15th Annual Oregon Book Awards
Thursday Nov. 8th, 7:30 pm
Scottish Rite Center

The beauty of Oregon's literary community is in the abundance of writers working in a wide range of forms. One night, I moved through three parties--the gloss of a paid-for publicity event, the determination and spirit of a collective, and the late night BYOB of slam poets. Everyone serious about writing exudes the same mix of passion, cultivated alongside a stubborn refusal to let daily life subsume the urge toward self-expression. Writing takes time. It demands concentration and a willingness to risk repeated rejection, to compete with television and movies for audience attention.

Now we've come to another year of the Oregon Book Awards. Again, there's a stellar line-up, with names like Ralph Salisbury and Karen Braucher surfacing among the poetry finalists. Mark Jude Poirier, relatively new to the Northwest, holds a deserved place among the fiction list, along with Barry Lopez, Molly Best Tinsley, Phillip Margolin, and Doe Tabor. Larry Colton and Lauren Kessler are only two of the heavyweights nominated in nonfiction.

The best part of the book awards is the opportunity to see writers honored, to see the small rewards of getting words on the page, a book into print. The downside, of course, is in all the near misses, the close calls, deserving authors not nominated, perhaps working outside the mainstream. I'd say, attend the event in celebration of so much work done really well--years of heart and labor poured into every last book. It's a chance to rub shoulders, shake hands, congratulate. At the same time, keep in mind that talent in Portland is seemingly infinite, with authors writing beyond the reach of publicity and recognition, always evolving, some self-publishing, reading aloud, taking personal risks to offer all they can.