones,” she treats it like a conversation with her pillow. But all sweet talk aside, “I Miss Your Bones” is the perfect collocation of fun but kind of gloomy. I’d argue that this song is Hospitality’s crowning achievement.

The Orwells- “Who Needs You”

David Letterman really liked “The Orwells” when they performed on his show. Since then, the members of the Chicago-based a sense of satisfaction has washed over them. the title track off of their new EP “Who Needs You.” The clashing cymbals that count off the song and their rambunctiously raw guitar make their sound youthful and energetic. Meanwhile, Mario Cuomo’s vocals almost echo the likes of Dexter Holland. They’re touring with the “Arctic Monkeys” and sharing producer Jim Abbiss. Enough said.

Cloud Nothings- “I’m Not Part of Me”

“I’m not telling you all I’m going through,” Dylan Baldi sings tantalizingly. In Cloud Nothing’s new single, it feels like Baldi’s challenging us. “I’m Not Part of Me” has the same vivacity as the tracks their 2012 album Attack On Memory.  Their sound is a little brighter, but their lyrics are as distressed as the ivory Chuck Taylor’s I’ve been harboring since freshman year. Surely, we want to understand what Cloud Nothings has been going through. Fortunately, their new album will be Here and Nowhere Else April 1st.

Real Estate- “Crime”

Real Estate released their third full-length album this March, and the album’s lingering ambience differs from their original beach-party vibes. The New Jersey band captures the art of complacency in their new album Atlas. The simplicity and eloquence in the post pool-party indie band’s the key to “Crime”‘s unexpected ache. “Toss and turn all night, don’t know how to make this right/ Crippling anxiety,” Titus Andronicus’ Martin Courtney sings clearly. There’s a lot of meaning tightly wrapped around the song’s perceptive lyrics.

Angel Olsen- “Hi-Five”

In “Hi-Five,” the third track from her new album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, she asks “Are you lonely too?” after which she exclaims “HI-FIVE! SO AM I.” Angel Olsen’s new track makes loneliness feel like a holiday, With a slight twang to her voice, her  sound is a combination of a bubbly Katie Crutchfield and an electrically charged vibration that surges through her work. Since her second album’s drop in February, Olsen’s gained some true recognition: she’s a new artist with an old soul.

Warpaint- “Keep It Healthy”

“Keep It Healthy,” the first full track on Warpaint’s self titled sophomore album is a mystical pipedream. Based in Los Angeles, their much anticipated fresh new album is reminiscent of Radiohead circa late ’90′s, early 2000′s. The all-female quartet’s soothing baseline and melting cymbals passes us some art-rock serenity. But it’s Emily Kokal’s faintly ghostlike melody that glides over Theresa Wayman’s airy guitar licks that really sends “Keep It Healthy” up into the cosmos.

Catch “Canada Reads” this week on CBC

canadareads_375This feels like “fun with books & writing” week. First, we can read Betsy Kepes’ fine updates on the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference happening in Seattle. But right now the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is also presenting their 13th annual “Canada Reads” event. (Think “battle of the bands”, only with books.)

For those unfamiliar with the exercise, a selection process produces a slate of finalists. Each book in the final round has a champion, usually a celebrity of some sort – though not always famous and not necessarily ones you’d expect. In the final four-day “contest”, each champion advocates their book’s merits through pitches, discussion and debate. One book is eliminated per day until a winner emerges. (“Losing” champions are still on the panel to help pick the final winner.) The last book standing, in theory, is one worthy of being read across the nation, and beyond.

As detailed in Wikipedia:

The books in the running for each edition of Canada Reads are announced several months before the programs are broadcast. Titles must be Canadian fiction, poetry or plays. They are promoted in bookstores, in the hope that the Canada Reads audience will purchase and read them all before the programs air. In some cases, publishers have published special editions of the nominated titles.

The publisher of the winning Canada Reads title donates a portion of sales proceeds from the winning book to a charitable organization working in the field of literacy. Recipients have included Frontier College, the Movement for Canadian Literacy, ABC Life Literacy Canada (formerly ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation) and Laubach Literacy of Canada.

