First WordFest of 2023 offers laughter and inspiration for the dark months

The first WordFest event for 2023 will be on Tuesday, January 10, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Avenue in Longview.

Local comedian Coree Spencer will present her book, I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK, an activity book for when people are feeling down, anxious, or depressed. She created it from her own experience of having to rely on laughter to cope with mental health issues. “This book is like being with a hilarious friend who has no good advice but totally gets what you are going through,” she says.

It offers a bingo board to track signs that things may be off; a list of conversation enders and excuses for staying home when social anxiety creeps in, and a handy punch card that tracks the number of times one has canceled social plans. “The book is brightly illustrated but unafraid of the dark side, she says. “We’ve all been there, and that’s OK.” Coree organized the Cinder Block Comedy Festival in New York City, which received coverage in the New York TimesHuffington Post, and the Village Voice for its empowerment of marginalized groups. 

Shirley Clukey of Woodland will be reading from Dis-Membered: A Mormon Mom’s Memoir. The work-in-progress tells the story of why she joined the church at age nineteen and why she left it four decades later. The story includes how grateful she remains for her years in the church and how she wishes she’d never had anything to do with it.

Shirley spent forty-three years as a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving as choir director and holding a number of teaching and leadership positions in the US and overseas. Things changed after her twenty-year-old son came out as gay.

Hans Schaufus from Kalama has been writing an annual Christmas letter since 1996. They are pure fiction and represent different settings, in America, and several European and Latin American countries. He will be reading several of these letters.

After growing up in Baltimore, Hans traveled around the US and Europe for a number of years, earned a BA in History at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico, in 1972, and spent 25 years working at the Longview Public Library where he was instrumental in creating the “Art at the Library” program.

Since his retirement in 2006, he’s been involved in Longview’s Outdoor Gallery, the downtown sculpture project, and is the author /photographer of Am Ende der Strasse Links: Eine Reise Durch die Ehemalige DDR, a photographic essay on the former East German republic.

An open mic will follow the presentations.

Due to Covid, it is recommended that people be vaccinated and boosted if possible, and wear masks when not eating or drinking.

The monthly gathering of readers and writers meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM, in the fellowship hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Alan Rose at www.alan-rose.com.

2023 WordFest Schedule

We have an exciting line-up of writers for the new year, sharing their unique voices through poetry, novels and short stories, memoirs and essays. To receive the monthly WordFest newsletter announcing each event, sign up here.

JANUARY 10: Shirley Clukey, Hans Schaufus, Coree Spencer

FEBRUARY 14: Armin Tolentino, Caroline Holm, Robert Griffin

MARCH 14: Marianne Monson, Ann Kastberg, Krysten Ralston

APRIL 11: Doug Maynard, Carrie Born, Lenore Plassman

MAY 9: Ed Putka, Caleigh Moffatt, Ashley Bugge

JUNE 13: Sally Jones, Tiffany Dickinson, Lilly Brock

WordFest gathers on the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428-22nd Avenue, in Longview, Washington State. All events are free and open to the public.

Final WordFest for 2022 features history, memoir, and horror

The final WordFest event for 2022 will be on Tuesday, November 8, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Avenue in Longview.

Civil War historian and retired Kelso history teacher, John Simpson will read from his 6th book, All for the Union, based on 180 wartime letters donated to the Cowlitz County Historical Museum in 2014.  The missives were written by two brothers and two brothers-in-law to their sisters and wives in rural western New York. The four soldiers fought in every major battle in the Eastern theatre from Bull Run to Petersburg. Together, the Ellithorpe family letters offer a rare glimpse into the daily lives of soldiers in the Army of the Potomac and of the home front they swore to protect.

The son of Scottish immigrants, John grew up on Long Island, New York, and Edmonds, Washington. His love of Civil War history began while visiting Gettysburg National Military Park during the Civil War Centennial celebration. Later, he earned a Ph.D at the University of Oregon, with a specialty in Civil War history. He has also written extensively on minor league baseball in the Deadball Era (1900-1920).

