SANDPOINT — With two writing events scheduled within the span of a single week, it appears a literary Renaissance has visited itself upon the region.
Yesterday, poets and lovers of the form gathered to celebrate the launch of a new book titled, “Nasty Women Poets” — billed as an “unapologetic anthology of subversive verse” and featuring work from more than 200 national poets, including Sandpoint writer Desiré Aguirre.
Coming up on Saturday, writers will again congregate for what is billed as “The Winter Salon,” featuring a full day of lectures, readings and book signings with award-winning poets David Axelrod, Melissa Kwasny and Christopher Howell at Sandpoint Community Hall.
Sponsored or co-sponsored by local publishing house Lost Horse Press, the close proximity of the two events begs the question: How vibrant is our local writer’s community?
“It’s incredible that you ask that question, because we just had a meeting about that,” said Christine Holbert, publisher for Lost Horse Press.
The meeting, she explained, incorporated a core group of about a dozen writers who now plan to craft a mission statement and goals before inviting others to widen the circle. The name, henceforth, shall be known as the Sandpoint Literary Collective.
“It’s not a group that comes together to practice writing and critique their work,” Holbert said. “It’s a group that gets together to identify and state its needs.”
For example, topics could include nuts and bolts concerns such as how to prepare a manuscript for presentation and how to navigate other aspects of the writer’s life.
Whether poets, essayists, short story specialists or non-fiction buffs, writers of all stripes tend to be, by dent of the work itself, solitary creatures. So, what was it like to pull a bunch of them together to discuss their art?
“Everybody had a different viewpoint,” the Lost Horse Press publisher said. “And different opinions were expected and respected.”
Holbert, it should be mentioned, is no slouch when it comes to promoting all things literary. She was a co-founder of Eastern Washington University’s legendary “Get Lit!” event and, beyond the mountain of titles published through her independent, small press, was directly responsible for bringing none other than the Bard himself to town when she successfully worked with Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture to bring Montana Shakespeare in the Parks summer productions to Sandpoint.
The Winter Salon, meanwhile, will be the first effort for the Sandpoint Literary Collective. Co-sponsored by Sandpoint Parks & Recreation — a city department with which Lost Horse Press has developed a mutual admiration society, according to the publisher — the workshop-style affair will include three, 20-minute lectures, followed by Q&A sessions with the featured writers. After a lunch break, the group will reconvene for readings and book signings.
“The format of this ‘Salon’ is more informational, so it broadens it for a more diverse audience,” said Holbert.
Still, poetry will be the mainstay, she added. And that’s good news for wordsmiths.
“Poetry is important for all writers,” the publisher said. “It teaches a writer to be concise and how to put what they want to say into as few words as possible.
“Poets choose their words very carefully.”
The same can be said of Sandpoint songwriter/poet Desiré Aguirre, who has a piece included in the Nasty Women Poets collection — a distinction Holbert considers a pretty big deal.
“I’m very proud of her and the fact that Sandpoint has a representative in that anthology,” she said. “There was a national call for poets and I think that got about 2,000 poems. Those were distilled down to about 215, so it was quite competitive.”
One thing the initial Sandpoint Literary Collective meeting brought to light was the existing base of writing-related talent already at work in the community. According to Holbert, the group will include writers, editors, publishers, indexers and marketers as it rolls out.
“All of these people are professionals who work nationally, not just locally,” she said.
“I was always hoping that the literary arts would become part of our local arts groups, but that hasn’t happened. Now I think the timing is right. This is really going to start being a writers’ community.
Writing might be a solitary medium, but, like every artist, writers need an audience to flesh out both sides of the creative equation.
“When they finally do get out, they enjoy sharing their work with the public and they’re great to work with,” Holbert said.
To find out more about the Sandpoint Literary Collective, plan to attend its inaugural event on Saturday at Sandpoint Community Hall. The Winter Salon starts at 10 a.m., with readings and book signings scheduled for 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, call Lost Horse Press at 208-255-4410 or visit online at: losthorsepress.org.