200px-The_Year_of_the_Flood-cover-1stEd-HCHere’s a skeleton sketch of the 2014 finalists: Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, defended by philanthropist Stephen Lewis; The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, defended by aboriginal journalist Wab Kinew; Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, defended by two-time gold medalist and world record-holder Donovan Bailey; Cockroach by Rawi Hage, defended by Daily Show comedian Samantha Bee and Annabel by Kathleen Winter, defended by rising actor Sarah Gordon. (See more about each book, their author and defender here.) And while it’s important to support authors and bookstores, one need not buy them all – many of those titles are readily available in libraries too.

theorenda_200These all sound like good books. Indeed, I waxed rhapsodic about The Orenda in an earlier, meandering post, after a trip made me curious about the historic site where parts of the novel were set. And Betsy Kepes reviewed it for NCPR in January. Spoiler alert: Wab Kinew is doing a breathtaking job of talking up The Orenda as the novel Canada needs to read now, because, he says, it speaks to this nation’s biggest unresolved social issues: reconciliation for past injustices, the need for more harmonious existence between natives and settlers today and the importance of regaining proper appreciation for our natural environment. (But you know what? Each champion is shining in their own way.)

I love the idea of promoting a more literate society – you know, making reading feel cool, fun and important. Instead of dis-ing it, as is more often the case in our sea of western materialism. Of course, this is the CBC –  which caters to a more bookish segment of the general population. But I am slightly amazed (and quite pleased) to live in a country that values reading this highly.

haldbloodblues_200I hasten to add there is LOTS to dislike in this construct. Starting with sensationalist hype to create an imaginary “event”. Or pitting book against book as if this was a boxing match or a beauty pageant. (Really, it borders on lame round-up of every cliche from the worst of reality TV.)

But sometimes things succeed in spite of reasons they should not. It helps that this year’s finalists are interesting, distinctive works of fiction. CBC has tried to add extra intensity (beyond mere reading for pleasure) with a supplemental focus: Which of the final nominees can best inspire social change?

cockroach_200I think it’s fair to say that’s a loaded question. How is “best” going to be defined? What counts as “social change”?  This being CBC, in come the usual sacred causes: the environment, racial tensions, unresolved issues about Canada’s indigenous people, the immigrant experience and gender issues. Don’t get me wrong. Those are all important causes. I’m simply noting what’s not at that table: law & order issues, the damage done to society by the abandonment of personal responsibility, the need for a vibrant business environment, the rights of the unborn…you get the idea. (There’s still a cool kids table and conservatives aren’t even in the cafeteria.)

OK, so I don’t like the concept and I would argue the deck is stacked. So why do I recommend tuning in? Because the voices around the table are just that good. (Dare I say “riveting”?) It’s hosted by the very able Jian Ghomeshi – who you aren’t hearing as the usual host of  ”Q” this week because he’s busy doing a stand-alone Canada Reads episodes instead.

annabelcv_200The champions/defenders have brought different life experiences and strengths to the fore. There have been a few instances of strategic voting thus far, and that will likely sharpen in the next few days. But these are articulate, insightful people who have read all the books and have a lot of interesting points to make. It’s been a real, vibrant, thoughtful discussion. There’s plenty of passion on display, but it’s not just some stupid knife fight.

Maybe the eventual winning book will foster social change. Maybe not. One book – however good – can only do so much toward redressing the many ills that will always plague humanity. (I mean, really! We already have the Bible. The Torah. The Koran. And so on. For everyone who would argue that a full-on holy book is all the world needs to live well, others would counter that sacred texts have also been a source of unhappiness and strife.)

But that’s the beauty of books. They give pleasure, they educate, they make us think and they get people talking.

Good job on this one CBC! Check out different ways to tune in live or catch up on it later in audio and video clips.

Following the books, part 2

Seattle Gotham. Photo: PicsfromJoe

Seattle Gotham. Photo: PicsfromJoe

(The second installment from our book-gal-on-the-scene, Betsy Kepes, covering the AWP writing conference in Seattle. Her first post is here.)

I’m almost feeling like a Seattle native when I take the bus to downtown. I stand nonchalantly by the bus stop, like the old pros, and I don’t stare at the bus schedule I’ve hidden in my pocket. The morning buses are crowded, with a wide range of ages and skin colors. Some people read, others hunch over their smart phones and a good percentage stare ahead or out the window, the bus ride their quiet transition to the work day.

Many of us disembark at the Convention Center bus stop and on Friday I joined the throng of AWP conferees going inside. We’re easy to spot, with lime green lanyards around our necks with our nametags attached. The convention center is an enormous building with rows of escalators and crowded coffee shops and polite guards checking to make sure that we are indeed wearing our lanyards when we get off on the fourth floor.

