Bringing hidden elements of stories to light
In an upcoming event, four writers will take audiences on a journey through overt and covert elements of their stories.
The 16th annual Writers Night, sponsored by the Estacada Area Arts Commission, begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at the Springwater Grange, 24591 S. Springwater Road. This year's event features readings from hosts Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred, along with novelists Kristin Kaye and Julia Stoops. After the event at the grange, Allred will invite the audience to a party at his house.
"(The theme of this year's Writers Night) worked internally pretty organically, and then looking out to the world, I think there's a lot that Overt/Covert touches on," said Allred, discussing its place in their writing and the surrounding world.
Allred will read from his upcoming novel "The Alehouse at the End of the World," Kaye will read from her novel "Tree Dreams," Stoops will read from her novel "Parts per Million" and Rose will read from her novel "Little Miss Strange."
There are many examples of the event's theme running through each of the stories.
"The deeply covert action is humans trying to figure out who they are in relation to other human beings," Rose said. "These are all very human stories, very messy human stories."
"Tree Dreams" tells the story of a logger's daughter who leaves town after she witnesses a violent interaction. She assumes a different identity, participates in a tree sit and inadvertently returns to her hometown under her new identity.
"Based on where she comes from, hanging out with hippies or environmentalists is the very last place she would want to be or her family would expect her to be. In the piece that I'm going to read, she is climbing up the rope 100 feet into the tree tops to be at the tree sit and is deeply conflicted about being there," Kaye said. "Her identity continues to get more and more submerged as she tries to figure out all of these dilemmas and the bigger question of the responsibility to the forest that is increasingly being cut around you. She's super covert. No one knows who she really is — including herself."
"The Alehouse at the End of the World," from which Allred also read during last year's Writers Night, takes place on the isle of the dead.
"What happens early in the novel is that my hero, the fisherman, learns that he's arrived in the midst of a coup," Allred said. "We learn about (the coup) at a distance, but what we see is the political powers on the isle, who are three six foot tall talking bird gods, sorting it out amongst themselves."
"Parts per Million" tells the story of environmental activists who host a radio show, and eventually, they move from broadcasting news to committing their own covert actions.
"Essentially, in the whole novel, there's a lot of subtext about keeping things a secret," Stoops said.
"Little Miss Strange" is an examination of the counterculture from a child's perspective.
"It's a look at family structure in the counterculture," Rose said. "The scene I'm going to read (during Writers Night) is of a peaceful sit-in in a park on Memorial Day. There are two kids involved in the scene, and they're not really aware of the political implications of what's going on. They just see a picnic with all these hippies in the park."
Both Stoops and Kaye worked on elements of their novels while at the Pinewood Table, a Portland-based writing group led by Rose and Allred. They brought the stories to the table nearly a decade ago, and both books were released on April 10.
"It was weird but it was great," Stoops said. "It was one of those moments where you double check the date."
Kaye added that it's a fitting time for both novels to enter the world.
"They're both about the role of activism and this whole question of overt and covert. It's so strange having them come out now when the world is doing its thing," she said. "Before there was a dearth of activism, and now the whole work is taking to the street."
All four authors are looking forward to Writers Night.
"It's always one of the highlights of my year," Allred said. "It's one of those events where people have come repeatedly and they know each other from the event. It's sort of this annual pilgrimage."