Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Day in Portlandia

It's not a joke if they it themselves, right? Do you know what I'm referring to? There's a television show called "Portlandia" that pokes gentle fun at this city of liberals, hippies, grungeheads, peaceniks, potsmokers, and artists. When I got off the elevator of a downtown skyscraper to meet author Kristina Yoshida McMorris for lunch, a woman greeted me with, "Are you here for the Portlandia meeting?" I thought she was kidding. She wasn't.

Oh, but I loved Portland as soon as I got off the airplane. Everyone is so nice. It's clean. Not too crowded. Not many suits, lots of sweaters and polarfleece. The public transportation system is awesome. Many people on the light rail were reading BOOKS. Then I checked into my hotel: quite lush. I lucked into happy hour and got a glass of a great Malbec. 

I was in town to read at the venerable and awesome independent bookstore, POWELLS, but had a day off after Los Angeles. Kristina and I had made plans to get together for lunch, meeting for the first time in person after being friends on Facebook for months. Novelist Jamie Ford had mentioned me to Kristina. I'd like to say there's a union of half-Asian novelists--there isn't, but there should be. Aside from me, all the ones I've met have been super nice. 

It's always a treat to talk to other authors, especially debut novelists, to compare notes and be reassured that I'm not crazy, we're all like this. Lunching with Kristina was an extra-special treat. Two hours sped by! We talked about everything under the sun, but especially books. Kristina's first book, LETTERS FROM HOME, put her solidly in the field of historical writers, specifically those who write about WWII. She described her next book, BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, and gave me an ARC (!!!!). BRIDGE is the story of a young woman who marries a Japanese-American man on the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, who then volunteers to go with him to the internment camps. Kristina told me that about 200 non-Japanese women went to camp to stay with their families, and BRIDGE might be the only novel to tell this story. It comes out in February 2012.   

She then blew me away with the description of her next book, the third book, which she's working on right now. Reader, it is an amazing story. I cannot wait until she finishes writing it.

That evening I had an event at the Powells story at the Cedar Hills location in Beaverton. Thanks to Renee at the store for hosting a wonderful evening and giving me the chance to meet some wonderful folks who had the read the book, including a librarian who'd ordered it for their system. If you're in the Portland area and looking for a signed copy, Powells can help you out. 

 Now for something completely different. I try to learn something new every 4-5 years to keep my brain from fossilizing. A few years ago it was quilting. I'd been thinking next I'd learn to knit. I have a bit of a mental block about knitting, though. You see, my mother refused to teach me when I was a kid because I'm left-handed and she thought it would be too hard. So I never took up knitting. Now, I'm ready. I got a suggestion from a blogger in Portland to try Knit Purl, a downtown yarn shop. Oh, so glad I did! The store is staffed by very enthusiastic knitters who love to share their expertise. They got me hooked up with some gorgeous yarn (see above), my first knitting needles and great advice. This photo doesn't do justice to the intense colors of these yarns. I'm going to try to get started watching YouTube videos, and then hopefully will work on my first scarf while watching the Caps game tonight.

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