By Ross Blanchard
Above: PDX Magazine Editor-in-chief Ross Blanchard (left) and author Joshua Ferris at Dave Weich’s Narrative Mechanics event.
A couple of Sundays ago Dave Weich, president of Sheepscot Creative, invited around a dozen guests to his home in Southeast Portland for his first Narrative Mechanics event. The gathering focused on interviews and discussions with strategic communicators. His first interviewee was Josh Ferris, who was in town on a book tour for his new novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour.
This was not a “meet the author, ask him about his typewriter” scene at all. From the moment I entered Weich’s home, I could tell that something different was about to happen. So could the other guests, most of whom it appeared, like me, didn’t have much of a clue what was going on either.
There was a camera crew, a small staff, a bartender. Guests were handed tarot-sized cards with inexplicable quotes on the back. We were given small round stickers and asked to place them below similar quotes on posters hung on the dining room walls. The meanings of these activities would be revealed later, I was told (they were). Then we were invited to have a drink, to mingle. It had a slightly corporate feel, but with an intellectual bent—our minds would be put to work, no doubt. But it also had the welcoming warmth of a dinner party.
The angle of Weich’s interview of Ferris, with all of us seated in Weich’s living room, was unexpected as well. This was a gathering to talk about storytelling, but not in an unstructured or loose way by any means. We were there, it turned out, to talk about building narratives toward desired outcomes—strategic communication. That’s what fiction writers do: They construct narratives in the most effective way possible to entertain and lead the reader down the author’s desired path. So Ferris eagerly spoke, not so much about the depth of his characters in the novel (although he did touch on this), not about what time of day he writes best, what he eats, not allegory nor metaphor, but how he constructs a story. And he seemed to welcome what I imagine is a break from the usual questions for authors at bookstore after bookstore.
Although this first Narrative Mechanics event might have been a pilot of sorts with a limited audience, it was a memorable experience and Weich should consider it a success. I’m eager to see what’s next.
Below is Narrative Mechanics‘ first video, featuring the work of Holly Andres.