Posts by Laura White

The Oregon Book Awards

Istock Oregon Book Awards

On April 8th, Portland’s Literary Arts will be announcing the winners of the 26th Annual Oregon Book Awards. This award recognizes the works and accomplishments of Oregon writers in several categories:  Fiction, Poetry, Drama, General Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction, Children’s Literature and Young Adult Literature.

Looking over the list of finalists, I felt disheartened at how many of these names were unfamiliar to me … so many fine books yet unread. Then I went back to review lists of past winners and was suddenly taken on a nostalgic journey of my glamorous life as a book seller/author event coordinator.  From the list of past winners and current finalists, the UO Duck Store has either hosted, or been involved in some way with readings featuring the following writers: Ingrid Wendt, Steven W. Bender, Barry Lopez, Robin Cody, Ehud Havazelet, Willy Vlautin, Scott Nadelson, Gina Ochsner, Cai Emmons, Marc Acito, Molly Gloss, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diana Abu-Jaber, Chuck Palahniuk, Craig Lesley, Maxine Scates, Linda Crew, Floyd Skloot, Laton Carter, Dorianne Laux, Karen Karbo, Lauren Kessler, John Daniel, John Kroger, Ellen Morris Bishop, James C. Mohr, Garrett Epps, Brian Doyle, and Cheryl Strayed.

Even though authors and books are what I spend most of my working day thinking about (after and before work, as well, of course) I still am suddenly struck at the amazing talent, dedication, risk taking, research and good old fashioned creative story telling happening in Orchardistthis state of Oregon, in this city of Eugene, on [...]
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Sullivan and D.B. Cooper

Sullivan and DB Cooper Istock


A few weeks ago, I observed a bored husband trying to pull his wife out of the book department.  First, she said, she was Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachutegoing to buy the book tucked under her arm, William Sullivan’s latest novel, The Case of D.B. Cooper’s Parachute.

Husband:  Why are you going to buy that?

Wife:  Because. I. am. an Oregonian.

She said this slowly, patiently, with the conviction of a person stating the most obvious thing in the entire universe to the slowest person ever.


The exchange was good natured, mostly, but served as an example of the level of connection, devotion and outright giddiness Oregonians have surrounding the mystery of D. B. Cooper—the FBI’s only unidentified airplane hijacker, who escaped in 1971 via parachute into the Cascades with $200,000 cash—never to be seen again.

But wait… has Sullivan uncovered clues to solve this three decade long mystery?

I can’t say, nor will Mr. Sullivan reveal any of the details at his upcoming event, but he will give you a taste for the novel to get you started.  We’ll also hear about other legendary NW folk heroes and legends with an always entertaining and educational slide show.  Snacks too!

If you’re in the Eugene area, please join us, and if you’re not, check out The Case of D.B. Cooper’s Parachute.

“D. B. Cooper & the Exploding Whale: Folk Heroes of the Northwest”

A slideshow presentation by William L. Sullivan

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Walking, Biking, Hiking, Threshing & Quacking

Walking, Biking, Hiking, Threshing & Quacking

This year at the 8th annual Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show we will offer you books about walking, growing, biking, building, hiking, reflecting, threshing, quacking… and much, much more.  We hope you’ll drop by our booth, say hello, and possibly meet an author/expert on one of the previously mentioned topics.

We’ll also have children’s books, bestsellers, art, fiction, memoir, science, poetry, nature, cooking, sports, travel, animals, psychology, humor, reference books and a few big comfy chairs.  You can’t miss us—we are right below the Good Earth Café & Music Stage and next to the food vendors.  In the past, we’ve had alpacas for neighbors. One year it was the Cascades Raptor Center.

So, just to recap, a visit to our booth will involve music, food, nice animals, books and a cozy resting spot. If we could get Divine Cupcakes and Café Mam to move just a little bit closer it would pretty much be paradise. Luckily, there are three giant rooms full of wonderful, inspiring, helpful and knowledgeable people right around the corner just waiting to answer your questions about Good Gardening, Good Building and Good Living… right after you visit us for Great Books!

