‘This American Life’ writer Vowell to appear Monday night

Centrum hosts Communiversity lecture series

Shelly Leavens. (Photo courtesy of Centrum)
 Sarah Vowell. (Photo courtesy of Owen Brooker)

Shelly Leavens. (Photo courtesy of Centrum) Sarah Vowell. (Photo courtesy of Owen Brooker)

PORT TOWNSEND —Shortly after arriving in her new home, 11-year-old Sarah Vowell watched her dad leap out of his chair and grab a BB gun.

He’d heard a noise, so he ran outside and found the source. Crows.

He took some shots at them before his wife called, “Pat, you might ought to check, but I don’t think they do that up here!”

This was circa 1981.

Vowell’s family had just moved from Braggs, Okla., to Bozeman, Mont., and this memory starts one of the essays in her book, “Take the Cannoli.”

“About the only thing my father and I agree on,” she writes, “is the Constitution, though I’m partial to the First Amendment, while he’s always favored the Second.”

The author, actor and contributor to public radio’s “This American Life” is the next speaker in Centrum’s Communiversity lecture series, presented online at 5:30 p.m. today. Tickets are $15 at Centrum.org; patrons will receive a Zoom link. For more information, phone the Centrum office at 360-385-3102.

“I love how she brings humor into her work in unexpected ways,” said Shelly Leavens, who will serve as moderator of Vowell’s discussion.

As executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, Leavens is eager to connect with Vowell, who’s written a fistful of unconventional history books.

They include “The Wordy Shipmates,” her New York Times best-seller about the Puritans in America; “Unfamiliar Fishes,” an exploration of Hawaii’s past and present; “The Partly Cloudy Patriot,” an essay collection, and her latest, “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States,” about the teenage Marquis de Lafayette, along with the ideas behind the American Revolution.

Vowell also has added her voice to “The Incredibles” (2004) and “Incredibles 2” (2018), in which she played Violet Parr, superheroine daughter of Bob and Helen Parr.

“As a writer, I’m most interested in her writing process, so I’ll ask some questions around that, but I’ve got all kinds of silly questions up my sleeve as well,” Leavens said.

“I’m excited to meet her and honored to have been asked by Centrum,” to facilitate the conversation.

Leavens herself is an artist, oral historian and long-distance hiker. Last year one of the projects she shepherded at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History was “Dear 2020.”

In it, she and the museum staff invited local residents to write postcards to that pandemic year, and to send them to the museum for a potential exhibit.

That exhibit is on display now. Some 160 postcards came in; visitors can view their messages at the museum, which is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays at 540 Water St.

“I’d love to know how [Vowell’s] COVID year has been, and maybe what she would write in her own Dear 2020 postcard,” Leavens said.

________

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

Sarah Vowell   photo  by Owen Brooker

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