EVERY YEAR, Wordstock's organizers grapple with the same issues: How to transform the Oregon Convention Center from a soulless showroom floor into a literary hub. How to help interested readers find points of entry into a packed lineup of authors, and how to ensure the festival reaches beyond the convention center's halls to the city at large. Wordstock's previous director, Greg Netzer, made huge strides toward expanding the scope of the festival, a legacy that lives on this year with extracurricular events like a Live Wire! taping and an opening-night poetry slam. And this year, new director Katie Merritt has put her own stamp on the festival by making the book fair itself more dynamic than ever before. In other words: There will be sex toys.
This year's lineup offers fewer of the big names that fest-goers have come to expect—there's no Jennifer Egan, no Jonathan Lethem, no Richard Dawkins. Headlining authors include Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus; Studio 360's Kurt Andersen (he also writes political thrillers! Who knew?); and Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson, as well as popular young-adult author David Levithan (co-author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist).
But beyond the spotlighted authors, the schedule's readings and author panels offer plenty worth seeking out: Jess Walter reads from his great Beautiful Ruins, Portland staple Kevin Sampsell and up-and-comer Chloe Caldwell team up to read from their respective memoirs, and local Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists discuss the tricks of their trade.
Sex is one of the festival's themes this year, along with journalism and dystopian novels, and the showroom floor will include an adults-only "Red Chair District," with erotica writers and publishers, sex toy purveyors She Bop, and dramatic readings of missed connections ads. Furthering the grownup fun, the Wordstock bar has been expanded—oh, and the Mercury is teaming up with our sister paper The Stranger for a free Wordstock afterparty you won't wanna miss.
Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE MLK, Sat Oct 13-Sun Oct 14, 10 am-6 pm, $7 a day or $10 for the weekend, wordstockfestival.com