Storytellers heading this way

Written by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer June 05, 2013 11:05 am
The life of a general reporter is by nature varied. Sports seasons, event seasons, holidays … right now we are heading into summer season with a jam-packed county calendar that trails well into October.

Last weekend the Wallowa Valley Arts Festival officially kicked off the summer season. This weekend the 25th Oregon Mountain Cruise car show and the 21st Wallowa Mountain Quilt Show are both in Joseph.

Another regular entry on the early June calendar is Eric Taylor’s solo show. Taylor has returned to the county for many years, and interviewing him for the fourth time the conversation went afield. After a few minutes he said, “I haven’t given you anything you can write yet, have I?”

Sometimes you have to warm up for a bit.

An interview with David James Duncan last summer, author of “A River Why” and “Brothers K,” was one of the most enjoyable hours I have spent as a reporter. The conversation wandered around for an hour, but in the mix was a thread for a story.

I’m currently reading “Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in Oregon,” by Greg Nokes. I look forward to a juicy discussion with him about the book before he visits Looking Glass Bookstore in La Grande on June 24, and Summer Fishtrap at Wallowa Lake in July.

I met Nokes last summer while covering the dedication of the Chinese massacre monument on the Snake River. A retired Oregonian and AP reporter, he was integral in garnering interest for the dedication and wrote the book “Massacred for Gold,” a historical account of the murder of 34 Chinese miners. This spring he asked me to review his book. Tough duty.

As a writer I like to ask them about the craft of their work. How do you structure, what are your limits?

Inherently they talk about what inspires their writing — usually there’s a personal element. Taylor talks about changing perspective — telling other people’s stories along with his own. Duncan was inspired to write while grieving over his brother’s death. Nokes’ most recent work was written in part because he found out he was a shirt-tail relative of an Oregon slave owner.

Tony Furtado, a musician from Portland, comes to Joseph July 4, and Cheryl Strayed, author of “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” comes to Fishtrap as the keynote speaker. 

There is no end to the storytelling going on this summer.