Wordstock: Annual Literary Festival for All Ages

Children and parents listen to a book reading preview at Wordstock 2015-2016. Wordstock is heading into its 33rd year. Photo by Literary Arts

Literary Arts’ annual book festival is rapidly approaching, inspiring excitement in lovers of literature. Authors, public speakers, and artists gather every year, allowing book fiends and writing junkies an outlet for expression. Literary Arts acquired the festival in 2014.  This acquisition preceded Wordstock’s Festival and Events Manager Amanda Bullock’s move from her prior role as the Director of Public Programming for the nonprofit book store Housing Works to her leading role in Wordstock. This year’s authors like American writer Lidia Yuknavitch, the author of the memoir The Chronology of Water, and the novels The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and The Book of Joan, will attend the festival to speak on panels for all ages. “In addition to the onstage events, we also have pop-up events that are in the galleries,” says Bullock. These feature people sharing their original pieces, along with a piece of related visual art.

Wordstock is Literary Arts’ way of manifesting their goal of becoming an intergenerational literary center in one day and in one event. The acquisition of Wordstock by Literary Arts was caused by the inability of Wordstock to continue the festival. In 2014 Wordstock approached Literary Arts in hopes the organization would take on the festival in the continuing years. “Acquisition always sounds like a hostile term, but it was very friendly. It wasn’t like a lit world scandal,” explains Bullock. Previous Wordstock festivals were held at the Convention Center and were two days long. The largest fundamental change to the festival was to its location and the duration of the festival. Wordstock will take place at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, and is one day long.

This year, one hundred authors are attending the festival, resulting in a total of over 150 presenters, including musicians, moderators, and pop-ups. “We are very excited about Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of the novel Between the World and Me; he is a or the leading public American intellectual right now” says Bullock. Coates is coming to present his new book We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of essays about the Obama presidency. American writer Daniel Handler, often known under the pen name Lemony Snicket and the author of the children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events, will be speaking during a panel to talk about his work under said alias.

This year the festival is introducing a Young Adult stage for the first time. “We’ve always had YA but this year we have a whole stage with 12 authors.” The YA panel will include the author Julie Murphy, author of Dumplin’ and Ramona Blue. Alongside Murphy, will be Traci Chee, and Jenny Han, the author of the Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy and the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. “We have a big combination of classic big name all-stars, local legends like Lidia Yuknavitch and some more up and coming presenters…you might come for Lidia Yuknavitch and then discover a poet that you love,” says Bullock.

Almost half of this year’s lineup are locals, and many are from Portland. “It’s not hard to do when there are so many great writers in the Pacific Northwest…I really love our poetry lineup this year; we have a great partnership with the Poetry Foundation,” continues Bullock. This year the festival will see poets like Morgan Parker, and Denez Smith, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

To run Wordstock, over 300 volunteers are required. “The festival wouldn’t happen without them,” says Bullock. To volunteer you can visit Literary Arts’ website under the tab Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival. “Not only is Wordstock this one day manifestation of an intergenerational literary center, but it is a portrait of literary culture in the Pacific Northwest right now,” says Bullock.

Take a day to see what’s in store at the 2017-2018 Literary Arts Wordstock Book Festival from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on November 11. Tickets are free for students as long as an ID is presented at the door. Otherwise, general admission is $15.00. It’s a small price to pay to experience what Wordstock has to offer.

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