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Morris and Nicholls to talk about books

by Marianne Love (Keith Lee Morris) and Billie Jean Plaster (Dennis Nicholls)


Morris to Read from New Book
Clemson University professor Keith Lee Morris has chosen Sandpoint’s Barlow Stadium as the principal setting for the title selection of his new book, The Best Seats in the House (University of Nevada Press—200 pages--$23). He’ll read segments from the recently-released collection of ten short stories at Vanderford’s Books and Office Products, located on Cedar Street in downtown Sandpoint, on Tuesday, September 14 at 7 pm.

“The stories are about the love/hate relationship that people tend to have with small towns and about how those towns serve as the testing ground in which characters learn about their own personal strengths and weaknesses,” Morris explains. “Life in small towns is half full or half empty, depending on how you perceive it.

“They tend to revolve around two ideas. One is the idea of what it means to grow up in a small town—the simultaneous push and pull that the small-town environment exerts on the people who live there,” he adds. “The characters in the stories imagine themselves ‘getting out’ and yet constantly feel themselves being drawn back in.”

Several selections in Morris’ new book have appeared in literary journals, including the Georgia Review, Puerto del Sol, the New England Review and the Chattahoochee Review. One story, “The Children of Dead State Troopers,” received honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology, which recognizes the best stories published in the nation’s literary magazines. Another, “Objects Past the Shoreline,” earned him a $7,500 biennial grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship. The award is South Carolina’s highest individual literary honor.

Though fictional in nature, many familiar Sandpoint names and places pop up among the plots—the Lakeside Motel, the Long Bridge, Lakeshore Drive, the City Beach, the Pend Oreille River. In his title selection, Morris, the son of former Sandpoint Middle School coach, Fred Morris, examines the relationship between three generations of men within a family. The grandfather coached football, the son (story narrator) pursued the arts, and the grandson stars as the high school football standout.

All stories feature male narrators. Topics include a 20-something college graduate losing his eyesight and storing up his visual impressions, a man being harassed by a phone solicitor seeking donations to the State Troopers Assoc., and two Idaho best friends who move to New Orleans and start up a successful Country/Western duo. A story called “Astronauts” is dedicated to Morris’ SHS Class of 1981. It examines a high school basketball star whose wife’s civilizing influence causes him to regret the “rotten things he’d done to the less popular kids back in high school.”

After growing up in Sandpoint, Morris earned degrees from the University of Idaho and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He’s taught fiction and journalism classes at Clemson University since 1996 and now serves as director of undergraduate studies. His first book, a novel called The Greyhound God, was published in 2003.

He’ll sign copies of both books after the reading.

Nicholls at the Cutter Theatre
Author Dennis Nicholls will be featured at the historic Cutter Theatre, 302 Park Ave. in Metaline Falls, Wash., on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 pm to present a slide show, reading and tell stories about his adventures and vast experiences hiking in the Selkirk Mountains. Nicholls is the author of Trails of the Wild Selkirks, published in May 2004, and Trails of the Wild Cabinets, released in 2003 and currently in its second printing. Both were published by Keokee Books of Sandpoint, Ida.

During seven months in 2003, Nicholls hiked nearly 1,300 miles of trails in the Selkirks to research his newest guidebook, which one reviewer called “The most thorough hiking guide available for our region, bar none.” Contained in the slide show are about 100 images taken in the Selkirk Mountains by both Nicholls and his friend and fellow hiker Jim Mellen.

Nicholls’ slide show programs have been well-received in many venues this summer, including Celebasin, the annual meeting for the Selkirk Conservation Alliance (SCA) in Priest Lake on Aug. 21. SCA Board Member Joanne Hirabayashi wrote of his appearance: “He connects so directly with his audience and is so spontaneous and fluent that he has us immediately out there with him.”

Both guidebooks will be available for purchase after the program, and Nicholls will sign books. Trails of the Wild Selkirks is $16.50, and Trails of the Wild Cabinets sells for $14. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Cutter Theatre.

The same day, Nicholls will lead a hike on Sherlock Peak Trail No. 139, a “Family Fun Hike” that climbs to the top of Sherlock Peak, elevation 6,365 feet. The trail follows an old mining road for 2.3 miles to a single-track trail that climbs steadily upslope through lodgepole pine. The hike is four miles to the peak, is rated moderate, and takes 3.5 to 5.5 hours to complete the roundtrip. Nicholls, who has been a Forest Service consultant, is a botanist and will point out native plants and trees along the way.

The best features of the Sherlock Peak Trail are the mountaintop vistas. “The 360-degree view is magnificent,” wrote Nicholls in Trails of the Selkirks.

Those interested in hiking with Nicholls will meet at 9 am in Ione, Wash., at the Ione City Park on Main Street on the river to arrange carpooling groups to reach the trailhead via Aladdin Road. Both the hike and the program at the Cutter Theatre are free and open to the public.

For more information on the program at the Cutter Theatre, call 509-446-4108; for more information on the program or the hike, call Keokee Books at 208 263-3573. Dennis Nicholls may be off hiking but is available by appointment.

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Tagged as:

Keokee books, Marianne Love, books, Billie Jean Plaster, Keith Lee Morris, Barlow Stadium, The Best Seats in the House, Dennis Nicholls, Trails of the Wild Selkirks, Trails of the Wild Cabinets

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