Arts and Entertainment

A festival offers a full plate of literary thrills

Patricia Kelly will appear as Louisa May Alcott at ReadOn, WriteOn, VashOn.  - Courtesy photo
Patricia Kelly will appear as Louisa May Alcott at ReadOn, WriteOn, VashOn.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Islanders will be able to slip into a world of imagination when a brand new festival of books, readers and writers has its debut this weekend.

The festival, dubbed ReadOn, WriteOn, VashOn, will take place at venues all over the Island and include readings by bestselling authors, open mics, panel discussions, workshops for budding and seasoned writers and performances designed to appeal to all ages.

There will also be opportunities for participants to eat, drink and be merry, with some events scheduled at hot spots, including The Hardware Store Restaurant and Red Bicycle Bistro. Other events will take place at the Land Trust Building, Ober Park’s administration building, Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie and, of course, the Island’s library and two independent bookstores.

According to Will North, a well-known Island writer who is helping to organize the event, the festival is a perfect fit for Vashon.

“There isn’t a whole lot more to do around here than read for about 10 months out of the year,” he joked.

North, who has more than a dozen published nonfiction books and two novels to his credit, said he was roped into helping organize ReadOn, WriteOn, VashOn.

“I was cornered in the Thriftway parking lot,” he said, but as he proceeded to launch into a long recitation of various festival events, it was clear that he was excited to play a key role in the undertaking.

North is part of a committee of organizers led by Ron Irvine, owner of Vashon Winery. Last year, Irvine put together the first-ever Vashon Poetry Fest.

Irvine said he originally conceived this year’s festival as a way to acknowledge the importance of having two independent bookstores — Books by the Way and Vashon Bookshop — on the Island.

“The whole genesis of this thing was a thought that we needed to do something to help and save our bookstores — that was the whole deal,” said Irvine.

He credited North and other organizing committee members — Pat Churchill, Deirdre Grace and Hester Kremer — for casting a wide net to conceive and bring together all the different elements of the festival.

“We just had to create a vehicle and pour all that talent into it,” he said, referring to the festival’s jam-packed schedule.

The festival will kick off with “A Night that’s Just Write,” a free variety show modeled on “Prairie Home Companion,” slated to be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, May 28, in the Ober Park performance space.

Island author and inspirational speaker Terry Hershey will host the event, and North will give what he promised will be an “antic talk” about the perils and joys of writing for a living.

Bill Kenower, editor of Author Magazine editor, will also take the stage. Live music will be performed by local musicians.

Performances and readings by costumed actors portraying such figures as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Albert Einstein, Louisa May Alcott and Isak Dinesen will complete the evening.

It won’t be the only appearance for the costumed “ghostwriters.” North said they will make a number of surprise “guerilla readings” in shops and restaurants around town in the week prior to the festival.

“There will be an aura of stealth,” North said. “We want people to be surprised. It’s a metaphor for reading — the surprises that show up are the beauty of any book.”

North said he is also looking forward to an open mic at Red Bicycle Bistro, scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 29, where unpublished writers will have an opportunity to test their material in front of a crowd that includes many of the festival’s guest speakers and authors.

Those authors, many of whom have published bestsellers, are scheduled to appear at readings, book signings and workshops throughout the festival. The lineup includes Jane Adams, Kit Bakke, Karen Burns, Karen Cushman, Robert Dugoni, Brad Matsen, Craig Welch, Michael Gruber, Leslie Hazleton, Eric Scigliano and Kajira Wyn Berry.

The festival will include several events designed to appeal to young people, including a writing workshop for teens that will take place at 11 a.m. Monday, May 31, at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie.

There will also be a talk, “And in the Beginning ... There Were Comics,” by cartooning veteran T.K. Christopher, who will share insights and stories from his 40-year career in the comic book industry. The talk is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 29, at Vashon Library.

For the youngest festival-goers, there will be an appearance by actress Jennifer Carroll, performing as Betty MacDonald’s beloved character, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at Vashon Library.

An exhibit about MacDonald’s life and work will be up all weekend at the library.

Another festival highlight will be “The Book as Art,” a talk by book arts craftspeople, including Phil Bevis, Suzanne Moore, Donald Glaister and Catherine Alice Michaelis. That talk will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, May 31, at the Land Trust Building.

North said he has high hopes for the festival, which he summed up as a means to “bring readers and writers together in a conversation about the power of words and books.”

“We’re trying to appeal to all the senses and to do this as a true festival,” he said.

ReadOn, WriteOn, VashOn will take place May 29 through 31 at multiple venues on Vashon. Most events are free, but some require advance registration. Visit for complete festival information and to sign up for specific events. Tax-deductible donations to support the festival can be sent to Vashon Allied Arts, P.O. Box 576, Vashon, 98070. Checks should be made payable to Vashon Allied Arts, with “ReadOn” written on the memo line.

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