Big Authors, Big Books and Big Ideas: Another extraordinary Literary Sojourn weekend in Steamboat

“When I hear people say the book is dead, I say ‘Nuts!’” Literary Sojourn master of ceremonies Frank Delaney told his Steamboat Springs audience this weekend. The sold-out crowd of 500 enthusiastic book lovers from all over the country couldn’t have agreed more.

Literary Sojourn celebrated its 18th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 2, with award-winning authors Dan Chaon, Chris Cleave, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Wally Lamb and Frank Delaney. The art of storytelling evolved as the infinitely intriguing theme of the day.

Cleave, author of the bestselling novel Little Bee, shared a Nigerian proverb and how those words enabled him to delve into the tragedy of his light-hearted lead character: “If your face is swollen from the severe beatings of life, smile and pretend to be a fat man,” he was once told. So emerged the vitality of his precocious immigrant character Little Bee: “Story became bearable to write when it became about someone who refuses to lose her sense of humor,” Cleave says.

Chaon, who has earned critical acclaim for his tales of overlapping lives in Await Your Reply and Among The Missing, told the crowd that he “comes from a family of liars,” which logically left him no choice but to become a writer. Divakaruni says she “started writing as an action against forgetting…an action towards remembering who we’ve forgotten.”

Lamb, author of New York Times bestsellers She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, lived up to lofty expectations. He proclaimed, “Who we are is a product of when and where we came of age,” before delving into a fascinating tour through his Sicilian upbringing in Connecticut, teaching writing at a maximum security women’s prison, and how he tackled the confounding evil in the Columbine shootings while writing his third novel, The Hour I First Believed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Lamb spoke about his interaction with Eric Harris’ father during a book signing in Denver.

Presented by the Bud Werner Memorial Library, Literary Sojourn is a nonprofit festival that has gathered readers in the heart of the Rocky Mountains each fall since 1993 to celebrate great authors, great books and great reading. More than 90 nominees and recipients of prestigious literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker and the National Book Award, have come to the Yampa Valley to present at this festival that was initially designed to bring big-name writers to small-town readers. Today, it’s an event that rivals major national festivals and it’s by far the oldest established literary festival in the Rocky Mountains.

The 19th annual Literary Sojourn will be held Sept. 10, 2011. Stay in touch with 2011 author announcements and ticket sales by signing up for the Literary Sojourn newsletter at www.literarysojourn.org.

“What I love most of all about (Literary Sojourn) is that it’s done for love,” Cleave told the Steamboat Pilot during this weekend’s festival. “It’s not for profit; it’s for fun. It’s for the fun and love of reading, and I think that’s so beautiful.”

Blogger: Jennie Lay, Literary Sojourn committee member