Book lovers unite for sojourn

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Ready. Set. Read. The Literary Sojourn clock is ticking.

Five critically acclaimed, award-winning authors are set to gather for the 12th annual Sojourn on Oct. 2 in Steamboat Springs. Writers Christina Garcia, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Audrey Niffenegger, David Quammen and Brady Udall have been selected as the 2004 Literary Sojourn presenters. Throughout the day, they will share their personal stories about literary inspiration, stumbling blocks, what makes them tick and their story ideas.

What: 2004 Literary Sojourn When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2 Where: Sheraton Grand Resort Hotel Ballroom Reading list: www.literarysojou... Registration: Starts July 1 online, at Bud Werner Memorial Library or at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. Cost: $75

"It's enjoyable and fun if you haven't read their books. It's incredibly rich and a fuller experience if you've read them," library director Chris Painter said.

During the one-day event, writers will speak candidly in 40-minute sessions. Brunch and dessert will be offered. A casual book signing and a chance to chat with the authors caps off the day.

Reading the writers' novels ahead of time is an added opportunity to peek into their creative and intellectual thought processes -- something the Literary Sojourn committee members have spent the past year doing.

Christina Garcia

"Christina Garcia brings richness to Literary Sojourn. She adds another dimension, another layer," Literary Sojourn committee member Lisa Lesyshen said of the author who often tells multigenerational tales of Cuban women.

Lesyshen said she thought it was important to have someone with a different international perspective contribute to the literary festival.

"If you read her books, you'll learn a lot about Cuba, but you'll learn even more when she speaks. You can tell it influences her a lot," Lesyshen said.

Garcia's elegant, rich style is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lesyshen said. The author's novels often deal with the spiritual world, and sometimes you can't tell whether it's spirits or humans you're reading about, she said.

Garcia's three novels touch on many aspects of revolutionary Cuba. In "Dreaming in Cuban," she contrasts a revolutionary mother with her anti-communist daughter. In "The Aguero Sisters," she juxtaposes the stories of sisters separated by life in Cuba and life in Florida. In "Monkey Hunting," Garcia's most recent novel, she tells of a Chinese-Cuban experience in a story that ventures into enslavement in Cuba's sugarcane fields -- the Vietnam War, Mao's prisons, interracial relationships and sexual ambiguity.

"She has a lyrical way of writing," Lesyshen said.

Ann-Marie MacDonald

"I was very, very excited when she accepted," Literary Sojourn committee member Karen Jimmerson said of MacDonald. "She's an actress, and she's going to be a great speaker."

MacDonald has performed in theater, film and television and her award-winning play "Goodnight Desdemona" has been produced more than 100 times internationally.

"(MacDonald's) books remind me of a foreign movie. She winds a lot of plot lines and the payoff doesn't come until the end," Jimmerson said. "I love someone who writes well. She writes beautifully."

"Fall on Your Knees," MacDonald's first novel and an Oprah's Book Club selection, is "a bittersweet story about a harsh but resilient family," Jimmerson said. "The Way the Crow Flies," MacDonald's second book and one of the heftier Literary Sojourn selections, "is a multilayered story of a military family that gives you a very different perspective of the 1960s," Jimmerson said.

Audrey Niffenegger

Niffenegger made her debut with "The Time Traveler's Wife" and it already has been optioned for a full-length feature film starring Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. The novel is a love story complicated by the mishaps of an accidental time traveler.

"It's a quirky story," Literary Sojourn committee member Diane Cionni said. "It deals with time in an interesting and post-modern way."

Cionni said she appreciated the novel's interesting literary twist. The universal themes of love, romance and transformation will appeal to a great cross-section of readers, she said. Drawing a parallel to the 2000 film "Memento," Cionni said "Time Traveler's Wife" is similar in the way it is challenging and disorienting at times. It is a story about regeneration, she said.

Niffenegger is a professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts program at Columbia College in Chicago, where she teaches writing, letterpress printing and fine-edition book production.

David Quammen

Quammen is a nature writer who works with a strong foundation in science and travel.

"When I first read David Quammen, I thought, 'Oh my God, I feel robbed.' This is what every high school student should be reading to enjoy science," said Michelle Dover, Bud Werner Memorial Library's circulation manager.

Quammen is not your typical read, Dover said. Readers will come away with a completely different perspective on science and nature, she said. That includes painlessly learning a lot of lessons about everything from crows to predators.

"He brings the sublime to talking about a spider," Dover said.

Brady Udall

"What I recall so clearly is how his writing and this novel resembles John Irving," Painter said. She drew similarities between Udall and Irving's ability to mingle sad, tragic circumstances with humor.

Udall's novel, "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint," won the 2002 Mountains and Plains Booksellers' Association Regional Book Award. The novel was picked for its quality of writing, sense of Western place and merits beyond being a bestseller, Painter said.

"It was heads and tails above the rest," Painter said.

"Brady Udall effectively created a hero in a young boy who grew up in a tough, brutal environment," Painter said of Edgar Mint, Udall's main character who gets run over by a mail truck when he is 7 years old. "He really does have a miracle life despite his hardships. He created a hero you can really root for."

Sojourn information

Dr. Regina Barreca will be the Literary Sojourn master of ceremonies. Barreca, a professor of feminist theory and English literature at the University of Connecticut, is also a prolific author and returns to Literary Sojourn for her eighth year.

Registration for Literary Sojourn begins July 1. Book clubs and individuals traditionally fill registration for the single-day event at the Sheraton Grand Resort Hotel Ballroom early.

All of the Literary Sojourn authors' books are available on loan from Bud Werner Memorial Library and for sale at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

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