Strong year for Boise’s Storyfort: Best-selling writers, poets and The Human Library

Tommy Orange will be at The Egyptian Theatre to talk about his acclaimed debut novel, “There There,” at this year’s Storyfort.
Tommy Orange will be at The Egyptian Theatre to talk about his acclaimed debut novel, “There There,” at this year’s Storyfort. Storyfort

Storyfort, the literary branch of Treefort Music Fest, is back for a sixth year with its most extensive lineup ever. More than 100 storytellers are slated to participate in more than 50 events across six venues during the five-day festival.

The schedule spans a diverse array of voices – poets, fiction writers, memoirists, journalists, podcasters, graphic novelists, refugees and musicians – curated over the course of nearly a year by a small team led by Boise-based writer and Storyfort director Christian Winn. The goal, Winn said, is to reflect the overarching Treefort ethic and foster an environment that is welcoming to everyone.

Though the Storyfort offerings are widely varied, the central objective is simple: “We definitely don’t want to be boring, ever,” Winn said.

You can see the full Storyfort lineup at its website, but here are some highlights.

Bestselling authors

You might recognize Tommy Orange’s name from nearly every “best of” list from 2018. His acclaimed debut novel, “There There,” unfolds in a series of short chapters, shifting perspectives among an extensive cast of Native American characters in the lead-up to a pow-wow. Orange’s hometown of Oakland, California, features prominently in the book.

“There There” is the featured title for Treasure Valley Reads this year, and Storyfort is partnering with the communitywide reading project to bring Orange to The Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., for a reading, Q&A and book signing on Saturday, March 23, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. A limited number of reserved seats are available on Eventbrite. Beyond that, it’s first-come seating until capacity is reached. A reception with Orange at MING Studios, 420 S. 6th St., from 5:30-6:30 is free and open to the public.

Orange won’t be the only bestselling author visiting Boise for Storyfort. From noon to 1:30 p.m. on that Saturday, three others will gather on the first floor of The Owyhee for an event titled “Love, Language and the Bestseller”: Jamie Ford, of Great Falls, Montana, the author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” “Songs of Willow Frost” and “Love and Other Consolation Prizes”; Tara Conklin, of Seattle, author of the “The House Girl” and “The Last Romantics”; and Jonathan Evison, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, the author of “All About Lulu,” “West of Here,” “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!” and “Lawn Boy.”

Learn more about award-winning Seattle author Tara Conklin

Journalism up close

NPR reporter Kirk Siegler has focused attention on the rural-urban divide in America, covering everything from anti-government standoffs in Oregon and Nevada to the far-reaching impacts of drought in the West. Recently, he’s focused attention on the aftermath of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. He will discuss that experience on Thursday, March 21, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

On Friday from 1:30-3 p.m., reporters Amanda Peacher and Nate Hegyi of the Mountain West News Bureau will sit down with their editor, Kate Concannon, to go behind the scenes in their radio journalism. Their bureau covers many stories involving the modern West, including growth, climate change and Western culture.

Both events will be held on the second floor of The Owyhee, 1109 Main St., the main Storyfort venue.

Podcasts galore

No modern storytelling event is complete without a bit of live podcasting, and there are chances to catch plenty at The Owyhee.


Los Angeles-based comedian Jackie Kashian will record “The Dork Forest” Friday, March 22, from 5:30-7 p.m. And comedian Yedoye Travis, of Atlanta, will record “Dark Tank” from 5-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 23.

You can also catch San Francisco-based literary podcast “Grottopod” from 6-7 p.m. Thursday and 3-4 p.m. Friday. Local podcasts “Genuine Wrestleboys” (7-8 p.m. Friday) and “That Baseball Show” (8-9 p.m. Friday) are on the lineup as well.

In addition, a group of podcasters will converge for a discussion called “Why Podcasting Sucks and Why We Still Love It” on Thursday from 7-8 p.m.

Refugee stories

Head to The Owyhee on Thursday, March 21, at 1:30 p.m. to hear from refugee artisans who created a quilt to express the stories of their pasts. The project was a collaboration with Artisans for Hope, the Idaho Commission on the Arts and Boise writer Malia Collins.

Then stay for the story of Bahati Sudjonga, who arrived in Boise on Feb. 2, 2017, and was among the last refugees to arrive in the United States before the Trump administration’s first travel ban took effect. Bahati means “lucky” in Kiswahili, and the event is titled “The Lucky One – A Refugee’s Story.” It starts at 3 p.m.

Interactive opportunities

Ada Community Libraries and the Meridian Library District are bringing The Human Library to the first floor of The Owyhee on Friday, March 22, 3-7 p.m., and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Real people will be on loan as “books,” ready to share their life stories during 20- to 30-minute conversations with “readers” curious about different experiences and perspectives.

The Human Library is a popular feature that is not new to Boiseans

And if you have something to get off your chest, keep an eye out for the Poetry Confessional, which will be at various locations – including the Main Stage – Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon and evenings. Behind a curtain, you can spill your secrets to a mystery writer who will turn them into a poem just for you.

A few other highlights

Reema Zaman – A Shared Memoir, 6-7:30 p.m. Friday

The Owyhee – First-floor cafe space

Zaman was born in Bangladesh, raised in Hawaii and Thailand, and now lives in Oregon. Her poetic memoir, “I Am Yours,” was released this year by Eagle-based Amberjack Publishing.

Gaelynn Lea – In Conversation and Performance, 3:30-5 p.m. Saturday

The Owyhee – Second floor

The singer-songwriter and violinist from Duluth, Minnesota, won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest and has since played over 425 shows in seven countries. She will discuss disability, art and acceptance.

Activism, Race, Feminism and Art in America, 3-4 p.m. Sunday

The Owyhee – First-floor cafe space

A conversation with Camille Acker, author of the short story collection “Training School for Negro Girls”; Leta Harris Neustaedter, a Boise-based arts educator, writer, musician, actor, social worker and activist; and Linqua Franqa, the hip-hop moniker of Athens, Georgia-based linguist-turned-legislator Mariah Parker.