We will also be at the Willamette Stage for part of the show as authors Carol Deppe, Bill Sullivan and Ellee Thalheimer present. Please see our full schedule for topics and full details:

For more general information about the home show, see their website:

We’ll see you [...]
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Books Booksellers Love

Books Booksellers Love

I love smart people. This is one of the reasons I feel so grateful for my annual pilgrimage north for the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association Trade Show. There, I am surrounded by independent booksellers, librarians and authors from all around the NW… all of them talking about books pretty much the entire time. It is sort of like heaven.

Did you even know there are still bookstores that have actual real live children’s book buyers… people whose job it is to read all the newest, the greatest, the most popular, the classic, and the little known but amazing books written for children and teens? Well, this does exist and since many of us are currently running around hoping to find the perfect gift for someone we might not see very often—like those cousins, nieces & nephews who live way, way too far away—I decided to share some wisdom I gleaned from book buyers and booksellers at this conference.  I also took a few suggestions from my UO Duck Store colleagues and from my own bookshelf as well.

Before I continue I must first thank these generous and wise colleagues for sharing some of their favorites. Thanks to Judy Hobbs from Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, WA, Christy McDanold from Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle, WA, Kira Porton from A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland, OR, Alison Webb from Eagle Harbor Books in Bainbridge Island, WA and Sue Nevins from Mockingbird Books in Seattle.

I hope this helps you [...]
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Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Saturday morning story times at the public library, my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Sondgroth reading aloud everyday after recess—books like A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S, Lewis—Harry Potter midnight release parties, Choose your Own Adventure books you can read a million times and never get the same story, bedtime stories each and every night (how could you possibly sleep without them?) It is no wonder books hold such a magical and beloved place in our childhood memories.

Kids have all the fun. I guess that’s how it’s supposed to work, right? But what if there existed a magical place where things can be just a little different? A place not far from here where writers meet once a week to critique and support one another in their literary endeavors; writers like Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake, Chuck Palahniuk, Suzi Vitello Soule, Mary Wysong Haeri, Erin Leonard, Diana Page Jordan and Cheryl Strayed. And what if one day a few of the writers decided that their next readings would be in honor of the almighty story time? There would be anticipation, excitement, spontaneous laughter and stuffed animals. Belief would be suspended. Mouths would gape in wonder. People would gather in public in their nightwear with the unabashed sense of entitlement to be read to.

Yes! This dream has come to fruition. One night only at the WOW Hall we will congregate and willingly be taken under the spell of writers Lidia Yuknavitch and [...]
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Dear Sugar Rumpus

Dear Sugar Rumpus

My desk is quite messy. So it’s almost a miracle that I kept coming across one tiny yellow post-it note with the words “dear sugar rumpus” written in my own handwriting. Disturbingly, I had no memory of writing these three words or what they could possibly mean, yet I still always held on to it… shuffling it back into the belly of paper and chaos that is my work space, just in case it was really something important, like the meaning of life. I have lots of post-its and paper scraps like this. Months went by… all winter finding and wondering what a sugar rumpus could be. Finally, one day I googled those words and ended up here: and it sort of came back to me….

It was November 9th, 2011, Knight Library Browsing room and we were winding down from the magic that was Memoir Night with Lidia Yuknavitch (Chronology of Water) and Peter Hoffmeister (End of Boys). After the reading, Lidia mentioned that I should check out the mysterious “Dear Sugar” column at a website called the Daily Rumpus. At the time no one knew that Portland writer Cheryl Strayed (Torch, Wild) was the Dear Sugar, but it was about to be reveled on Valentine’s Day in San Francisco. (Well, Lidia knew I am sure and I like to think this was her kind attempt at helping me become a tiny bit hip, which I deeply appreciate).

In short, I read the column, fell in love and waited for the big [...]
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Olympic Trials Books and Authors for the Non-Sporty, or Those Who are Regularly Accused of Living Under Rocks

Olympic Trials Books and Authors for the Non-Sporty, or Those Who are Regularly Accused of Living Under Rocks

It wasn’t until I was asked to explain the Olympic Trials to my five year old kid that I fully grasped how cool it was that I have just spent the last few weeks hanging out with the best of the very best, the fastest of the fast… elite athletes in the world of track and field. In a previous post about Apolo Ohno, I mentioned that sports make me nervous and anxious. I am like the proud, yet overly protective mother watching from the sidelines hoping no one breaks an ankle and being concerned for the self-esteem of the non-victorious. I am just made like that.

