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Author Archive: "Alexis Smith"

Port. Lit.

As my farewell blog for Powell's, I wanted to be able to compile all of my favorite Portland-related things. There would be food, and clothes, and thrift shops, and parks, and record stores, and beer, and yoga. It would be a smorgasbord of Portland. I sat down to make my list, starting with Portland's literary delights. And I had to stop there. There were too many book and writing-related links, and the post was ridiculously long. So, for those new to Portland, or just new to the literary scene, I give you:

Port. Lit: A Short List of the Portland Literary Scene

1. So, obviously I'm a fan of Tin House, one of the most respected literary journals in the country, which spawned one of the most respected independent presses. The Tin House blog has great features like "Book Clubbing," in which writers tell you about a favorite bookstore, and "Lost & Found" (my favorite), in which authors tell you about an out-of-print or largely forgotten book they adore.

2. There's also Propeller Books, the books project of Propeller ...

Out of Print, into My Heart

One of the things I miss most about working at Powell's (besides working with the funniest, smartest, quirkiest folks you'll ever meet) is finding random, old children's books on our daily carts of recently acquired used books. Some of these books I remembered from my childhood, others were new to me, if not to the world. Here are some of my favorite discoveries from my eight years as a bookseller.

  1. Plants That Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller
    Some of Heller's gorgeous nature-themed books are still in print, but not this one. The rhyming text is simple enough for my three-year-old son, but delivers plenty of facts.

    In proper scientific terms all of these are GYM-NO-SPERMS.

  2. Where Have You Been? by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Barbara Cooney
    There are favorites and there are favorites. Margaret Wise Brown occupies a superlative category all her own. Her ingenuity attracted some of the best illustrators of her day, including Cooney (known best for her own classic, Miss Rumphius).

    Little Old Rook/ Little Old Rook/ Where do you look?/ At the


In the Kitchen with a Deadline

When I have a writing deadline approaching, you'll probably find me in the kitchen. It's horrible, I know, but when I work with a deadline, I tend to find elective domestic projects — cooking, baking, canning — irresistible.

Here's how it goes: I'm sitting at the computer, staring down the blank page, or the half-written book review, or the novel-in-progress, when I realize I'm thirsty. Not for water (of course not), but for a hot, freshly brewed cup of tea. I go to the kitchen, fill the kettle, rinse my big blue English teapot, fill it with loose-leaf Keemun, and wait for the water to boil. As I wait, I realize I'm a bit peckish. I open cupboards, peer at jars of dried fruit and nuts and crackers. Nothing calls out to me. What could fill this wee, nagging hunger? A cup of tea and... a cup of tea with a little honey and... I glance at my shelf of cookbooks. A cup of tea with a little honey and buttered toast. No! Freshly baked bread and butter. Yes! A ...

Walks on the Wildwood

Every Sunday morning since the start of the New Year, I've taken a hike in Forest Park. It's a trend I won't be able to keep up through the coming months as I travel around Oregon and Washington for readings. Nevertheless, I will pine for these excursions while I'm away. Forest Park is the wooded wilderness that stretches over seven miles along the western ridge (known as the Tualatin Mountains by Native Americans and the West Hills by today's locals) of Portland. I have a commanding view of these hills and their mostly coniferous (Douglas-fir, hemlock, and cedar) forest from my apartment in the St. Johns neighborhood.

If you've read Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis's fantastic Wildwood, you have read about this extraordinary place (though it may not be quite as extraordinary as their heroine, Prue, finds it). I imagine a time, years from now, when The Wildwood Chronicles have reached the status of an American Chronicles of Narnia, and children all over the country beg their parents to take them on pilgrimages to the Wildwood ...

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mason Jar

Last fall, I was reading over the final proof of Glaciers when I came across the passage in which my heroine's love interest drinks coffee from a mason jar. I paused, eyes focusing on the words: mason jar. My mind went back to when I started the book, in the winter of 2003-2004. Some of my Powell's coworkers used mason jars with lids in place of Nalgene bottles and aluminum travel coffee mugs (I assumed that, like me, they preferred drinking from glass). I flashed ahead in time to my friends at Dove Vivi, who have been serving water at their tables from vintage quart jars since they opened in 2007 (along with the tasty corn pizza and the endearing thrift store assortment of forks, it was one of the things that made me fall in love with them). But by the time I was reading that final proof of my novel, it was 2011, and I had recently dined at two new Portland restaurants in which I was served water in wide-mouth pint Ball masons. I had mentally added them to ...

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