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.