We had a pretty fabulous experience Friday night on the 13th, of course. My dear 1st cousin Nancy Minorâ€™s daughter Elissa was featured the mammoth Powellâ€™s Books to read from her new collection of short stories â€œThe Prisoner Pearâ€ as well as do the obligatory book signing.
Elissa has won many writing awards the last few years, so it shouldnâ€™t be a surprise that her book was published. She read one of my favorite stories, and signed books for enough people they had to bring in EXTRA chairs. It was wonderful to see her and musical genius husband Chris, cousin Nancy, hubby Warden, son Jay, Beth and calm blue-eyed baby boy.
Hereâ€™s Elissa in typical Oregon Costume (that means the umbrella in case you live somewhere south of here):
And hereâ€™s a copy from the Portland Tribune’s Interview with Elissa plus a book sypnosis after. The paper chose Elissa as “Person of the Week”.
A hometown book ties police blotter entries to a string of 12 stories
Generally, the Lake Oswego Review police blotter is gossip fodder for nosy neighbors or to find out which local homes were egged the previous weekend. But 29-year-old Elissa Minor Rust recently used it as inspiration to weave 12 poignant short stories that capture the townâ€™s eccentric beauty and foibles into a collection that is receiving national attention.
With a recent mention in the influential New York Times Sunday Book Review, and a large marketing campaign by publishing company Ohio University Press, Rustâ€™s book, â€œThe Prisoner Pear,â€ is putting her hometown on the map.
Rust grew up in Boise, Idaho, before moving to Lake Oswego at the age of 13 and attending Lakeridge High School. And, although she was always interested in writing, she never thought about placing Lake Oswego under her creative microscope until she left the Northwest to attend graduate school in Arizona.
â€œI was totally homesick. I spent a lot of time on the top floor of the library because the air conditioning made it sound like it was raining,â€ Rust said.
She received her master of fine arts degree in fiction from Arizona State University in 2000, then moved back to Lake Oswego where she got married and now has two children. She has also taught numerous writing classes in Arizona and at Portland Community College.
Rust has been published in Baltimore Review, The Ledge, Crab Creek Review, Carve Magazine, Honolulu Magazine, Peregrine and The Beacon Street Review, but it wasnâ€™t until the New Yearsâ€™ Day snow and ice storm of 2004 when she found the idea for her first collection of stories.
Rust came across the Lake Oswego Reviewâ€™s end of the year issue, which listed the annual â€œBest of the Blotterâ€ entries, featuring some of the cityâ€™s strangest and most bizarre occurrences of the past year.
While perusing each blurb, characters began to pop into Rustâ€™s mind.
â€œI wanted to write stories that had a common link geographically and when I was reading through the paper and then doing research of past additions at the library, I saw all of this potential for stories,â€ Rust said.
Some of the early reviews of â€œThe Prisoner Pear,â€ which took about a year to complete, have compared it to Sherwood Andersonâ€™s 1919 classic â€œWinesburg, Ohio.â€
Rustâ€™s tales each begin with the short blotter entry, then the story is woven around the situation. She claims that the inspiration for all but one of the stories came directly from the blotter entry. The end result is a unique look at all areas of Lake Oswego through the eyes of a generally sympathetic and often peculiar group of characters.
The blotter entries themselves feature everything from nude joggers to decapitated parakeets to mysteriously drained fish tanks, all of which were actual phone calls made to the police department in 2003 but it is Rustâ€™s fictionalized characters that give the book its depth.
â€œI like taking this one tiny moment and then creating the events that led to it. Most of the characters are normal people reacting to bizarre experiences. Itâ€™s like sticking characters into a petrie dish and seeing what happens. I think you could pick almost any town in America and write a book like this,â€ Rust said.
Rust also uses a number of popular Lake Oswego landmarks that anyone who has spent much time in the city will recognize.
â€œIt got tricky sometimes to figure out where the fiction began. Iâ€™d write about an area that existed and an actual road but then make up a house and the people who live in it,â€ Rust said.
The early reviews of Rustâ€™s book have been favorable as the themes that she tackles, particularly class relations, are universal and easy to relate to, even for people who live thousands of miles away from Lake Oswego.
â€œI hope that the book doesnâ€™t come across as judgmental or as me poking fun at Lake Oswego. I love it here. Itâ€™s always felt like home. Iâ€™m curious to hear Lake Oswego residentsâ€™ reactions,â€ Rust said.
Rust is currently working on her first novel and has a few readings scheduled, including an upcoming engagement at Powellâ€™s in Portland on Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
â€œItâ€™s exciting. Powellâ€™s is such a landmark and Iâ€™m really looking forward to (reading there.) I feel very lucky,â€ Rust said.
â€œThe Prisoner Pearâ€ can be purchased at most local bookstores and on Amazon.com.
And The SYPNOSIS here is actually from the New York Times (The book is on the “Editor’s List” of reccomended books:
THE PRISONER PEAR:
Stories From the Lake. By Elissa Minor Rust. (Swallow/Ohio University, $28.95; paper, $16.95.)
Set in the swanky Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, Ore., the 12 stories in Rust’s debut collection evoke a world of material privilege and emotional bankruptcy. Each story begins with a fairly innocuous item taken from the local newspaper’s police blotter: a dead bird found in a mailbox, a naked man running in the park, a vicious cat, an “unknown hairy thing” stuffed in a garbage can. These cryptic, sometimes bizarre little items provide a fitting point of departure for Rust’s fertile imagination. Forget about borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbors; ever wonder what might happen if an infertile couple asked for some sperm? If a woman walked out on her husband and their 2-year-old daughter but took the dog? Eating disorders, divorce, cancer, class envy, postpartum depression, suburban anomie, Volvos with seat warmers: they’re all here in lovely, privileged, unsettling Lake Oswego.