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Lead Stories

Every once in a while something crazy happens: Someone self-publishes a book and it takes off. The Celestine Prophecy started that way as did Still Alice, and 50 Shades of Grey started off as internet-published Twilight fan fiction. Lane County has a whole host of writers publishing themselves or getting published by a “vanity” press (Hey, it’s not vanity if it’s good!). They, and we, hope one of these books takes off. Here’s just a smidge of what got dropped off at EW this year.

Once upon a time, and not all that terribly far back, Jeff Geiger was undergoing what he now describes as “a dark night of the soul.”

The Eugene writer had arrived at the artistic crossroads. “I’d been working for, I’d say, at least a decade as what I’d consider to be a serious writer,” he says. Deciding that he was most passionate about young adult fiction, Geiger wrote two such novels that came up bust. They had heart, but “they weren’t selling. It was an incredibly frustrating experience,” he recalls.

 

= Oregon author or Oregon-centric book

 

fiction

 

Local Libraries and Bookstores staff pics and top ten lists

Indra cuddles up every night in the passenger seat of her family van. A mountain of library books and drawing pads are stacked on the console next to her little bed, which is veiled from the outside world by a baby blanket draped over the door window. Each night, her mother, two sisters and brother also stretch out beside her in the quiet van, sleeping on the piles of clothes that cushion the seats. 

Indra was 12 when her mother announced the family would be driving from Pennsylvania to Eugene. Excited, Indra immediately called shotgun for the road trip. They arrived in Eugene five months ago in June, their dog and three-week-old baby sister Prema in tow. 

Now 13, Indra still sleeps every night in that shotgun seat, as the family has yet to find housing here.

 Indra joins the other 2,148 homeless children counted throughout Lane County’s various school systems for this past school year, according to the Oregon Department of Education. That figure does not include younger children not yet attending school. 

World leaders from more than 190 countries will convene in a suburb of Paris during the first two weeks of December for COP21, the 21st conference of the parties — the annual U.N. Conference on Climate Change. Will the governments of the world finally pass a binding global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will they fail in this task?

Letters to the Future, a national project involving more than 40 alternative weeklies across the U.S., set out to find authors, artists, scientists and others willing to get creative and draft letters to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks — and what came after. 

Some participants were optimistic about what is to come — some not so much. We present some of their visions of the future.

Kesey Square is the last public space in Eugene that has no curfew. 

As a citizen — not as a consumer or a business owner — if there is one thing to take away from this story, or any story you hear about Kesey Square, regardless of where you fall on the issue, it should be this:

Kesey Square is the last and only place in downtown Eugene, day or night, where you can go to exercise your rights as a citizen, be it freedom of speech or the right to assembly, or just the right to be in the heart of the city. 

It is the last place in Eugene, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, where citizens can be without the expectation of spending money or abiding by the rules of a particular business or property owner.

Not even in the spot that has been designated for free speech, the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza (i.e. the drum circle spot near Saturday Market and Farmers Market), can you express your opinions past 11 pm. The county deemed it free speech with a curfew (11 pm to 6 am) in 2013. Free Speech Lite.

Attention, comic book fans et al. — here are my credentials to write this nerdy story. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’ve shed more tears than I’d like to admit over the deaths of Harry Potter characters and I’m engaged to a physicist.

I’ll never forgive Joss Whedon for killing Penny from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from Angel and Wash from Firefly (I know, I know, he wasn’t actually killed until Serenity). I have a Lord of the Rings quote for nearly every occasion.

I believe this is enough to land me in solid nerd territory. I’m OK with that. 

So imagine my joy when I heard earlier this year that, after a dry spell of nearly a decade, Eugene would host its very own comic convention, a celebration of all things fantasy, science fiction and beyond. Eugene Comic Con, also known as EUCON, hits Lane Events Center Nov. 14-15, and more than 5,000 people have RSVPed via Facebook. 

We all love Best of Eugene, readers and writers alike. We love seeing joyful social media posts when winners open the pages of this issue and see their names in print. We love the crazy photo shoots. We love all the hilarious and inappropriate votes we get to read.

But just like anything that is deeply beloved, Best of Eugene is so much fun to complain about. Here at EW headquarters, we enjoy complaining about the 40 hours of staff time it takes to count all those votes. Readers seem to revel in accusations of a rigged system and fabricated winners. But hey, what’s a Eugene event without a conspiracy theory?

Lovely readers, you are more than welcome to count the votes yourselves to assure you that we do, in fact, tally all the votes, even the votes for “your mom.” We get thousands of votes every year, but this only represents a small percentage of our readership. There are a whole lot of readers out there who don’t vote at all. This brings tears of sadness to our tired, ballot-counting eyes.

This year, we added a few new categories, and we’re pleased to see some fresh faces grace these pages. Best of Eugene isn’t about us — it’s about you. We love you, Eugene, and we hope this issue is everything you dreamed it would be. And if not, just remember that you have the power to change it next year. OK, OK, enough soapboxing. Let’s get to the fun!

Opening night of Cloud Nine at the old Lord Leebrick Theatre, 2001: Willow Norton holds court in the lobby, trash-talking the production. Upon hearing her, the play’s director, Corey Pearlstein, emerges from the shadows and introduces himself to the young woman. Spirited discussion ensues.

Valentine’s Day, 2007, on a cobblestone street in SoHo, NYC: Snow falls in the settling dusk. As Norton scurries to rehearsal, she catches a glimpse of a man standing in the doorway. Despite his three-piece suit and the theater business he is conducting over the phone, he looks hometown familiar.

