The Literary Scene About Town
From readings to publications, literature abounds
By Susan Drinkard
Two decades ago Sandpoint-born Marilynne Robinson wrote a modern classic set in Sandpoint (our city was called Fingerbone in the book) entitled Housekeeping. Her latest book, Gilead, is so masterfully written it earned a Pulitzer Prize in April. Few writers garner this kind of wide acclaim, but in Sandpoint there are more opportunities than ever to showcase one's work, even for novices.
A writing revolution of sorts is taking hold in Sandpoint. Young people especially are sharing their creative writing at open mic nights, and then sending their poems and stories to the new bi-monthly literary journal. An alternative newspaper is providing a fresh young voice of social and political insight on Sandpoint's issues and entertainment.
You might see as many as 60 people listening to the poets and songwriters at Downtown Crossing on First Avenue beginning at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday night. Don Nickles is the emcee.
Five Minutes of Fame is held the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Our Hus in Foster's Crossing. (Come early for a good seat.)
Not every short story or poem in Sandpoint's newest literary venture is about Sandpoint per se, but it's important to Ides of Sandpoint editor Danielle Packard that every edition of this small literary journal is firmly identified with Sandpoint.
"There are so many changes occurring here - exploding population, environmental concerns, development, coupled with a continuing inability to find good jobs. With all this change and turmoil, it is particularly important for citizens to have positive outlets for expression," says Packard, who published the first edition of the bi-monthly literary magazine in March.
She's received entries in mysterious envelopes slipped under her office door at 512 Short Ave., but she encourages writers to send submissions via
"People are empowered by seeing their work in print, and I'm overjoyed by the number of people who are sharing their poetry and stories for the first time because of this magazine," says Packard. The Ides of Sandpoint may be purchased for $2.75 at the Pend d'Oreille Winery, Downtown Crossing, the Corner Book Store and Vanderford's.
Sandpoint Reader, the sparkling fresh alternative tabloid you see in newspaper stands for free around town is the brainchild of Sandpoint native Zach Hagadone and Chris De Cleur, who published the first edition on Dec. 23, 2004.
Hagadone, 24, says the vision for the paper is to provide "intelligent, insightful, funny, provocative, innovative and creative material to the community. We want to support the arts and music we are blessed with here in Sandpoint. We want to help celebrate and protect our community from losing its soul, but most of all, we want to provide a non-corporate voice for community members to say exactly what they want to say."
Though some of the writers are 20-somethings, about half of the staff of Sandpoint Reader is much older and backgrounds range from Ph.D. in genetics to chicken plant employee. They do have one thing in common: Right now they are unpaid volunteers. And the paper does not want to categorize itself as liberal or conservative.
"We like to think we offer a publication that represents a broad swath of community members from as many backgrounds as possible & and we like to think our audience is really, really smart," says Hagadone.
Another good literary torchbearer is Lost Horse Press, a nonprofit founded by Christine Holbert devoted to poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Lost Horse stages many events, from readings and discussions to hands-on writing seminars. The press hosts its fifth Young Writers of the Lost Horse Writing Conference June 24-25 at the Sandpoint Library for students grades 5-12, with a focus this year on poetry.
On July 16, a one-day workshop for writers of all levels will be led by author and teacher Peter Chilson. Titled "Crossing the Boundaries of Genre: How Fiction and Nonfiction Complement Each Other," the workshop will end with a free public reading by Chilson at 7 p.m. at Oden Hall. Lost Horse will also present Boise State professor Tom Trusky speaking on a famed Idaho artist in "James Castle: His Life & Art," 7 p.m. July 21, at the Sandpoint Library. Details at LostHorsePress.org (opens a new window) or (208) 255-4410.
Zach Hagadone, publisher of Sandpoint Reader, flanked by Chris De Cleur and Danielle Packard