Residents brave chill for annual Literary Sojourn | SteamboatToday.com

Residents brave chill for annual Literary Sojourn

Kelly Silva

— More than 475 people huddled inside the Strings in the Mountains Tent Saturday afternoon doubling over with belly laughs and learning how ordinary people have become well-known authors.

The ninth annual Literary Sojourn gathered the most people to ever attend a Literary Sojourn despite the early winter weather.

“I think we’ve had five seasons today,” Andre Dubus III, author of “The House of Sand and Fog,” said of the change of weather throughout the day.

For her first year ever to attend Literary Sojourn, Aileen Kennedy sat in the back row of the Strings tent insisting she will now buy the books of the authors she just heard.

“I’ve only read ‘The House of Sand and Fog,'” Kennedy admitted.

Her twin sister, Marie Aguirre, had bought the tickets months before the event. Aguirre, a Sojourn-goer for eight years, said she had to motivate Kennedy to attend.

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“Whether you make the connection with the book and then the author or the author then the book, it doesn’t matter. It may be more exciting this way,” Aguirre said of having previously read all the books. “Now we can go into the bookstore and buy a year’s supply of books.”

Prepared speeches (or in one case, unprepared) were delivered with wit and charm, leaving the captivated audience begging for more.

Janie Swartz, Literary Sojourn Committee member for three years, said this was the biggest crowd ever.

“For the chaos of the weather, everyone says it’s wonderful,” Swartz said. “It’s a relief for us.”

With generous intermissions providing food and beverages provided by Cottonwood Grill, patrons gathered to buy the authors’ books, get them signed and readily sit in their chairs awaiting another insightful and witty group of authors.

“It’s inspiring to hear about the people who have written these books when you share a relationship with them for months,” Aguirre said.

Each author gave his or her own rendition of how they became authors and what it takes to write a novel.

Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of “Deep End of the Ocean,” spoke first on how she despises writing, but the melodies of ideas in her head make it impossible for her not to sing on paper.

“If given the choice of writing another novel or washing your socks, I would ask you to remove your shoes now,” Mitchard said to the audience.

But when she gets an idea, a rush of joy overcomes her and she’s inspired to write a great American novel, she said.

Chris Bohjalian, author of “Midwives” and “Trans-Sister Radio,” spoke of his inspiration to dissect social margins and research topics of which he was completely ignorant.

Bohjalian said he never set out to write a novel about social issues; however, in a world of “wondrous conflict and enormous change,” he could not help but write about such compelling topics. When Bohjalian spoke of the non-ethnically diverse area where he lives in Vermont, Aguirre said she connected with the same issue faced in Steamboat Springs. Aguirre said having cultural events like Literary Sojourn helps make Steamboat a unique area. Aguirre said she enjoyed having past years’ events in the Sheraton with tables because it allowed her to meet other book lovers and writers from all over Colorado.

However, Peggy Dorr, library director at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, said she thought the Strings Tent provided a more suitable atmosphere for all the people attending.

“It’s easier and more effective. It’s more conducive to have people talk to each other,” Dorr said.

Dorr has read “The House of Sand and Fog” as well as “Ahab’s Wife,” by Sena Naslund. In early years, Dorr said authors simply read excerpts from their books not giving any insight as to how or why they came up with certain ideas.

“Authors are getting more out of this kind of event because they can talk about their work and help sell their books,” Dorr said.