Book cosmopolis

Literary Arts hosts yearly book festival

The Portland Book Festival, formerly known as Wordstock, returns Nov. 10 to Portland Art Museum and surrounding venues with 157 authors and presenters appearing on nine stages, plus writing workshops, pop-up events and approximately 100 exhibitors and vendors.

Booksellers, periodicals and over 40 publishers will sell their wares and services, promote themselves and make connections with readers and writers.

Featured authors on the event’s schedule include comedian and star of Broad City, Abbi Jacobson; Emmy-nominated chef Edward Lee; debut novelist Tommy Orange; poet and memoirist Gregory Pardlo, whose Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Oscar-winning actor and typewriter enthusiast Tom Hanks.

Many nationally-recognized Portland area authors will also speak, including poet and slam champion Anis Mojgani; bestselling graphic novelist Marissa Meyer; poet and editor Ashley Toliver; and Portland State’s own Leni Zumas, whose Red Clocks was a New York Times Editor’s Choice.

The PBF has evolved since it first appeared in 2005 at the Oregon Convention Center. After a one-year hiatus in 2014, the festival moved to its current site, where this year, in addition to the museum, stages will be located at the Oregon Historical Society, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Winningstad Theatre, First Congregational United Church of Christ, The Old Church and Brunish Theatre. Although these venues are small compared to the convention center, their location in and near the Park Blocks and Portland State campus improves the atmosphere of the event, as well as access to downtown attractions and transit connections.

Perhaps just as important as the festival’s move across the Willamette River is this year’s name change, with organizers aim to appeal to a wider audience. “You don’t have to explain what ‘Portland Book Festival’ means—it’s immediately clear, and doesn’t require a subtitle,” said Festival Director Amanda Bullock. “It doesn’t reference a separate event, which might not be relevant to or recognizable by many younger attendees, which opens up the audience more widely.”

Along with these positive changes, the PBF has contended with a problem: hordes of book lovers filling limited indoor spaces. Festival attendance, according to Bullock, rose from approximately 8,500 in 2015 to 10,000 in 2017. Organizers expect 10,000 attendees again this year and have capped the event at that number. This makes sense considering the long lines and packed venues of recent years.

Maybe crowds are not the worst problem to have, though. To disgruntled PBF attendees waiting in long lines, I say we have reason instead to be highly gruntled. When the throng at your book festival could be mistaken for a well read Trailblazers crowd, you have arrived in the literary big leagues.

Excuse the mixed sports metaphors—I’m excited about Portland’s future as a cosmopolis of books and book people. The PBF seems positioned to help bring about such a shining destiny.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship” Bullock said. “The festival couldn’t be successful without Portland’s lively literary scene, and the festival then contributes to and helps grow that community.”

The Portland Book Festival box office will open at 8 a.m. at the Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave. Admission opens at 9 a.m. More information is available at