The Bliss of Lit Fest

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The question from a friend seemed innocent enough: “Would you be willing to work with me and some other writers to plan a literary festival?” My positive response rose from that blissful place of ignorance. A few weeks later, I naively made the twenty-minute ferry trip to neighboring Orcas Island to meet (and be elected to) the board of the embryonic festival.

That was about eight months ago. After this past weekend’s inaugural Orcas Island Literary Festival, the ignorance has been replaced by experience, but the bliss remains.

festmapToday, I’ve returned to the quiet and calm of my writing desk to reflect on the journey of organizing, and participating in, a literary festival. It began, as so many meaningful life events do, with a walk.

litwalkLit Walk – authors read and chatted at a variety of venues throughout Eastsound Village. The Olympic Mountains’ “rain shadow” didn’t protect us from April showers, but storytelling, poetry, essays, and food and drink cloaked us. It turned out to be a luck- and fun-filled Friday the 13th.

Twin Peaks: Black Box and Center Stage – The Orcas Center theaters pulled everyone to new heights with panels discussing home, humor, landscapes, suspense-thrillers, memoir, food, and turning books into film. food


Interviews with bestselling and award-winning authors revealed some of the stories behind the stories.










Kids Read (and Write) Too – The Lit Fest Family Fest (free, thanks to partners and sponsors) encouraged all ages to venture into the world of words.



Refueling at the Book Fair and Bistro – Trekking literary territory is invigorating and demanding. The Madrona Room and lobbies at Orcas Center replenished us with good food, coffee, small presses, local goods, performances, and bookseller extraordinaire, Darvill’s Bookstore.journals










Battle of the Genres – The only “conflict” throughout this expedition was all in fun, late on Saturday night. Trivia, improv, and puns marked good-humored competition among poets, YA (young adult) authors, and writers of thrillers. Local wine, beer, and sweet and savory snacks kept energy up.

As with all exhilarating outings, I’m eager to explore other trails we bypassed this year and to revisit the ones we followed. I’ll have that chance soon. On Monday, the board members will convene by conference call to begin work on next year’s festival.


Want to be updated about the 2019 plan? Sign up for the Orcas Island Lit Fest newsletter on the OILF website or Facebook page.





*Afterthought #74 – One More for Baker’s Dozen

A few days ago, I reached my limit when it came to enduring March weather. I dug into my bag of antidotes for the fickleness of the start of spring and asked readers who suffer from the same impatience to share their ideas to add to my dozen. Then, just when I doubted my spirits would hold up until spring is more predictable, Bruce Botts of Vita’s Wildly Delicious announced the return of Friday Wine-Tasting at this iconic Lopez eatery.


IMG_1862 (1)Sure, we had to huddle around the fire as we sipped wine and chatted outside, but coming out of hibernation to reconnect with friends warmed me even more. Since its opening in 2001, Vita’s has been a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Bruce has a knack for selecting delicious, affordable wines for the weekly tasting, and the pours help the week’s stresses fade and the conversation flow. IMG_1861


These photos by Sue Roundy give you an idea of the convivial atmosphere.IMG_1859

It’s a sad day in the fall when Bruce posts a notice that Vita’s will close for the winter. But seeing the door open, the lights twinkle around the patio, and hearing the clink of wine glasses gave me more confirmation that winter is behind me—and in just one more month, Vita’s open days and menu will increase.




*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.



A Baker’s Dozen of Ways to Endure  March in the Pacific Northwest



IMG_3925Hail salted the deck on Palm Sunday this year. It nicked my cheeks as I dashed to the car, clutching the wool scarf wound around my neck. As I write this morning, gray skies are again releasing a curtain of rain, pooling in the already-waterlogged yard. Flipping the calendar to April can’t come too soon for me.

