Wordstock Preview with Sunshine Girl, Ben Percy, Carson Ellis, Lidia Yuknavith & More

↑ Listen – via OPB’s State of Wonder.

For the past two years, Portland’s biggest literary festival has been on a bit of a hiatus. But next Saturday, another Portland nonprofit for word nerds is resurrecting Wordstock from the grave.

On this episode of State of Wonder, we dip into the archives to revisit interviews with some of our favorite Wordstock authors, a surprising number of which are more than fitting for Halloween.

Sunshine Girl

In 2010, a series of videos appeared on YouTube called The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. They were DIY, Blair Witch-style episodes that followed a charismatic 16-year-old who wanted to prove the existence of ghosts to her mom. With over 180 million views, it became one of the most successful YouTube series in the Northwest. This year, the actor behind it all, Paige McKenzie, released a young adult book and inked a TV deal with the Weinstein Company.

Benjamin Percy

Author Benjamin Percy’s writing has racked up a stack of awards — two Pushcart Prizes, an NEA fellowship. Percy has written for GQ, The Paris Review, Tin House and Esquire, where he’s a contributing editor. He also has several TV and movie projects in development.

Percy’s most recent novel, The Dead Lands is set in a post-apocalyptic St. Louis where water is rapidly disappearing. A bookish scholar named Lewis Meriwether and a free-spirited alcoholic soldier named Mina Clark form an uneasy partnership to lead a small group west toward Oregon, searching for a new home.

Sound familiar?

Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch found a wide audience with her 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water. It’s an inventive and harrowing account of her youth, her parent’s abuses, her career as a champion swimmer, and her later drug abuse and recovery.

Her newest book, The Small Backs of Children, imagines a young girl whose life was destroyed by a Balkan war. A photographer snaps an award-winning photo of the girl at the pinnacle of tragedy, and the rest of the story explores lives spiraling outward in the grip of grief and guilt.

Carson Ellis

If you don’t recognize Carson Ellis’s name, chances are you do know her detailed, fanciful drawings of Victorian soldiers, talking badgers, and storybook towns. You see them on the album covers and posters of the iconic local band The Decemberists, and they lace through the best-selling young adult fantasy series, Wildwood.

In February, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Home, which is exactly where we visited her for this story. Now, Ellis is wrapping up a new book, and she and her husband, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, are about to get to work on another illustrated novel.

Zach Dundas

Zach Dundas is a longtime Portland journalist and co-editor of Portland Monthly. He also happens to be a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan. In his book The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, he set out to ask: What is it about this brainy, unlikely hero that continues to capture our imagination?


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