September 7th, 2011 12:00 pm | Maggie Summers Arts & Books | Posted In: Books

Readings Go Rock 'n' Roll

A Q&A with the creators of This! Fest.

Sellwood's the Woods will host This! Fest, a new literature and music festival, this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, with readings from more than 26 prominent Portland writers and 18 musical performances. (Read more about the festival in this week's Headout.)

Jeremy Hadley, the festival's official organizer, says the idea was spawned by himself and three friends: Wilson Vediner (of local band Point Juncture, WA), Lisa Wells (author of Yeah. No. Totally.) and Michael Heald (local writer and owner of Perfect Day Publishing). WW sat down with all four to learn more.

WW: How did This! Fest come about? 

Jeremy Hadley: It was a really organic idea. It essentially happened because next week is a big deal in town because of Musicfest, and there are just a lot of people in town. [The Woods] is a little south of where Musicfest is happening and I had the idea that we needed to do something that weekend.

Wilson Vediner: Jeremy mentioned the idea to me right at the tail end of [taking classes at PSU with Emily Chenoweth and Tom Bisell] and talking to them a lot about writing. I mentioned the idea of "let's do a lit music thing," because all these people come to shows anyways.... It just made sense to bridge all these people together.... Michael published Lisa [Wells]'s book so we brought Michael in.

Micheal Heald: I'd known Wilson because he'd been my landlord and I got an email from PayPal saying Wilson Vediner has ordered a book from you and I looked at him and I was like, "thanks, man." He hadn't realized I was the publisher.

Vediner: He'd been publishing out of my old bedroom and I had no idea he was in there. I'd moved years ago.

Lisa Wells: It's a very Portland story.

Are the writers reading original work, or stuff they have already written?

Wells: Some people have already written their pieces and some people claim they are writing specific pieces for this event. What's exciting is that, for example, the poetry world tends to be discreet, and then there's fiction and then there's the small press publishing and people who are maybe involved with major labels like HarperCollins or something. It’s really cool to bring everyone together, especially because writers are often nerds and they admire rock 'n rollers or write about rock 'n rollers.

Heald: There are a number of great reading series in town, and a lot of new ones have popped up the last year or two, which is a sign that things are moving towards this.... The idea of creating a whole literary night that's not some hackneyed throwback to the Beats but something that feels relevant and fun, something that's social, exciting and also allows you to come into contact with writers.... Everyone knows the bands here, and I want to make an effort as someone who loves books to make sure that they're not only being presented in bookstores.

Wells: And why not here? Portland is such a literate town.

It's interesting that the writers are more prominent than the bands, because with all the big bands at Musicfest, you might as well bring all the good writers out to one spot.

Wells: That's kinda the direction we ended up going. The readings are going to be brief. We're asking people between 5 and 7 minutes, and we alerted them that they would be reading to a mixed audience who are also watching rock, so hopefully we can dispel a little bit of the feeling that readings are snorefests. I mean, I know a lot of writers who get bored at their own readings.

Vediner: We're really emphasizing the idea of this being a shorter thing, more about entertainment... come down, do your thing, you've got this time slot, do essentially a flash fiction piece, something short. I really like the idea and I can't emphasize more the idea of wanting to bring these different groups together.

Wells: One of the benefits touted by indie rockers who come to Portland is the idea that it's about relationships here. It's true for writers too. Where do you get community as a writer? It's usually a solitary endeavor.... Well, at writers conferences or some other sort of career focused—nevertheless fun, but career focused—events, often coming with a hefty fee to attend. So this removes all of that. It's exciting too, because you have people who are just emerging and you have people who are well into their careers, and there's no fee associated. It's pulling careerism out of the equation.

SEE IT: This! Fest will be held at the Woods, 6637 SE Milwaukie Ave., 890-0408, 5 pm, Friday Sept. 9, 3 pm, Saturday Sept. 10. Free.
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