Steamboat’s literature community celebrates 20th annual Literary Sojourn | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s literature community celebrates 20th annual Literary Sojourn

Nicole Inglis

Author Kathryn Harrison speaks to a packed room during the Literary Sojourn on Saturday at Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

— While sitting in a full and cozy ballroom at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, 500 bibliophiles sailed from place to place throughout the course of Saturday afternoon.

They traveled from the New Jersey suburbs to a futuristic dystopia and beyond all while visiting the dozens of tables buzzing with the exhilaration of learning from one another and from renowned authors at the 20th annual Literary Sojourn festival.

"It's that lust for knowledge," said Chrissy Lynch, who was attending her eighth Literary Sojourn on Saturday with her mother, Penny Lewis. "It's just broadening your perspectives and broadening your knowledge. Once you come once, it's hard not to come back."

Literary Sojourn is a nonprofit event supported by a guild and community members who have become like a giant book club of Sojourners. So loyal are the Sojourners that this year’s event sold out in 1 1/2 hours.

Chris Painter, Bud Werner Memorial Library director and founder of Literary Sojourn, said she was proud and amazed to see the event blossoming in its 20th year.

"So many events, especially literary events, start with the best of intentions and often times are not sustainable," she said. "The fact that we've been able to host this event for 20 years and it's a resonating success, it's really amazing and rewarding."

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The master of ceremonies for this year's event was the young and peppy Andrew Sean Greer, a novelist and also, apparently, a ukulele player. He kept the mood light and fast paced and invited the audience to participate in a drinking game — to be played with bloody marys, coffee or both — with a list of seemingly random words. He held his ukulele up to remind the audience when to drink.

The discussion went deeper, but the lighthearted mood prevailed as author Tom Perrotta (“Election,” “Little Children” and “The Leftovers”) made dark and honest jokes about his views on religion.

"I don't feel that I'm a satirist," Perrotta said. "I feel like I'm trying to be (the characters) and understand them, and I have no sense that I know any better."

Lynch said Literary Sojourn has changed the way she looks at all of the books she reads.

"Getting the perspective of the authors on their works, nothing can compare," she said. "Now, every book I read, I feel like I should talk to the author."

Her mother, Penny Lewis, said the insights she gains at Sojourn are a boon for her participation in a book club in Denver. She often can share little tidbits that the other book club members might never have known.

"Very often, they're the opposite of your interpretation of the writing," Lewis said.

Author Kathryn Harrison, who discussed the thought and research process behind her historical fiction novels, looked out over the audience when she first stood at the podium.

"It's great to see so many people who like to read," Harrison said. "Writers have been getting all this terrible news about how the novel's been dying ever since it was born."

It's not dying, but it's changed. While some Literary Sojourn participants took notes on the provided pads of paper with sharp pencils, others typed notes into their e-readers or smartphones.

But author Laura Lippman said during a coffee break that she sees no end to reading. It's just evolving into a new system.

"What we're seeing now is the digital formats are actually bringing more people into the fold," said Lippman, who reads books on an e-reader and in physical form.

The library’s Painter said that it's the stories that will live on through the digital information age and that she hopes the Literary Sojourn room still will be full in another 20 years.

"Reading is an intimate thing," she said. "I don't think stories will ever go away. We tell stories every day; then they get written down and shared."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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