Caroline Kurtz will read from her memoir of growing up in Ethiopia, A Road Called Down on Both Sides, and from her second memoir, Today is Tomorrow, about returning to the area in the midst of a brutal civil war. A citizen of two cultures, Caroline grew up absorbing the sights, sounds, smells, and customs of Africa, then returned later as an adult with her husband and three children where she taught, advocated for women, and supported peacemaking efforts between Ethiopia and Sudan.

Fluent in Ethiopia’s Amharic language, Caroline has organized community-led projects for sheep banks, bee-keeping, apple orchards, and has raised funds for schools in Muslim villages. Now living in Portland, she continues to work with their community leaders to bring solar energy, clean water, and women’s empowerment to the region.

Local writer Debz Briske will read from a book she is currently writing called Shape of Fear. The story is set in Astoria, Oregon, in 1922 and 2007. On December 8, 1922, at 2:00 a.m. during a fierce rainstorm, most of the coastal city was destroyed by a fire of unknown origins. In 2007, the U.S. economy entered into recession. These two historical events are the inspiration for her novel, weaving together the stories of Tobias, a disturbed teenage boy living in 1922, and Madison, a lonely girl living in 2007, and how fear shaped their lives and the lives of those around them.

Debz is a storyteller and writer of psychological and paranormal horror and personal monologues. She works in health care, which provides ample occasions for horror, humor, and cadavers, and loves baking, gardening and exchanging ghost stories.

Novelist and WordFest coordinator Alan Rose will present a different approach to writing one’s memoirs. “Any one human life comprises a multitude of transforming moments,” he says, “but trying to make sense of these moments and find some meaning through them can be overwhelming. How, and where, does one begin?” He will offer an approach to memoir that helps distill and define one’s most significant memories.

Alan is the author of three published novels and one novella. His novel of the AIDS epidemic, As If Death Summoned, won the Foreword INDIES (small independent publishers) Book of the Year Award (LGBT category) in 2021. He is also host and producer of KLTV’s “Book Chat” and reviews books for the Columbia River Reader.

An open mic will follow as time permits.

Due to Covid, it is recommended that people be vaccinated and boosted if possible, and wear masks when not eating or drinking.

The monthly gathering of readers and writers meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM, in the fellowship hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.

October WordFest celebrates coastal writers

WordFest will feature writers from Wahkiakum and Pacific counties on Tuesday, October 11, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Avenue in Longview.

Singer/songwriter Kyleen Austin will be performing a number of original songs, from one of her earliest pieces, “Leaving Colorado,” to songs reflecting her life in the Pacific Northwest. She will also discuss the inspiration and story behind the songs, like “Middle of the Lake,” written during an epic solo kayaking expedition from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Puget Island on the Columbia River in 2019.

A resident of Cathlamet, Kyleen is a singer/songwriter, kayak coach/guide, and grower of food. She performs solo throughout the US and is a founding member of the band Skamokawa Swamp Opera. People can find her work at her website, kyleenaustin.com, and on the Kyleen Austin YouTube channel.

Peter Adams Young will read from his novel One Hundred Stingers, based on his experiences flying in the air war over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The trail was an extensive web of roads and paths winding through the jungles of Laos, connecting the ports of North Vietnam with Communist fighting forces in the South. The challenge of cutting off this steady flow of combatants and materiel pitted the technology of United States air power against the implacable resourcefulness of the North Vietnamese regime. The need to maintain the illusion of Laotian neutrality meant that this conflict was nominally conducted in secret.

After graduating from the US Naval Academy, Pete flew nearly one hundred combat missions over Laos and North Vietnam. He wrote the first chapter of One Hundred Stingers, in 1973. After retiring in 2016 from a career designing and developing military command and control systems, he found the time to complete the novel. After living in San Diego and Portland, Oregon, he and his wife moved to Pacific County, where he is active in veterans’ groups while working on the first of a series of contemporary murder mysteries set in and around Civil War battlefields.

Poet John Ciminello will read from a selection of his work. His poems are about place, gratitude, and service, and are shaped by words, breath, rhythm, and story.  A native of Washington D.C., he grew up on the east coast before he and his wife moved to the Pacific Northwest 40 years ago

The author of three chapbooks, Shrine Above High Tide (2009), Magnolias, Mockingbirds, and Sweet Potato Pies (2017), and Bone River Elegy (2022), he writes “from a place of profound humility since I am as lost as anyone on this strange, crazy, kaleidoscopic journey we call life.  My work is an offering to the holy and an incomplete record of my time here.” His work has appeared in the anthology Songs from the Flowering Mountains (2021), in Rain, Analog, Squid Ink, Mentor, the Salal Review, and The Sun. 