Last year Stephanie Elizondo Griest joined the SLU community as the Viebrenz Visiting Writer and she and I became good friends. She’s now teaching non-fiction at UNC Chapel Hill and I was looking forward to seeing her again and hearing her speak at a panel discussion called “Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family.” We had just enough time to exchange a hug before the session began.

Now I’ll be honest. I probably wouldn’t have gone to this session if Stephanie hadn’t been on the panel. Memoir is not my favorite genre and, well, there were 24 other sessions to choose from in that time slot. But the memoirists were all eloquent and passionate and each one had my total attention. Ralph Savarese (Reasonable People) told of adopting a severely abused and autistic boy and wondering if the memoir he planned was a violation of his son’s privacy, even as he hoped it would show that autistic children did indeed have emotions and empathy. Amazingly, by the time Savarese finished writing his memoir, his new son had learned to read and “talk” by using a keyboard. The last chapter in the book is in the son’s words. One author told of writing about incest and another writer said, “What can be gained by revelation?” She said to make a good story a memoirist must know each family member deeply. “I forced myself to love every character.”

I left that session before the Q and A ended to rush a few blocks to the Seattle Public Library for an appointment with Jodee Fenton, the head librarian in Special Collections. She was taking time out of her busy day to show me volume 8 of Edward R. Curtis’s magnificent set of twenty books, The North American Indian. Curtis’s photos are iconic sepia-toned profiles, his Chief Joseph photo the most famous, perhaps, of all photos of Native Americans. For historians, art historians, anthropologists and plain old Americans, the Curtis photos and books are a treasure trove of art and data. They’re also extremely rare, with about eighty complete sets in the world. The last time a set sold at auction it went for 1.8 million dollars.

My friend Dave MacDonald joined me and we waited while Ms. Fenton went into a vault to get out the book. I’d asked to see volume 8 as it has photos of the Nez Perce people and in the summer I work in the part of Idaho that was their homeland for hundreds of years. The volume arrived, carefully placed on the top of a wheeled cart. We headed to the elevators to go to a viewing room and a couple of men saw our procession. “Is that the Curtis?” they asked. For some Westerners the Curtis books have the status of a Gutenberg Bible.

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce. Photo: Curtis, via Northwestern University's Curtis Library.

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce.                                                                                                          Photo: Edward R. Curtis, via Seattle Public Library. Curtis collection.

In the viewing room we were asked to sit facing the book. Each volume of The North American Indian consists of a very large portfolio of photos and a smaller bound book of text and photos. Curtis insisted on the highest quality paper and fine leather bindings. The set of books was so expensive that only libraries, universities and the very wealthy could afford a subscription. Curtis hoped to publish one new book a year but problems with financing and his own mental health slowed down the project. Timothy Egan’s new biography details all the successes and setbacks (Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis).

Dave and I sat still as Ms. Fenton held up the first photograph, the famous portrait of Chief Joseph. The detail was astounding and each line of Chief Joseph’s face told of his sorrow. He died a year after Curtis took the photo and some said he died of a broken heart. He’d petitioned the US government for years but his band of Nez Perce people were never allowed to go home to their ancestral lands in the green Wallowa Mountains of Oregon. They languished in the dry, hot flatlands of their resettlement land in Oklahoma.

Ms. Fenton put the Chief Joseph photo away and worked through the portfolio, carefully removing the yellowed tissue paper between each photo and lifting up the artwork for us to see. It reminded me of being present at a Japanese tea ceremony, where each object must be honored and handled in a special way. Particularly interesting were a couple of photos that showed people and horses or boats in the almost dark. They were incredibly dramatic and looked like oil paintings. Volume 8 was published in 1911 and I know Curtis didn’t use a flash so he may have set his camera for the low light or manipulated the photos when he returned to his studio in Seattle. None of Curtis’s photos are candids; he carefully set up each shot and asked his subjects to wear traditional clothes. But the photos didn’t seem staged. Most showed the dignity of each person, something Curtis spent hours and hours trying to capture.

After almost an hour we’d looked at all the photos and Ms. Fenton opened up the box that contained the text that went with the folio. She showed us the gold banding on the spine and the thick creamy paper of the pages. Curtis and his assistants gathered as much data as they could from each tribe—language, customs and even music. We didn’t have time to read the text but Northwestern University has scanned the books and they’re on line at http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/

When it was time to go we thanked Ms. Fenton as she rolled the cart into an elevator. She obviously loves sharing the Curtis books, the most valuable collection in the library. She told us that the Seattle library probably got a deal on buying the set as Curtis wanted the people of the city to have access. They may have paid $3,500 for the books, a good investment. Not that they’re for sale. She told us, proudly, that anyone can come to the library and get an appointment to see the Curtis books. In many institutions only researchers have access.