I gauge the importance of each athlete I meet by the reaction others have when I repeat their names. That is mostly how I know that the kind and humble athletes I had been assisting at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials are not only notable in the sense of their physical and mental dedication to their sport, but for their place in history. For example, at an event honoring Coach Al Buehler, I met John Carlos, who chatted casually with the booksellers in the halls of South Eugene HS about how Coach Buehler had once given him a ride to the airport in Mexico. Thirty minutes later I saw that moment come to life as I watched Amy Unell’s documentary film (which accompanies her biography of Coach Buehler, Starting at the Finish Line). [...]
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Consensual Reading

Consensual Reading

Nary a day goes by lately without at least one Shades of Grey conversation in the bookstore. I love how giddy or irate it makes people. I love that people who are not big readers are coming in for Book 1, and then returning the very next day for Books II and III (50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed). I love that fan fiction/erotica has been dominating the top three places of the New York Times and the IndieBound Bestseller’s list for weeks now…I just think it’s funny.

I love making fun of the characters, with their constant murmuring, eye rolling and blanching. I love the parody and I love the conversation the book inspires. As always, the people who critique the books without ever having read them amuse me. Very most of all, though, I love the people who hate the books so much that they force themselves to read all 1625 pages just so they can write or talk in great detail about how terrible the books are.

Don’t get me wrong, I do get the reasons people object to the books.

Are they repetitive and in need of editing? Yes.

Are they realistic? No.

Do they promote a model of a healthy relationship? In my opinion, no.

Do they properly describe the psychological motivations of people into BDSM?

I have no idea.


Please allow me to provide a definition for consideration:




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Tough By Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West

Tough By Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West

Star Gazing, BBQ, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Hoedown

This summer all four of the above will weirdly come together thanks to the work of one woman, Lynda Lanker. I have to confess I am enjoying myself way too much imagining groups of revelers do-si-do-ing up and down the halls of the gorgeously pristine Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. That is, until I open the pages of the companion book, Tough By Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West. My kitschy daydreams quickly fade as these powerful women come to life though the art of Lynda Lanker.

Inspired by the lives and spirits of the cowgirls and ranch women she met, interviewed, painted and sketched over the course of nineteen years, Lanker documents, celebrates and brings to life the strong women of the American West.

It’s not difficult to imagine how Lanker could be so devoted to capturing the 49 women featured in the exhibit and book. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about art, or cowgirls for that matter, but I like that she uses different mediums in her work to best represent her subjects, these people who lived and are living such extraordinary lives.

As fascinated as I am by hearing from the artist about the history and present day realities of ranch life, you can be sure I will not miss the hoedown at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Until then, I’ll [...]
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Mothers on the Edge

Mothers on the Edge - Mother's Day

Sometime in the mid 90′s I was traveling through fields of lavender and sunflowers in France, by train, reading The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I was in my twenties, single, and traveling solo. I got to the part in the book where the mother, Vivi, is so overwhelmed by her family responsibilities that she just walks out the door, gets in her car and drives away until she reaches a hotel by the sea. She checks into a room, has a drink, crawls under the crisp white sheets and sleeps for a day and a half. Her family is left to wonder and worry until she calls and tells them she’ll be home soon. I have a vivid memory of being completely horrified by this.

What a terrible mother.

Now, almost two decades later, this is one of my biggest fantasies. I am pretty sure I would never replicate this scene in my actual life. I would leave a note at least; “Gone to the seashore to sleep.” But just the idea of driving away, by myself, to the ocean-side, entering a room I am not responsible for cleaning; free from piles of unopened mail, laundry, and half completed projects and then just sleeping, or sitting quietly thinking, or reading without interruption …that really does sound like heaven. Oh, and also the drink sounds good too.

I am not saying that I have forgiven Vivi for abandoning Sidalee [...]
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