Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Idaho authors and illustrators gather for Baker's Dozen

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Stooped in front of a large, tiered display shelf, Rediscovered Bookshop co-owner Laura DeLaney reaches for a copy of Leslie Patricelli's Higher! Higher! A smile spreads across her face as she turns the glossy, brightly colored pages in her hands, a pig-tailed girl swinging up, up, up with each successive flip of the page. "I love this one," she remarks.

But this isn't the kids' section. Nudged up next to Patricelli's illustrated books are stacks of Kim Barnes' Pen USA award-winner A Country Called Home. On that same display are books by Mitch Wieland, Brady Udall, Mark Lisk, Stan Steiner, E.J. Pettinger, Gloria Skurzynski, Ken McConnell, Aaron Patterson, James Mace and Steve Willhite. The thread that unites these diverse authors? They're all from Idaho and they're all participating in the Rediscovered Bookshop's upcoming Baker's Dozen event.

"I set it up so it would cover the gamut from children's books to adult literature ... small press and large press ... I have some self-published, as well, in there," says DeLaney. "Part of my idea for Baker's Dozen really is to highlight Idaho talent, and independent and small press makes a difference in that."

For the past two years, Rediscovered has invited 13 Boise-area authors to gather for an evening of mingling and book-signing. At last year's event, each author submitted a favorite recipe, and nearby-neighbor Easy Cooking (now closed) whipped up snack-sized samples. This year, the number of authors has been trimmed down to 12 and the baked goods will be a fancy cake from Cakewalk Custom Cakes, which will be auctioned off for charity.

"All of the proceeds from auctioning off that cake will go straight to the Learning Lab," says DeLaney. "They are a literacy foundation that works with everyone from pre-schoolers to retired folks who don't know how to read."

In addition to supporting Learning Lab, the event also hopes to expose Boise readers to the wealth of local authors at their fingertips and expose Idaho authors to each other's work.

"The fact that we're all part of the whole Idaho writing scene, I love that sense of community, and I'm really looking forward to learning more about the work of some of the authors whose work I'm not familiar with," says Barnes, at her home in Moscow.

Barnes's four books--two novels, Finding Caruso and A Country Called Home, and two memoirs, In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country and Hungry for the World--are set within a hundred-mile radius of the Clearwater River in north central Idaho. Her characters endure the hardships of the Western frontier amid the same tall trees and somber soil that originally summoned her father and mother to Idaho from Oklahoma. Barnes knows intimately what it is to grow up in the wild, lonely West. And as she's gained notoriety as a writer, she's had to confront the preconceptions people have of rural Idaho.

"I've been asked so many times by interviewers, 'How did you get from that little logging town in Idaho to where you are now?' And I find it kind of offensive; there's that idea that somehow people in Idaho are incapable of leading a life of the mind unless you live in, say, Boise," says Barnes. "So I'm always very pleased to bring that sort of awareness and exposure forward for the entire state."

A professor of creative writing at the University of Idaho, Barnes says she has felt nurtured by her colleagues and readers as a woman writer in Idaho. As her work strives to demythologize the Western woman, portrayed in literature as either a "prostitute with a heart of gold" or a "prairie Madonna," Barnes also tackles another misconception--that women can't write detachedly about violence.

"My family killed their animals, they sometimes killed their wives, they killed each other with great regularity. Cormac McCarthy writes about that ... but what I have found as a woman writing about that, that is still verboten," says Barnes. "Women are supposed to redeem, and for us to observe violence without the kind of social commentary that says, 'See what men have done to us. See what men have done to the West. See what men have wrought,' and not insist that the female as writer or character be the one that brings redemption is considered profane."

But not many authors in Baker's Dozen have the platform Barnes has to tackle these weighty issues. For first-time and small press authors, it's a long journey before they'll command the attention of a dedicated readership.

"If you're a first-time author, you might get two or three people for a book signing," says DeLaney. "What Baker's Dozen does is it gives them a much broader exposure, because we do get a lot of folks to come through and a lot of people get to see their books."

One of the authors who has benefited from the exposure of Baker's Dozen and the support of Rediscovered Bookshop is self-published science fiction writer Ken McConnell. After McConnell participated in last year's event, his book Starstrikers and his recent release Null Pointer have been steadily disappearing from the bookstore's shelves.

"The people that work [at Rediscovered] really know books very well. They're not afraid to talk up the local authors," says McConnell. "That helps me as a writer who lives here, and it can only help the community to get to know those writers that do live here."

Whether they're big guys or small fry, on Saturday, Nov. 21, these 12 will pull up a chair to share their love of all things literary.

"I think what the Baker's Dozen offers not only book readers, but book writers is the opportunity to come and share in this passion and pleasure we have, and that further connection of having made the choice ... to live and write and read in Idaho," says Barnes.