Authors, lunch and antiques=heaven

Authors Valerie Ihsan, Janet Fisher and A Lynn Ash pose among the antiques

An authors’ lunch in an antique store? How strange, but it happened last week at Indulge Antiques in the Gateway Mall in Springfield, Oregon, and it was good. Amid the elegantly set tables, I found authors and book lovers gathered around a long table where books were spread from one end to the other, along with book-related cards and fancy pens. Introductions were made, and we settled in.

The paper menu seemed to list every possible concoction—I went with the sweet turkey wrap—and the dessert tray held more than a dozen cakes and tortes while the waiter described other delicacies that didn’t fit on the tray. Yes, we ate well amid the antique dressers, baskets and Halloween decor.

But it wasn’t all about food. Amanda Bird, proprietor of The Book Nest bookstore, has been hosting lunches with authors for the past two years. The program was on hiatus for a few months while Indulge moved to its new location in the mall, but now she plans for monthly gatherings. The next one is Nov. 17.

It’s casual. You order whatever you want and pay for your own lunch. You sit at the table with the featured authors, eat, chat, ask questions, and learn about their books. You can also buy the books, of course.

This month’s guests were Janet Fisher, who in her books A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds writes about Oregon history through the lens of her ancestors who came via the Oregon trail; A. Lynn Ash, whose books The Route from Cultus Lake: A woman’s Path to a Solo Camping Lifestyle, and Vagabonda, tell the stories of her adventures camping alone all over the U.S., and Valerie Ihsan, who wrote about her experiences as a young, pregnant widow in Smell the Blue Sky and has since written a novel titled The Scent of Apple Tea. Wonderful women all, and the casual setting made it possible to not just admire but to become friends.

I love antique stores. I love to wander among the old things and imagine the lives of the people who owned them. In some cases, I don’t have to imagine because I’m old enough to have owned things that are now deemed antiques or collectables. I also love books and authors and lunch.

I may not be able to attend these lunches often. It’s nearly 200 miles round trip, and it was raining so hard on the way there that I felt like I was driving through a river. But I got to try out the new stretch of Highway 20—truly beautiful—and escaped everyday life into a wonderland for writers.

If you are interested in attending an authors’ lunch, follow the Book Nest Facebook page and RSVP if you’re going. The restaurant portion of the Indulge Antiques is open to everyone, but you’ll need a reservation. Visit their web page for details.

I want to figure out how we can do this in Newport. Ideas? Volunteers?


Home, home in my yurt

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     When I signed up to stay in a yurt at Fishtrap, the wonderful writers’ gathering in Eastern Oregon where I spent July 9-15, I pictured a glorified tent. Canvas walls, two little beds, a rustic toilet, no privacy.
     I was so wrong. When I slogged into the camp at Wallowa Lake that broiling hot Monday afternoon in my  ailing Honda, I didn’t care where I stayed as long as I could stop driving. But after I checked in and got my little wooden name tag on a string, I was pleasantly surprised to find my yurt, named Coho, was a charming round cottage in a village of other round cottages circling a larger round building where we’d have our classes.
     Up the steps and across the deck, I opened the unlocked door to a pretty kitchen complete with table and chairs, sink, microwave, coffeemaker and refrigerator. Looking up, I saw trees through the big round skylight. There were two bedrooms, one to the right and one to the left. I took the left one while another writer, Judith, would take the other. The bedrooms had double beds, and ladders leading up to lofts that remained unoccupied that week. Towels, sheets, thick blankets and handmade quilts waited for us. We had places to hang our clothes and plenty of electrical outlets. No TV or Wi-Fi, but who needed it?
     If you picture the yurt as a pie, with kitchen and bedrooms being three slices, the bathroom and shower room made up the other slices. We had carpet and linoleum, everything clean, all smelling of fresh-cut wood. It just felt good in there.
   As a bonus, deer wandered the grounds, completely unafraid of us. In fact, a doe and a buck bedded down right outside my window the last night.
    I wanted to stay in that yurt forever.
     What about the writing part? Oh, that was every bit as magical as advertised. In a world where most people don’t understand what writers do, Fishtrap provided an oasis where we didn’t need to do anything but write. We had meals and workshops and readings, all fabulous. I did a lot of singing and guitar-playing. But everywhere one looked, people were hunched over their notebooks or computers writing. We writers had finally found our tribe.
     One day in our songwriting workshop, our leader, Hal Cannon(love him!) had us write parodies of “Home on the Range.” Of course, I wrote about my yurt. I’ll give you just a taste:
Home, home in my yurt,
in my black and red Hawaiian shirt,
where the deer eat the grass as we mosey to class
and leave us their gifts in the dirt.
    Love that yurt.