Salem Library Hosts Acclaimed Oregon Authors

The Salem Library’s 2008-2009 Modern Voices Author Series wraps up this month with the presentations of Oregon authors Alison Clement and Diane Hammond.

Alison Clement is the author of two published books, including the Oregon Book Award-winning novel “Twenty Questions.” It is the story of a woman who turns down a ride from a man who is later arrested for murder. Her near-miss draws her into the lives of the victim’s family, which in turn reveals a great deal about her own life. But Clement had more to tell in her novel than just an intriguing suspense story.

“Twenty Questions” is about a murder. It’s about how her relationship to that murder affects my protagonist, but it’s also a story about class, war, poverty, marriage, and betrayal,” Clement said. 

The novel takes place in a never-named but thoroughly-described Corvallis. Her heroine works at an elementary school, and the authentic voices of children are heard throughout the story.

At her behest, Clement’s students haven’t read the book, but she’s gotten reactions from others in the community who have.

“People do sometimes recognize other people in my writing, but hardly anyone ever recognizes themselves,” she said.

Diane Hammond, on the other hand, served as spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, as well as being the author of several books. Her experiences in these capacities inspired her newest novel, “Hannah’s Dream.”

“Initially I’d intended to write a non-fiction book about the Keiko project, but quickly learned that I was a) simply too close to the story and b) not a non-fiction writer,” Hammond said. “It wasn’t until I left the non-fiction project behind for a novel and substituted an elephant for a killer whale that I freed myself up to write about the beautiful things I’d seen during the Keiko project.”

“Hannah’s Dream” is more than the story of an elephant in a second-rate zoo and the people who want to help her.

“First and foremost, ‘Hannah’s Dream’ is a love story—or more accurately, a collection of love stories,” Hammond said. “I explicitly set out to write about the bonds that hold even dissimilar friends and lovers close. Each of these relationships, though in some cases improbable, is deep and rich and sustaining. Love has that kind of power.”

Hammond’s relationship to the writing craft started in her early twenties, “cutting her teeth” on short stories. After years of struggling with what she considered to be a particularly unforgiving format, Hammond decided to find another route to publication.

“A book, I thought, was my only recourse if I ever wanted to be published,” Hammond said.

The book that eventually resulted from that realization was Hammond’s first,”Going to Bend,” which was published by Random House’s Doubleday imprint.

As a successfully published author, Hammond has much to share with her upcoming Salem audience. Her focus will be “Hannah’s Dreams.”

“I’ve pulled together images and news coverage that illustrates my journey from the Keiko project in the mid-1990s to the completion of “Hannah’s Dream.” It also helps to illuminate the process of writing, and where fiction, at least mine, came from.”

Both authors speak at Loucks Auditorium in The Salem Public Library, starting at 7 p.m. on May 7. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Books by both scribes will be available for purchase at the event through a partnership with The Willamette Store.

Artist and Graphic Novelist Mark Fearing to Speak at Willamette Writers

To call him a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist still wouldn’t fully describe Mark Fearing’s career.

He was the Art Director at Sony Online Entertainment, his animations have been featured on Nickelodeon, and he is a current production manager for Walt Disney Television Animation. He has created several comic books for independent publisher O-P-P, and his illustrations for “The Book that Eats People” can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

But at the center of the technology and managerial success-storm sits a writer.

“I was a writer before I fell in love with drawing,” Fearing said. “I most enjoy drawing when it is in service to a story I want to tell. Picture books, graphic novels, comics and comic strips offer the rare opportunity for an individual to control the entire presentation of their story. It satiates the inner control-freak in me I guess.”

Fearing’s “controlled presentation” comes to fruition in the form of his new graphic novel, “Earthling!,” published by Chronicle Books as their Premiere Graphic Novel for a new line, due out in 2011.

“‘Earthling!’ Is a huge project. It is a sci-fi epic for kids. But I hope one that will be enjoyed by older readers as well,” Fearing said.

Fearing addresses the Salem chapter of Willamette Writers on May 14 in a presentation entitled,”Writing for Children Across Media.” Bringing along sample materials from TV animation, he discusses the process of developing his many different publications.

Salem’s Willamette Writer’s meetings are held upstairs at the West Salem Roth’s 1130 Wallace Rd, with entrance and parking in rear. The presentation is at 7 p.m. with free admission for members and $10 for non-members.