Literary giant Ursula K. LeGuin once called Get Lit at the Beach “the best party I ever went to.” — high praise from one of Oregon’s finest.
If LeGuin’s statement intrigues you, there’s a strong likelihood you are a reader. Our rain-drenched region seems to breed bibliophiles as easily as it encourages moss growth, so it’s easy to see why the popular event organized by the Tolovana Arts Colony is entering its seventh season.
Unlike most literary festivals that focus on the craft of writing, “Get Lit” is one of only a handful in the country that exist solely to celebrate the pleasure and importance of reading. Drawing both authors and their readers together for discussion, the result is an intimate gathering that celebrates the power of the written word.
This year, Get Lit takes place Friday, May 18, through Sunday, May 20, in Cannon Beach. The 2018 lineup includes bestselling fantasy writers Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore; Amy Stewart, who writes both nonfiction as well as a popular historical fiction novel series; and Gina Ochsner, short story writer and novelist whose work was honored with a 2005 Oregon Book Award.
New for 2018, the Friday evening reception will be held at Haystack Gardens along with a raffle of prizes donated from local businesses.
On Saturday in the Surfsand Ballroom, the five bestselling authors will present their work and autograph books.
On Saturday evening, attendees will enjoy a prime rib dinner while listening to the keynote speaker, Craig Lesley, a memoirist and novelist who has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes.
On Sunday morning, the weekend concludes with a Q-and-A session at 10 a.m. at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse. Jupiter’s Books is providing complimentary coffee and pastries for this final session, which is free and open to the public.
The festival originated with Val Ryan, who previously owned Cannon Beach Book Company. Working closely with Terry and Judine Brooks and the Tolovana Arts Colony, Ryan created the original event with funding from a Tourism and Arts grant from the City of Cannon Beach.
Though Ryan passed away in 2014, organizer Tracy Abel said she “continues to be a guiding spirit of the current event.” Abel first attended the event in 2012 and enjoyed it so much, she decided to become involved as an organizer herself.
“I think what makes this event so special is how intimate it is,” Abel said. “I have been to numerous author talks and book signings where I have waited in long lines for maybe a minute with the author. Sometimes I never even get to meet the author. Our event offers several opportunities to meet and talk one on one with the authors.”
Keynote speaker Craig Lesley is an award-winning author of contemporary Western literature. Though this is his first time attending Get Lit, Lesley has many previous connections with the area. He has given several readings at Cannon Beach Bookstore and taught fiction for Portland State University’s Haystack program. His novel “The Sky Fisherman” was the first book chosen by Seaside High School students for their Coastal Literature Program.
Lesley’s novels have been praised for their honest look at the rugged, hardscrabble characters that once inhabited the American West. Lesley does not restrain himself to the white perspective. The New York Times praised the way Lesley’s novel River Song “illuminates the plight of the American Indians.”
Lesley is currently writing a series of essays about the Northwest focused on working-class people, a group he feels is under-represented in literary fiction.
“I was raised working class (My mother was a single parent and a secretary), and both my essays and novels stress working class people,” Lesley said in an email.
One of his primary motivations for writing is to give a voice to working people, whether they are fishermen — as in his novel “River Song” — or children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome — as in “Storm Riders.”
Lesley is looking forward to the weekend, in part, because “attendees will have a chance to hear a variety of excellent writers read from their works and participate in a panel discussion.”
Stewart is originally from Eureka, California, but recently relocated to Portland, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time at the coast.
She describes her current series of novels, based on one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs, as lighthearted and entertaining looks at characters who played central roles in the history of women in law enforcement. The five books in the Kopp Sisters series are slated to be made into a television series.
Award-winning fantasy novelist and Get Lit “Master of Ceremonies” Terry Brooks, who lives in Cannon Beach, has been involved with the event since the beginning.
He described the weekend as “unique event in that book lovers are able, and encouraged, to talk to the authors in a small, intimate environment, unlike most of the bigger book festivals. We also have the beauty and availability of the beach and the charm of our delightful small town.”
Full pass tickets are $85; the Friday evening reception is $30; and the Saturday night dinner and keynote speaker presentation is $65. Tickets may still be available at the door or at getlitatthebeach.com. The Sunday morning Q-and-A with authors is free and open to the public at 10 a.m. at Coaster Theater in Seaside.