Author Jess Walter answers questions at the 25th annual Literary Sojourn on Saturday.

Photo by Luke Graham

Author Jess Walter answers questions at the 25th annual Literary Sojourn on Saturday.

Increasingly popular Literary Sojourn returns to Steamboat for 21st year

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— The descriptions didn’t sell it as a great livelihood.

They compared it to being a drug addict, to living the movie “Groundhog Day” and to crawling across a sweltering hot desert.

It’s a grind, a constant inner battle. It requires someone who likes being alone but is terrified of being alone. It requires a person who can embrace imagining and living another person’s life.

So why do the six authors at this year’s 21st annual Literary Sojourn — all of whom have won numerous awards, received critical acclaim and carved careers with delicately formed sentences and vivid and lively characters — continue with the slog?

“Writing saved my life,” said Andre Dubus III, who served as master of ceremonies and is the author of of five books. “When I’m finished writing, I feel so alive. I don’t feel like myself if I don’t.”

If there was a common theme during the event, Dubus summed it up perfectly.

Each of the six authors opened up the curtains on their works, sometimes their lives, and gave a revealing portrait of the struggles — and gratification — of writing and completing a novel.

“We write because we must,” said Jennifer Haigh, a New York Times best-selling author.

The event, which quickly has become one of Steamboat’s most popular, brought the six writers from across the country to talk about their works and the process that goes into writing.

In addition to Dubus and Haigh, authors Jess Walter, Ron Rash, Emma Donoghue and Augusten Burroughs talked for about 40 minutes about the process of writing novels, which take time, sometimes decades, to complete.

“It’s like being in a long desert, and you crawl over it,” said Walter, an author of six novels.

The event’s popularity was evident. The Sheraton Steamboat Resort ballroom was packed with tables that often proved tough to walk between because they were so crowded.

In its 25th year, the event sold 500 tickets in 13 minutes.

“We’ve found a way to bring some of the most brilliant authors writing today,” Literary Sojourn committee member Chris Painter said. “It peels back the layers. You hear stories where the stories came from. When you hear the stories behind the author's book, it enriches the experience of reading that book.”

That was evident by the merchandise table where people had books upon books cradled under their arms.

If someone wanted to be inspired to read, Saturday provided that.

“When it’s over, I want to immerse myself in a really fat book,” Painter said. “The pleasure of reading is reignited.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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