Rain fell in sheets that night, pelting my bedroom window so hard it shook the panes. Late October, years ago, in a rundown North Portland house, I squinted against dim light to read ghost stories from a fat anthology I’d found at a secondhand bookstore.

Come autumn, I tend to overdo it with horror films and ghost stories. By the time Halloween rolls around, I’m pretty messed up; my bearings are shot such that every shadow becomes a demon and every black cat a witch in disguise. 

Late October, three years ago, Eric Kissell built his daughter a coffin. 

Money’s always tight, so he used some distressed cedar planks pitted with holes bored by carpenter ants and wood beetles. Then he filled the casket with cold beers and added some dry ice for a spooky fog effect.

Horror movie fans, listen up: If your idea of a perfect Halloween is watching fright flicks non-stop, you’re in luck. Eugene Film Society (EFS) brings you the Third Annual 72 Hour Horror Film Competition, part of All Hallows’ Eugene — an annual series of Halloween-themed events occurring all over downtown.

Terry Kennon isn’t on the clock, but she’s at work anyway — because why not. What the hell else is there to do Wednesday night in Lebanon?

She hops down from her barstool, walks outside and lights a cigarette under a sign that reads Merlin’s Bar and Grill.

“I’ve worked here forever,” Kennon says, matter-of-factly. “Don’t tell me this place isn’t haunted.”

Colton Thompson is 6 years old. He has a mop of light blonde hair and a mischievous look in his eyes. He goes to school in Springfield.

One day during school, a classmate came up to Colton with a message from Colton’s dad. Colton and his family are fleeing domestic abuse, so the message scared him. Colton’s mom has a restraining order against his dad, and his family is staying in a safe house. 

Colton spent the rest of the night throwing up. He feared that his dad would take him from school. Ever since then, Colton hasn’t liked school very much.

When I got to the morning writing course I teach at Lane Community College on Tuesday, I asked my students, “How many of you were worried about coming to class today?” Several students raised their hands. Looking around at their peers, several more put their hands in the air. 

It was the first time our class met after a student in a writing course at Umpqua Community College came to class Oct. 1 armed with six guns and used them to kill eight fellow students, his writing instructor and finally, himself. He also wounded nine other students in a shooting spree he appears to have foreshadowed with threats on the internet bulletin board 4Chan.

Campuses in Oregon and around the country are mourning the news coming out of Umpqua Community College Oct. 1 after word of the mass shooting spread. The first week of class is often a time of newness, learning and excitement. This year, it has brought great sadness.

But it also brings a sense of unity. Football players from longtime rivals Oregon State University and the University of Oregon wore “UCC” decals on their helmets in a sign of solidarity. The UO, OSU, Lane Community College and others all held vigils on their respective campuses in remembrance of those lost, and #RoseburgStrong was joined by #IamUCC to support a grieving community. 

Many OSU and UO students really are UCC — the community college’s graduates go on to earn their bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Oregon’s state universities. When so much talk is made of rivalries and civil wars, it’s heartening to see collaboration and unification in our places of learning.

This year’s Back to Campus issue features EW’s ever-entertaining student Q&As, advice for Ducks new or old, a look at OSU’s seven hubs of cultural learning and more. Remember, no matter what your school colors, we’re all in this together.

It’s that time of year again! Time to crack open some beers … I mean books. 

This is the first fall in four years that I won’t be returning to campus. So now, as a grad, I’m passing on my top five things you need to know about being a Duck. 

When you’re a student, things get busy. Maybe you’re stuck studying in your apartment and, while starving, find the prospect of going out into the world for food unbearable. Maybe you just want to “Netflix and chill” without leaving the couch. 

If so, you can utilize HungryDucks as your take-out shortcut, or contact Cascadian Courier Collective to get almost anything delivered, so long as it isn’t more than 300 pounds and can fit on one of its freight bicycles.

Brandon Hosea

Major: Economics and public relations

Year: Senior

Age: 21

Hometown: Bend, Oregon

 

Would you vote for Donald Trump?

Yeah.

Why?

Because I respect his ambition. Honestly, I agree with some of the stuff he says, some of it I don’t — you can’t agree with everything.

Lane Community College’s water conservation technician program — one of only a few like it in the country — hasn’t had enough students to fill a cohort since 2012.

The college is still offering it — though enrollment is zero — because skills in water conservation may soon be in demand as communities reassess how they think about water, in part due to drought. 

Sometimes in our fair valley, it seems the only cultures deemed worthy of attention, or investment, are football and beer. Another gallery falls; another brewery rises. One more great local artist is lost to Portland — to opportunity — while Eugene funnels in more star players, more zealous fans and more Duck stuff.

Artists take heed: Paint your palettes yellow and green and let your kilns cook only the most bulbous growlers.

Oh, we tease. But in our third year of producing the visual arts issue, ArtsHound, it’s become clear that the best things — art that moves, heals, inspires and connects — come in quiet packages without much fanfare.

When Sam Gehrke peers through a camera lens, he’s taken to a new realm where anxieties dwindle and Eugene’s same tired vistas turn into hidden treasures. 

“I’m not the most social person,” Gehrke says, his kind eyes hiding behind thick, black frames. His time spent shooting skaters at WJ Skatepark, he says, helped him feel comfortable capturing human subjects — now his forte. 

The world can feel like a pretty nasty place. Local glass artist Jamie Burress is here to help. 

“I’m talking to my friend, who’s also a glass artist, about putting on a show that’s focused on desserts,” Burress says of a tentative upcoming exhibit with fellow glass artist Renee Patula. “There’s so much bad stuff going on in the world. We thought: Let’s just make a happy show!”