On July 8, the 2011 Oregon Book Awards author tour arrived at the Crossroads Art Center in Baker City, Oregon. The visit was part of a state-wide tour for three published Oregonian authors who were awarded for outstanding excellence in the literary arts.
The Oregon Book Awards author tour was partly sponsored by the Oregon Literary Arts Commission in Portland, Oregon. The Baker County Public Library and Betty's Book Store, both located in Baker City, were also co-sponsors of the event.
Susan Denning, Director of Program and Events for the Oregon Literary Arts Commission, and Perry Stokes, Director of the Baker County Public Library, were in attendance as official representatives of their respected sponsors. Also attending as an official representative was Carolyn Kulog, co-owner of Betty's Book Store.
The three Oregonian authors who made a special guest appearance at the Crossroads Art Center were Henry Hughes, Paul VanDevelder, and Willy Vlautin.
Henry Hughes is a poet and the author of two poetry books called Men Holding Eggs and Moist Meridian. Mr. Hughes is also a past recipient of the 2004 Oregon Book Award and an editor of an anthology called The Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing. Mr. Hughes also offers his commentary on new poetry for the Harvard Review and currently teaches at Western Oregon University.
Paul VanDevelder is a non-fiction author who has won the Frances Fuller Victor Award for his latest published title called Savages and Scoundrels, which is currently being made into a documentary film by PBS. Mr. VanDevelder also writes for famous publications such as Audubon, Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, and American History. Mr. VanDevelder is also a journalist and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times.
Willy Vlautin is a fiction author of the title Lean on Pete. He is a recipient of the Readers Choice Award and the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction. Mr. Vlautin is also the author of two other published fiction novels titled The Motel Life and Northline.
After the authors arrived at the Crossroads Art Center, a large crowd of approximately 40 people slowly arrived in small groups and entered the first floor of the art center where the program was taking place.
After everyone was seated, Susan Denning walked to the front of the room and introduced Willy Vlautin. As Mr. Vlautin approached the audience, he walked over to one corner of the room and pulled out a guitar from a large black guitar case.
In addition to being an author, Mr. Vlautin is also a musician and a song writer who loves to play the guitar and sing his own original songs. Mr. Vlautin then played two original songs that he wrote himself while singing the words to each song.
As Mr. Vlautin sang each song with a slight, natural southern accent, the audience was very captivated and gave him a rousing applause after he finished playing.
Mr. Vlautin then proceeded to read a few excerpts from his book, Lean on Pete. After reading the excerpts, he explained to the audience that he enjoys writing fiction stories about characters who experience the darker aspects of life. Such experiences might include hitchhiking, accepting rides from strangers, drugs, alcohol, and dealing with homeless people.
After Mr. Vlautin was finished, Susan Denning next introduced Henry Hughes. Mr. Hughes stood in front of the audience and explained his passion for being a poet, which is sometimes based on his personal experiences as a child or while fishing for trout.
Suddenly, as Mr. Hughes was about to read a poem from one of his poetry books, a large metal door in the back of the room, which led to an outdoor courtyard, started to jiggle loudly.
Carolyn Kulog, who was standing on one side of the room, quickly rushed to the door and pushed it open. In the process, she accidentally knocked down a fabric drape that covered the door's small glass window.
Three older women were standing on the other side of the door. As they quickly entered the room, Mr. Hughes loudly announced they were late, which startled them. The audience immediately reacted with smiles and a few chuckles.
As the three women quickly found a seat in the audience, Mr. Hughes began reading his first poem out loud. After he had finished, two Harley Davidson motorcycles loudly roared past the Crossroads Art Center, which momentarily disrupted the peaceful mood. Mr. Hughes then commented how the noise of the motorcycles kind of added to the reading of his poetry. Again, the audience reacted with smiles and a few chuckles.
After Mr. Hughes finished reading his poetry, Susan Denning then introduced Paul VanDevelder. Mr. VanDevelder stood in front of the audience with a relaxed pose. He then pulled out a large picture of a tribal native American Indian chief and placed it on a display stand. He then explained to the audience who the chief was and his importance as a real-life character in Savages and Scoundrels.
Mr. VanDevelder then started talking about the nature, purpose and research of Savages and Scoundrels. Apparently, the book reveals shocking new truths about how Americans, including former US President Thomas Jefferson, slowly pushed the native American Indians from their homes while expanding western civilization for early American settlers.
As Mr. VanDevelder started reading the introduction to Savages and Scoundrels, the audience began shifting in their seats, trying to feel more comfortable. The mood appeared to be very solemn as Mr. VanDevelder spent 15-minutes reading about native American history and its context to early American settlers.
When Mr. VanDevelder finished reading the introduction, he continued to talk a little more about his book. When he was finished, Susan Denning then invited all three of authors to stand in front of the audience and answer any questions they might have.
As the three authors stood side-by-side in front of the room, a few people from the audience raised their hands and began asking questions. The three authors eagerly replied with smiles and excitement. After all the questions had been answered, Susan Denning thanked the audience for attending the event.
As the audience stood up, they gave a round of applause for the authors and then slowly dispersed to different areas of the room.
On the far left side of the room was a large table that displayed several bottles wine, lots of glasses, and a silver tray full cookies. There was also a large glass donation bowl on the table that was overflowing with dollar bills from the audience.
On the far right side of the room was a large table that displayed several copies of books that were from each author. Most of the people in the room stood at either a table or were talking to one of the authors.
Approximately 30-minutes later, the event was over and everyone appeared to have had a good time. As the sun began to descend on the horizon, and people started to depart, they began reflecting and commenting to each other about the beautiful evening of literature, the arts, and unexpected moments at the Crossroads Art Center.
Most of the people hoped the tour would return next year as they climbed into their cars and drove away. As for the authors, they enjoyed their time visiting with the people of Baker City and considered the event a success. As for the future, its hard to say if the tour will return. But if it does, it will be eagerly welcomed back by the community of Baker City.