Local literary resources collaborate to bring Winter Writer Series

by Laura Kussman

Sounder contributor

“We’d like to welcome our next writer to the podium…”

Writer stands. Walks to the center of the room, organizes themself behind a white pedestal topped with a small reading light, four warm, dancing candles and a modest hibernal flower arrangement nested in a handmade ceramic vase. They put on their eyeglasses, or take them off, offer a bit of backstory about their piece, or not, and begin reading.

“There is a broken piano under Pont Marie, on the south bank of the Seine. A baby grand, tucked way back in the shadow, right against the abutment. The F sharp and G have no hammers, and on Tuesday nights, Brujaleme, the gypsy, plays a broken Clair de Lune,” starts Lael Watson.

The way an author reads their own work seems holy. On this occasion, it feels timeless, invoking the spirit of Hemmingway or Jeffrey Eugenides. Only the way Watson reads the word “me” from his fictional protagonist’s narrative that we are reminded he is in high school.

He continues, “Winter is the most beautiful time of the year, I think, but Grandmother says it is cold and gray, and fit only for crude beasts, like men and dogs. I do not know about that. Brujaleme is not crude. A light comes from him that washes away all the filth, and even his stained, paisley waistcoat looks like the finest of garments.”

The room, toasted with the heat of bodies — only standing room remains — wine-flushed cheeks, several flickering flames and hot breath from the occasional burst of laughter or, later, fire welling up behind the eyes, feels almost church-like. Below Orcas Island winery’s vaulted ceilings, antique standing candelabras create starbursts on the surrounding walls, colorfully painted scenescapes by local artist Indigo Free are alive in this candlelight, we all are, and in the huddled mass of human bodies, hearts and eyes focused upon that central pulpit, it feels, oddly too, like a winter den. A bit closer to tribe and fire. It is dark outside, almost solstice, and the windows are clouded and dripping in contrast between worlds. The divinity of language and the ancient act of community storytelling mingling like a jar of seasonal preserves.

This is the second of “T H E L E A P I N G F O O L” Winter writers’ series, produced by Source Paper and The Intermodal Spirit on Orcas Island (the first container intimately set in almost identical fashion mid-November) and it is clearly an enduring force. Source (https://www.source-paper.com/) is a bi-annual literary journal and the Intermodal Spirit (https://www.theintermodalspirit.com/) is a hub for stories, tools, and ideas on exploring and relating to one another.

“I have been contemplating the next step to take in my Buddhist Services on Death Row,” begins Susan Shannon, reading from her first-hand experience working as a Chaplain at San Quentin State Prison. “My groups have grown from 1 to over 50 men, all who are deeply interested in pursuing any spiritual knowledge they can find in order to explore and expand their inner lives.”

The final elocutionist before intermission, Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock reads a poem titled Remodel which evokes a reverent sense of place only Orcas could inspire. There’s a purity to her words, describing a land, a homestead, a love, a map beneath a tree and a vision of a dream realized. As she finishes, she raises her eyes to the room-filling applause. The starbursts on the walls clap, too.

It’s citrus season, and small plates of mandarins, homemade spanakopita, cheese, dried fruits and nuts adorn long tables along walls. Empty wine glasses slide along the bar countertop to be refilled. Attendees searching for additional seating straddle wine barrels while others stand and hold each other, transfixed by local literary arts. Someone is taking notes when Hayley Hampton is called forward and reads, “the phrase ‘guys are like waffles, girls are like spaghetti’ is one of my earliest memories of purity culture….”

Hampton has recited at both readings, and although the theme for each is different, Hampton has chosen pieces about her experience growing up in the church which expands upon each other, which reads like catching up with an old friend after some time apart.

Similarly, Samuel Gailey shares excerpts from his forthcoming novel “Come Away From Her,” set to be released on Jan. 10.

“It’s a mystery about the power of community,” Gailey states, taking his turn front and center and beginning to read, generating questions we hope the rest of the book will answer.

The evening is coming to a close and the heat pump has been turned down to balance out the room. Programs laying on tables are peeked at to see who’s up next. Taryn Kuluris stands at the call of her name and strides to her position, eyes closed, and begins.

“Dream me into being once more,” she says clearly from a place deep within, a memorized poem that reads like a prayer for all beings. “The green ones sing magic into the world….”

With her last words hanging in the air, Nik Schulz, the soul behind The Intermodal Spirit and one of the Winter writers series organizers, has tears in his eyes as he celebrates enthusiastically the closing of the fleeting temple we’ve made together.

“Witnessing people read aloud is so touching, it’s so beautiful, it really is so special,” says Jamie Beechum of Source Paper and a Winter writers series facilitator. “We read these [pieces] to ourselves when they’re submitted, but it really becomes animated aloud.”

For the next gathering of “T H E L E A P I N G F O O L” contributors are invited to explore the present time in the cycle of renewal. Focusing on this time of the hermit and how hibernation’s teachings show up. What comes from the stillness and integrates into the whole?

All forms of writing and oral storytelling are welcome behind the podium. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 14, 2023. Readings will be held at The Orcas Island Winery on Feb. 24. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and readings will start at 6:30 p.m.

Please keep the length under 10 minutes and name the document with your first and last name with the title of your piece. Word or Pages document is requested. Send submissions and inquiries to hello@source-paper.com.