2020 Portland Book Festival Highlights, Week 1

Listen to excerpts from the first day of the 2020 #PDXBookFest, with writers including Lidia Yuknavitch, Kelli Jo Ford, & Dr. Michele Harper.

This episode of The Archive Project features highlights from the opening day of the 2020 Portland Book Festival, presented by Bank of America. Listen to excerpts from longer discussions between short story writers Souvankham Thammavongsa and Lidia Yuknavitch, with moderator Marisa Siegel; novelists Chelsea Bieker and Kelli Jo Ford, with moderator Kesha Ajose Fisher; and memoirist Dr. Michele Harper in conversation with poet Ruth Dickey.

To listen to full discussions from this episode, and the rest of the Festival, visit PDXBookFest.org.

The Portland Book Festival (running from November 5-21, 2020) presents a diverse range of writers who have recently published novels, story collections, works of nonfiction and poetry. There are over 100 writers in the festival this year and they hail from all over the country. Some are among our most famous writers at work today, and some publishing their first book. All are accomplished artists with powerful ideas and stories that can illuminate our understanding of ourselves and our world.


Chelsea Bieker is from California’s Central Valley. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Foundation Award and her fiction and essays have been published in GrantaMcSweeney’sCatapult magazine, Electric Literature, and Joyland, among others. She has been awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University. Godshot is her first novel.

Ruth E. Dickey has spent 25 years working at the intersection of community building, writing, and art. The recipient of a Mayor’s Arts Award from Washington DC, and an individual artist grant from the DC Commission and Arts and Humanities, Ruth’s poems and essays have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won three Larry Neal Writing Awards. She is the author of the chapbook, Paper Houses, Sky Ceilings (Pudding House Press 2006), and her work has appeared widely, including in Alimentum, The Baltimore Review, Cincinnati Review, Ocean State Review, The Potomac Review, and Sonora Review. Her first full-length collection of poems is titled Mud Blooms.

Kesha Ajose Fisher was born in Chicago and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. She now lives in Oregon with her family. Kesha’s debut collection of fictional stories, No God Like the Mother, focuses on the lives and realities of women who have been tasked with holding up the sky, all while the world whispers “you’re doing it wrong”. Fisher has won the 2020 Oregon Book Award for Fiction and The Phoenix Literary Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for Short Fiction in both 2011 and 2012. Her writing has been published in several online and print collections, and in such publications as Multicultural Familia Magazine, the Alchemy Literary Magazine, and twice in Beyond Black & White Magazine.

Kelli Jo Ford is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, the Everett Southwest Literary Award, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Award at Bread Loaf, a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and a Dobie Paisano Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris ReviewVirginia Quarterly Review, Missouri Review, and the anthology Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, among other places. Crooked Hallelujah is her first book.

Michele Harper has worked as an emergency room physician for more than a decade at various institutions, including as chief resident at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and in the emergency department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. The Beauty in Breaking is her first book.

Marisa Siegel lives, writes, and edits near NYC. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her essay “Inherited Anger” appears in the anthology Burn It Down (Seal Press, 2019) and her debut poetry chapbook, Fixed Stars, is forthcoming from Burrow Press in 2022. She is editor-in-chief and owner of The Rumpus.

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry and her fiction has appeared in Harper’s, Granta, the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and the O. Henry Prize Stories 2019. Her most recent book is the short story collection How to Pronounce Knife.

Lidia Yuknavitch is the nationally bestselling author of the novels The Book of JoanThe Small Backs of ChildrenDora: A Headcase, and the memoir The Chronology of Water. Her most recent book is Verge. She is the recipient of two Oregon Book Awards and a Willamette Writers Award, and has been a finalist for the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize and the PEN Center Creative Nonfiction Award. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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