It’s never been done before. But based on the excellent turnout and warm reception by eight book communities, George Byron Wright, father of the Crazy 8s Author Tour, might just have to plan another.
Wright conceived the idea of getting nearly 30 Oregon authors—among them, bestsellers and award-winners—and eight independent bookstores to participate in an author tour where a revolving mix of eight authors would speak at eight separate venues. The tour launched on September 14 at Betty’s Books in Baker City and finished last weekend at Klindt’s Booksellers in The Dalles.
Though I had to drive an hour and a half from Portland to The Dalles in the pouring rain, I made it to The Dalles-Wasco County Library in record time…and 30 minutes after the event had started.
Klindt’s intrepid booksellers Tina Ontiveros and Angela Hanson greeted me with hugs at the door and both whispered, “What are you doing here?” Last month I spent several days with them as part of the host staff at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association indie bookstore conference and didn’t tip them off that I was making the dash to The Dalles for their event.
R. Gregory Nokes, author of Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, was at the podium when I walked in. Instead of reading from their books, as they would at most author events, the format of the Crazy 8s had the authors briefly introduce their most recent work before moving on to talk about their lives as writers. Each author had just five minutes before handing the mic off to the next.
I circled the audience while taking pictures here, and pausing there, to sit with something an author had said. Some fantastic stories were told. For example:
Gina Ochsner talked about her experience meeting the Poet Laureate of Latvia after getting lost on her way to Russia to research her novel, The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight.
Ursula K. Le Guin told everyone in the audience that, regardless of whether or not you’ve published, “If you write, you’re a writer.” In the spirit of her most recently published book of poetry, Finding My Elegy, Le Guin recited a poem she’d written as a child about bears and honey to the tune of “Roses are red, violets are blue….”
Bill Cameron, author of County Line, informed us that for anyone who has a family member in prison on their Christmas list this year, his murder mystery/police novels are quite popular among inmates.
Karen Spears Zacharias told us about her husband, who lovingly supports her writing habit. The introduction she then gave to her true crime story about the abuse and murder of a child she knew was truly haunting. The book is A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.
Following the presentations and audience questions, the authors were available for individual greetings and autographing. Klindt’s set up a mobile checkout station at the back of the room displaying books from all Crazy 8 authors in attendance and, I’m happy to say, it drew quite a line. As the stacks diminished, it was hinted that some of the titles might even sell out! Klindt’s will take that alarm as a sign of a successful event.
And Wright is very pleased about the entire tour, though he’s not quite ready to make guarantees about next year:
“If we do something in the future–which is no certainty–we’re going to meet in the new year and get as many people to sit around the table and noodle this as possible. We might eventually go around the entire state in three-year cycles, and at some point we might even be able to explore the possibility of going where there is no bookstore, working with libraries and/or having an independent bookstore, operating outside the area, service the event.”
Maybe no promises, but that kind of brainstorming tells us you’re already thinking about the next tour, George. We’re looking forward to it. —Amber James
Amber James is a freelance writer and editor who has worked as a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association tradeshow volunteer for many years. She joined NW Book Lovers as a contributor earlier this year. Apparently she’s been known to drive through a rainstorm for a good book gathering.