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Author Grabel brings 'uncomfortable details' to Hillsboro event

Poet, memoirist and performance artist Leanne Grabel will be at Hillsboro Public Library’s “Conversations With Writers” series at 7 p.m. Aug. 25.

The series gives audience members the opportunity to hear writers talk about their craft and read from their works as well as to engage in conversation with writers.

Grabel is no stranger to live audiences: She’s also a teacher of incarcerated teens and teens in treatment through Portland Public Schools, and is co-founder of Café Lena, Portland’s longest running open mic poetry venue.

Her Hillsboro appearance will be a multi-media retrospective of her work and will include music, illustration, video and dance, in addition to her writings of poetry and prose.

Grabel said in a recent interview that the best writing grows from explorations of life events. Uncomfortable details, she said, often make the most riveting literature.

Her work, “Brontosaurus: Memoir of a Sex Life” shares her story of survival following being kidnapped and raped on a Mexican camping trip when she was 19, and her subsequent years of troubling relationships with men and herself.

Readers often express their awe in light of Grabel’s courage in sharing her story, she said.

The writer also draws on her life as a teacher and has published “badgirls,” a fictional portrayal of her years teaching. She is also working on a performance piece based on her book, “24 Bad Girls.”

Other performance works are “One Woman Shoe,” “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression” and “Anger: The Musical.”

Her poetry books include “Lonesome and Very Quarrelsome Heroes,” “Flirtations,” “Short Poems by a Short Person,” “Ann Sexton was a Sexpot” and “The Last Weekend of Sylvia Plath.”

She is currently at work on a new collection of prose poems, “City Cake,” and an illustrated children’s book, “The Little Poet,” which, she explained, is the story of a 10-year-old girl with poetic sensibilities.

Growing up in California, Grabel was a shy child and teen, she said.

But at 21, she decided to “get out of my shell” and tried sharing her poetry at an open mic event in Portland. A friend nearly had to drag her to the stage, but once there, Grabel said, she found performing was “such a blast” and a release.

“It’s been a wild ride, and I love it,” she said. “I love the idea of sharing the truth about oneself.”

Via cellphone, she graciously answered interview questions while on a walk, buying time to answer with the repeated comment, “That’s a good question.”

As she gets ready to head back to the classroom this fall, Grabel is also squeezing in time to put the finishing touches on her latest book of poetry — her first in 10 years — and fine-tuning her upcoming Hillsboro presentation.

The program is at 7 p.m. at the Hillsboro Main Library, 2850 N.E. Brookwood Parkway.

For more information, call the library, 503-615-6500, or go to hillsboro-oregon.gov.



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