Pair of writers to host release

Books to be celebrated at Finnriver Farm Cidery

Artist and poet Nhatt Nichols, at Aldrich’s upstairs space in Port Townsend, has released her book, “This Party of the Soft Things.” She and fellow author Ward Serrill will discuss their work at Finnriver Farm on Wednesday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Artist and poet Nhatt Nichols, at Aldrich’s upstairs space in Port Townsend, has released her book, “This Party of the Soft Things.” She and fellow author Ward Serrill will discuss their work at Finnriver Farm on Wednesday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

CHIMACUM — In her sand- and earth-colored book, Nhatt Nichols takes her reader for a walk in beauty.

It’s a farewell stroll, illustrated with Nichols’ drawings of the forest floor, the treetops and the waters in between. The book and the poem it contains have the same title: “This Party of the Soft Things,” an ode to the non-human creatures around us.

“The bull kelp tells me it/ never studied dance formally /it lets the sea eternally lead it,” Nichols writes near the close of the book.

“We move together/I tell it it’s beautiful/our limbs entangled.”

In a joint book release party, Nichols and fellow author Ward Serrill will discuss their works at Finnriver Farm & Cidery, 124 Center Road, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

While Nichols describes “This Party” as a picture book for adults, Serrill calls his memoir, “To Crack the World Open,” a saga of self-discovery.

The event is free, while guests may want to order food and drink in Finnriver’s Cider Garden restaurant. Proof of vaccination is required at the venue.

“To Crack the World Open” was published last November; “Soft Things” has just arrived in Nichols’ hands. Her friend Stefan Lorenzutti, an American-born artist who lives in Poland, is the publisher while Polish artist Damian Nowak is its designer.

Nichols became friends with Lorenzutti, a comic-book artist, via Instagram, and she became such an admirer that she chose to have Lorenzutti and his Bored Wolves press produce her book in Krakow.

It took longer to have “Soft Things” shipped from Europe than it might have taken from a North American printer, she said, but for this author, it was worth it.

The tactile pleasure of holding “Soft Things” is important, Nichols said, so there’s no e-book out there. Copies can be ordered via www.nhattnichols.com and from Imprint Books in Port Townsend, just as Serrill’s “World” is available from the bookstore and from www.wardserrill.com.

Nichols, 40, is a multifaceted artist whose work ranges from cartoons to poetry and beyond. She grew up in the Okanogan Highlands and moved to the North Olympic Peninsula six years ago; she now serves as chair of the Port Townsend Arts Commission.

Halfway through the writing of “Soft Things,” she moved from Port Townsend to property at Gibbs Lake in Chimacum, so the illustrations are inspired by trails in both places.

The poem grew out of free-writing Nichols did while reading “The World Without Us,” journalist Alan Weisman’s book about what would happen if humans disappeared from the planet, leaving other living things to evolve without us.

So it’s not a hopeful book about humanity’s resilience — and Nichols doesn’t feel very hopeful “on a lot of levels,” she said.

“For me, [the book] is a way of saying things are really beautiful and worth appreciating right now.”

On the second-to-last page, she writes: “I hope this fractures your heart open.”

Serrill seeks a similar opening in his book, whose subtitle is “Solitude, Alaska and a Dog Named Woody.” A documentary filmmaker and author, he writes about both joy and about grief, the thing that “broke through the armor around my heart.”

In an interview soon after publication, Serrill, 64, said composing this memoir meant going places that felt deeply uncomfortable.

At the same time, like Nichols’ book, Serrill’s story is about loving the natural world. It’s set in Ketchikan, Alaska, where the author and his yellow Labrador retriever hiked, cross-country skied and kayaked together.

One night, man and dog go paddling in a phosphorescent bay.

“Green, glittering fireworks exploded in the dark water,” as Serrill tosses a rock in.

When they turn back toward home, “as if the miracles would never cease, the northern lights appeared in the sky, neon green and shimmering.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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