Literary Sojourn connects readers and writers | SteamboatToday.com

Literary Sojourn connects readers and writers

Author Emily St. John Mandel speaks Saturday during the Literary Sojourn at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

— Reading is a solitary activity. A reader becomes captivated by an author's words, and that connection turns into a quiet dialogue with the characters.

After reading a book, writing coach Susan de Wardt from the Steamboat Springs Writers Group, said she wishes she could send a letter to the author about how the book influenced her or made her think about something on a deeper level.

At Saturday’s annual Literary Sojourn event held at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, readers and authors alike had the opportunity to listen to five nationally recognized authors. Each writer talked about his or her inspiration for the stories and the characters in their published works.

"Here, you can actually say thanks," de Wardt said.

In the large banquet room about 500 book lovers from all over the country sat and listened attentively to each author. This year, Karen Joy Folwer, Colm Toibin, Emily St. John Mandel, Curtis Sittenfeld and Anthony Doerr were selected to talk about their novels, writing process and inspiration.

Emily St. John Mandel, author of "Station Eleven," "Last Night in Montreal," "The Singer's Gun" and "The Lola Quartet," spoke eloquently about her observations of the world and the people who inhabit it.

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"It's a way of paying attention to the world around you," she said. "It's about noticing the things around us, and I am interested in people and living an honorable life in a compromised world."

While doing research for her post-apocalyptic novel, "Station Eleven," Mandel found herself looking at everything around her in a different way, especially the small things often taken for granted.

"I found myself looking at every detail of this fragile world and thinking about what we take for granted and what we would miss," she said. "And there are the large obvious things that you would think of right away, no more electricity, airplanes, cell phones. Then there are the small things. No more social media. No more reaching for an object with a brightly lit screen, reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room."

The argument she made for the premise of her novel was that when everything is destroyed in the world, what’s left is everything that matters.

"It's a plot-driven novel set in a post-apocalyptic landscape," she said about “Station Eleven.” "But it's also a love letter and that was how I wrote it. It's a love letter to the world we live in."

Irish novelist Colm Toibin spoke about how his ideas for a book, like “Brooklyn,” take shape.

"A story is never enough to work from," he said. "You need it to matter emotionally to you for it to move from being something you store in your brain to something that moves into rhythm almost of its own accord."

In listening to the selected authors, audience members found inspiration.

"I like sometimes just to hear their voices, just the way they speak because there is so much of them in their writing style," de Wardt said. "I coach writers so this gives me some real spontaneous information. I love their enthusiasm."

At the end of the afternoon, readers had the chance to talk with the authors face to face during informal book-signing sessions.

"I think what I take away is how much they appreciate having an audience and how much we, as readers, appreciate them providing us with this terrific literature," de Wardt said. "That's the exciting part. I really feel there is an exchange here."

Next year’s Literary Sojourn event will be held Oct. 10.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1