Dave and I rushed off, he back to work for the city of Seattle, and me back to the conference. I thought of those photos for the rest of the day and the lost North America they tried to capture.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my next event wasn’t on par with the Curtis photos. “The Art of the Book Review” wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t very well organized. I liked the passion of the panelists, people who obviously didn’t agree with Annie Proulx’s assessment (she said the only qualification a book reviewer must possess is the ability to read). Craig Teicher said a book review is good if you want to argue about it and Darcey Steinke told us she tries to find what is “strange” about each book, what is its life force.

Back outside for me, and this time I power walked up Pike Street to the Capital District to pay homage to the Elliot Bay Bookstore, Seattle’s premier independently owned book shop. It had a satisfactory cozy feel, with hardwood floors and lots of nooks and crannies and a little café downstairs. I reminded myself that I had to get all my belongings into my carry-on bag and limited my book buying to presents for my Seattle hosts.

My next event, “There She Goes Again: Women Writing Travel,” featured Stephanie Elizondo Griest again but I would have gone anyway as Pam Houston was one of the panelists and I’ve enjoyed her writing since her first book of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness. The panelists discussed why so few travel stories by women appear in print. In this year’s edition of The Best American Travel Writing only three of the nineteen essays were by women, and that’s been about the percentage for years.

It’s not that women aren’t writing travel essays. Lavinia Spalding edits an annual of the best of women’s travel writing, essays that haven’t already appeared in magazines, and receives hundreds of manuscripts each year. Discussion among the panelists didn’t come up with any solution to the shortage of female voices but they all agreed it’s best not to try to write “like a man.” Tracy Ross, who writes for Backpacker and Outside said her stories got better when she stopped trying to be Jon Krakauer. Some of the panelists said that it’s different being a woman traveler, that women have to be more careful, but Pam Houston, bold and funny, disagreed. “I’ve got a lot of guy in me,” she said, “even though I’m married to a man. I’m not afraid when I travel.” She also said that Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love have sold more copies than any travel books by men so why doesn’t that translate to magazine stories?

Right at rush hour, both in the Convention Center and outside on the city streets, I tried to meet Canton friends Kate Harloe and David Pynchon. My awkward, super-slow texting skills didn’t help the situation but eventually we all found each other and assembled at a Thai restaurant for dinner. Kate moved to Seattle last year after graduating from Hamilton College and David is a recent SLU grad. Both of them started out working in a bike shop and they’ve found internships with innovative, young companies, places they hope will hire them soon. They told me Seattle is filled with young people, and growing rapidly. It’s a great place to be, for now.

lopezbook

Photo: coconinoco

The last event of the evening for me featured Gretel Ehrlich and Barry Lopez. For Ehrlich’s newest book, Facing the Wave, she traveled to Japan to meet people in areas damaged by the tsunami. Years ago I read and admired Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men by Lopez. Both authors write often for widely read magazines.

I’m avoiding using the words “environmental writers” as I don’t want to pigeonhole Erhlich and Lopez, but I think I can say it proudly. These are two writers who try to have their writing change the way we view the world. Ehrlich spoke first, reading an essay about the devastation of climate change in Arctic villages and reminding us that the Arctic drives the climate of the world. It’s not looking good.

Lopez spoke deliberately, like a minister, and his voice reminded me of his prose—thoughtful and handsome and measured. He read from his essay “Six Thousand Lessons.” I wasn’t at my best as a listener but I did hear some great phrases: “television, a kind of cultural nerve gas” and “as you grow older you realize if you write well at all it’s because somebody loves you” and a writer is “involved in the making of valuable patterns.” I did keep my eyes open for his 350 word story, a length suggested by Bill McKibben of 350.org.

After the talk I made a beeline to the bus stop. I needed to catch the 10:19 and I arrived with 4 minutes to spare. Feeling urbane I stood with a few other people and waited. And waited. And waited for far more than five or even ten minutes. No one else seemed concerned so I took out my new Ursula Le Guin books. “How do you like the conference so far?” asked a woman standing next to me. I don’t think she could even see my lime-green lanyard. We had a good chat about talks vs. panels vs. actually visiting with the friends who are providing a bed during the conference.

