Introduction for Lilla Lit
May 19, 2019
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Okay, bear with me, because I’m going to put myself in the same boat as Justin Hocking, just for a second. We actually have a lot in common: Justin and I both moved to California when we were eleven, both got our MFAs in Colorado, we both went nearly crazy living in a big city east of the Mississippi and only survived by finding the water – Justin dealt with New York City by becoming obsessed with surfing; I dealt with Chicago by compulsively running the lakefront. And we both, by some miracle, eventually ended up in this wonderful literary town of Portland. So, see? Super similar paths, which gives me hope, because since he’s been here…
…Justin has done some pretty amazing things. He wrote a memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, for which he won the 2015 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. For eight years, he was executive director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center, and then, of course, he won the Willamette Writers Humanitarian Award, which honors a person in the writing or publishing fields who has demonstrated exceptional philanthropy in their work. He co-founded two writing programs, the IPRC’s Certificate Program in Creative Writing, and also the Wilderness Writing Concentration, low-residency MFA program, which blends two things he loves most – literature and time in the wilderness.
Justin is the sort of writer who seems to create community as easily as he breathes. I don’t make this observation only because of the significant leadership and teaching contributions he’s made here in Portland. I say this because what most strikes me when I read Justin’s work is his ability to connect so profoundly with others – writers and artists, surfers and skaters, fellow travelers, both living and dead – in a way that’s somehow, always, essentially about shared stories. Always finding the places where his story fits into another’s, where those stories connect, where they touch and expand and carry us all forward in our journey. “I’m interested” Justin says, “in philosophical questions about how we think and what we can know, but they rarely feel as exigent to me as the questions how are we transformed by darkness and loss and how do we heal?”
Please welcome Justin Hocking.