Jan Bono from Long Beach, WA, will read from her new book, Pen Pals. Jan has previously published a collection of 12 “murderous” short stories written earlier this year, as well as a 6-book cozy mystery series, all set in SW Washington.

In the novel, 39-year-old Delia Griswald is determined to find a boyfriend before hitting the big 4-0. She places a personal ad in a large city newspaper, which garners 63 responses. The best writer, and therefore the candidate with the most appeal, quickly becomes her pen pal. Unfortunately, that pen pal resides in the state penitentiary. Believing in second chances, Delia grows closer with her new pen pal until she learns he is soon eligible for parole. What could possibly go wrong?

An open mic will follow as time permits.

Due to Covid, it is recommended that people be vaccinated and boosted if possible, and wear masks when not eating or drinking.

The monthly gathering of readers and writers meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM, in the fellowship hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.

Rich offering of experiences at September WordFest

WordFest will offer a variety of stories and experiences on Tuesday, September 13, 6:00-8:00 pm, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1428 22nd Avenue in Longview.

Caroline Kurtz will read from her memoir of growing up in Ethiopia, A Road Called Down on Both Sides, and from her second memoir, Today is Tomorrow, about returning to the area in the midst of a brutal civil war.

A citizen of two cultures, Caroline grew up, absorbing the sights, sounds, smells and customs of Africa, then returned later as an adult with her husband and three children where she taught, advocated for women, and supported peacemaking efforts between Ethiopia and Sudan. Fluent in Ethiopia’s Amharic language, Caroline has organized community-led projects for sheep banks, bee-keeping, apple orchards, and has raised funds for schools in Muslim villages. Now living in Portland, she continues to work with their community leaders to bring solar energy, clean water, and women’s empowerment to the region.

Steve Anderson reads from the third installment of his Book of Hours trilogy. The beautifully reconstructed fourteenth century Book of Hours is presented to the Pope, though without the shreds of an incendiary letter Brother Alphaios found hidden in the book’s leather-and-wood cover. Having determined who wrote it and knowing how damaging the letter could be to the Vatican, Brother Alphaios steals the letter and invites a select group to help decide how to handle the historical but potentially explosive document. Steve lives and writes in Longview, WA.

Craig Allen Heath will read from his debut novel, Where You Will Die. This amateur-sleuth murder mystery follows unconventional minister Alan Wright as he struggles against external obstacles and his own inner demons to discover who killed his new best friend, Ruth MacKenzie. Wright can’t fathom why anyone would harm one of the oldest and best-beloved citizens of Eden Ridge, a tiny foothill tourist town where he has found refuge from a broken heart. He and Ruth’s friends, five elderly women known as The Little Red Hens, join forces to reveal how even the admirable trait of loyalty can lead to evil acts.

Craig decided he wanted to become a novelist at age fourteen. He is on the cusp of achieving that goal fifty years later. Living in southwest Washington state with his wife, too much lawn to mow, a vegetable garden, and a hole in his heart where his dog should be, he is now working on Killing Buddhas, the sequel to his first story about Alan Wright in Eden Ridge.

Marc Imlay has been a meditation instructor since 1974, a chiropractor since 1981, and an acupuncturist since 1988.  He retired from his private practice in Kent, Washington, in 2014.  Marc has written poetry since high school, and recently published his first poetry book, Pilgrimages to a Bullfrog Buddha

In this collection, the saviors, saints, and sages of all religions, times, and places reside in an unspoiled, natural setting as various native creatures. With the poet, they consider the human predicament, finding ways to  minimize suffering and optimize happiness amid the vicissitudes of life. Marc has lived on Coal Creek for the past 8 years.

An open mic follows the presentations.

Due to Covid, it is recommended that people be vaccinated and boosted if possible, and wear masks when not eating or drinking.

The monthly gathering of readers and writers meets the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM, in the fellowship hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.