Finally, at almost 11pm, a bus arrived. There’d been a breakdown in the bus tunnel under downtown and the passengers already on the bus had sat until the next bus came along. They looked weary. I was just happy to cram myself onto the overloaded bus and head north to Lake City. It would be good to get a few hours of sleep before reversing the journey for the last day of the conference. I’d circled talks by Ursula Le Guin, Gish Jen and Tobias Wolf and, the grand finale, Timothy Egan and Sherman Alexie.

Small print on food labels magnified

Photo: eltpics

Photo: eltpics

The FDA released their newly proposed Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods last Thursday.  It’s the first significant update in 20 years.  The new labels are intended to make more sense to consumers and help us all become more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

There are a variety of changes, but the two most significant are the requirement to list added sugars on food labels and to update serving sizes to better reflect what people actually eat and drink.  How many times have you polished off a “single” bag of chips only to realize in horror that you really had 3.5 servings?  And, individual sugar consumption is now more than 22 teaspoons (around 88 grams) per day.  That’s about 15 teaspoons more than the American Heart Association recommends.  It’s also about 3 ½ candy bars a day…or 8 chocolate donuts worth of sugar!

Understanding nutrition labels is important for our heath.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than a third of Americans are considered obese and less than half of us get enough physical activity.  States with the highest overall obesity rates include Mississippi (36%), Louisiana (33%) and Alabama (32%).   New York State’s overall rate is 25%, but it might surprise you to learn that four counties in the North Country have the highest rates of obesity in the state—rates that more closely align with Alabama and Louisiana.  Thirty-two percent of adults 20 and over in St. Lawrence, Herkimer, and Jefferson counties are obese (Body Mass Index ≥ 30) and Oswego county has the highest obesity rate in the state at 34%.  Rates like this place us at greater risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, infertility and cancer.

Here’s what the proposed label looks like:                  And, the current label:                                                                                                                                                                   

nutrition2nutrition3

 

 

nutrition1

There will be a 90 day public comment period on the proposed changes before the final rules are issued by the FDA.  The final rules are expected to take effect 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register.  Industry will have two years beyond the effective date to comply.

The takeaway from all of this—get informed and get moving!  Do you know your Body Mass Index (BMI)? It doesn’t measure body fat directly, but BMI is a good screening tool to help you identify potential weight problems.  Calculate yours now:  http://1.usa.gov/1dSzT3p.

nutrition4

 

References:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
  • American Heart Association
  • World Health Organization
  • Gallup

In the book trenches

Annie Proulx, the keynote speaker at the 2014 AWP conference. Photo: U.S. Embassy in Argentina, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Annie Proulx, the keynote speaker at the 2014 AWP conference. Photo: U.S. Embassy in Argentina, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

(Our regional book reviewer, Betsy Kepes, is covering the Association of Writers and Writing Programs–AWP–Annual Conference for NCPR. She’ll be posting about the conference through the next few days.) 

How many writers does it take to fill the Seattle Convention Center? Thousands of people are here for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference. The place swarmed with people when I walked in this morning and stood in line (H –L) to pick up my registration packet and press pass. A book fair added to the hustle with rows and rows of booths where literary presses and journals show their wares.

Yesterday I spent the day with my cousin on pastoral Vashon Island so the noise and activity inside made me seek out a secluded corner (actually called the “Dickinson Quiet Space” with a poem that begins “There is a solitude of space”) to plan my day. Each hour offers at least 25 options for sessions and readings, the super-sized conference.

I started off with a panel of authors who write “literary” children’s fiction. They discussed how they reconcile their artistic vision with the need of their publishers to sell lots of books. The five women panelists were all articulate and funny. Sara Zarr said it’s easy for her to write books that are all conversations and relationships, “internal struggle” books. It stretches her as a writer to try making more things happen, to beef up the plot. Laurel Snyder, who studied poetry at the Iowa Writers Workshop, told us that as a poet she never wrote for an audience, only for herself. Now, as a children’s book writer, she writes for someone and enjoys actually having readers. Stephanie Kuehnert wrote raw and brutal scenes and thought she was writing literature for adults, but when her manuscripts didn’t sell her agent had her take out all the adult characters and market her novel as YA (Young Adult). She found an editor within weeks. Young Adult literature has “grown up” and sex and violence are now part of the territory.

Even a book reviewer has to eat...Betsy on the right, enjoying a Japanese dinner she described as the most authentic since her time in Japan.

Even a book reviewer has to eat…Betsy on the right, enjoying a Japanese dinner she described as the most authentic since her time in Japan.