March, as always in this upper left corner of the United States, has been tormenting me with its fickle combination of all four seasons; I think of it as its own time of year—fawintsprisum. Don’t get me wrong. One of the many reasons I love living in the Pacific Northwest, particularly this region on the Salish Sea, is its temperate climate. We’re blessed with distinct seasons, but temperatures that generally fall in the range of low 40s to upper 60s. True, a high of 42° isn’t all that uncommon on the Fourth of July, but we do experience just enough cold (and a day or two of snow) in the winter; crisp, sunny days in the fall; bursts of color and birdsong in the spring; and enough warmth on summer days to shed sweaters and polar fleece—at least until sundown.

I genuinely enjoy what winter brings to my small, rural island—a slower pace with fewer tourists and events, candle glow many hours of the day, hearty stews and soups, snuggling under a hand-woven afghan. I know that not all of my neighbors can indulge in such semi-hibernation; many of them are dealing with the elements on their farms or are scraping windshields or dodging flooded potholes to get to work or school. Some escape, though, retreating to warmer, sunnier climates, returning in March with their skin tinged pink or darker brown.

Most years, I stay put. Rain drips off my hood on daily walks with my dog. I spend many hours curled in a chair by the wood stove, a cat purring on my lap. Some days I wear fingerless gloves as I write in my journal or tap my laptop keyboard. A shot of single malt Scotch before dinner, or a snifter of port after, raises my internal thermostat.

My honest claim that I’m comforted by the gray, wet, Pacific Northwest winter never quite lasts until spring, though. So I’m drawing on my Baker’s Dozen* of ideas to sustain me through these last days of March; feel free to try any of them to help you endure enjoy this mini-season.


  1. IMG_3930Toss another log on the fire and drink a second cup of coffee, holding your mug with gloved hands.
  2. Listen for the rhythm when hail tap dances across the wooden deck.
  3. Slip on rain boots and stomp through four, five, sixteen puddles.
  4. Look lovingly at the garden spade, rake, and trowel, relieved you don’t need a snow shovel.
  5. Don’t apologize for wearing long underwear to a Spring Equinox party.
  6. Feel gratitude for a roof over your head, a car with a working heater, and a sump pump in the crawl space.
  7. Locate sunglasses so you’ll know where they are when the sun unexpectedly shines longer than fifteen minutes.
  8. Ride the Interisland Ferry for a change of scenery – from green and gray to… gray and green.
  9. Remind yourself that when it’s cloudy and rainy, dirt streaks aren’t visible on the windows.
  10. Appreciate that March in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t (usually) include snow.
  11. Remind yourself that it’s the rain that keeps firs and cedars, well… evergreen.
  12. Look at the world through rain-splattered glasses.
  13. Add your most effective coping technique here ___________________________________.

A trip to the compost bin yesterday was like walking on a field of soggy kitchen sponges. One day, before too long, it will be firm and dry (at least most of the time). Until then, I’m making my way through my baker’s dozen. Now, excuse me as I search for my sunglasses.


*Most people probably know that a “Baker’s Dozen” equals thirteen. But do you know why? I put the question to “the great oracle” (Google), and learned the likeliest explanation relates to medieval laws when bread was sold by weight. Bakers who short-weighted customers encountered strict punishment (fines; flogging; an ear nailed to the bakery door; a hand severed), so they avoided these dire consequences by adding an extra to a dozen.


Reblog – Inspired for Hiking Season

There’s a lot of mutual admiration among authors, and I’m grateful for the ways we support each other in this solitary work. Here’s where the  mutual admiration part comes in. In January,  I wrote about how Lauren Danner and I met at one of my readings for Hiking Naked. Next week I’ll host Lauren when she reads from her new book at Lopez Bookshop. And yesterday, Lauren reviewed Hiking Naked on her blog, “Wilderness Within Her.” You can read it here and learn of two other books that may inspire you to hike. Thanks, Lauren!


John Muir wrote that “going out is really going in,” and these books prove his point. Get inspired for hiking season by reading about how three adventurers engage with the wild. The post What I’m reading | Three books to inspire you for hiking season appeared first on Lauren Danner.

via What I’m reading | Three books to inspire you for hiking season — Lauren Danner