A nuts and bolts workshop filled the next hour for me, with a panel of booksellers and authors telling how they sell books. (I’ve got a manuscript with an agent now and hope that some day I’ll actually use this information.) Author Jonathon Evison was particularly good, a real stand-up comedian who would be a great person to invite to any bookstore. When someone in the audience asked the events planner for Elliot Bay Bookstore what was the best way to get her attention, Evison said, “Buy four books and stand in front of her with your pile.”

I couldn’t resist the title of the next session: How to Write a Good Bad Book Review. The panelists were all book reviewers for the NYT or Slate or other top publications and they too had lots of fun being together and laughing at reviews that skewered books. But they were quick to say that a bad review has to be very well-written and have something to say other than complete derision. Sasha Weiss of The New Yorker said reading book reviews should be “intensely pleasurable” and that the reviewer has to earn authority by being a good writer herself. Parul Sehgal of the NYT talked about the importance of tone, especially in a bad book review, and that the enemy is cliché. Dan Kois, the editor of Slate, was annoyed by NYT reviewer Michiko Kukitani’s recent negative review of SLU alum Lorrie Moore’s new book of stories. Kukitani said the new book is “disappointing,” a word that is loaded with meaning. Kois said she never explained her disappointment, if she had the review would have been far richer.

Okay, here's a close up of that Japanese dinner. Photo: Betsy Kepes

Okay, here’s a close up of that Japanese dinner. Photo: Betsy Kepes

Sprinkled throughout the three days of this conference are readings by famous and not-so-famous writers. I went to a panel where David Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars and several other novels) and Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City) read from their work and talked with a moderator. Guterson read new poetry and I have to say I would have preferred some of his prose. Larson read an excerpt from The Devil in the White City which also seemed puzzling as he has written a few books since that one. They did better when they answered questions from a moderator. Both men live in Seattle and admitted that the gloomy, rainy weather of winter help them stay inside to write. When asked how he picked topics for his books, Larsen said he mopes around for almost a year after he finishes a book before he finally settles on a new subject. “You really have to feel trembling with enthusiasm,” he said. If you’re not that way at the beginning of a project, don’t write that book.

Before Annie Proulx’s Keynote talk began at 8:30pm I had time to get tea and a sandwich at a Starbucks and take the long escalators up to the tenth floor of the public library to join quiet rows of people working on computers and doing research. The building is new and “modern” with a roof of steep angles and a metal grid that makes it look like a giant waffle iron. It is obviously well-loved by the people of Seattle—hundreds of library computers are available, along with a job search area and tables and chairs everywhere with people reading and working. Even at 7pm on a Thursday evening it was full of people.

I made sure to get to the convention center Ballroom A-B-C early enough to get a good seat in the second row. Before the talk began I chatted with a woman from Vancouver Island, also at her first AWP conference. She went to university in Ottawa so we had some fun talking about that city.

Just before 8:30pm a small cluster of people passed in front of us to sit in the front row. An older woman with shaggy gray hair and a limp caught my attention. Was it…? Yes, Annie Proulx came to the podium after a funny introduction by a professor from the University of Washington. He compared Proulx’s prose to the press comments given by the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.

Years ago I read Proulx’s first novels, Postcards and The Shipping News. The vivid writing drew me in to her world of flawed men and women who find, usually, a little happiness by the end of the book. Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” became a very successful movie. I’d highly recommend reading the short story, a tightly wound drama written with Proulx’s distinctive “muscular” prose. (That sounds a little ridiculous, but read the story and you’ll see what I mean.)

When Proulx began to read in a rich even voice it was a treat to hear a master at work. She was both profound and funny. Proulx read from a prepared text with her major theme “why do we write”? It’s simple, she said, we write to communicate and the bound book was humanity’s most important invention for 1500 years. Proulx is a master of one-line zingers. She said in recent years the number of readers has declined but the number of authors has “violently exploded” with the rise of self-publishing.  Book reviewers have always had only one qualification—they are able to read.

The crowd gave Proulx a standing ovation when she left the stage and the line was long at her book signing table. I had to skip the signing to catch a bus north to Lake City where I’m staying with friends. After the ride and a short walk through a quiet neighborhood I’m having a tough time falling asleep. My mind is still fizzing with the excitement of the day and it’s worth a little insomnia.

Coming next—more workshops and Gretel Ehrlich and Barry Lopez, plus a special appointment at the Seattle library to view a rare volume of photographer Edward Curtis’s twenty-volume masterpiece The North American Indian.