SEASIDE — A librarian, a ghost librarian and a dog.
These were the main characters in the short story “The Ghost in the Stacks,” by local author and library foundation board member Melissa Eskue Ousley. As she read her excerpt about a haunted library on Saturday, the audience sat in anticipation with bidding paddles in hand, waiting to bid on a chance to become a part of the story.
One of those bidders was Madeline Ishikawa of Portland, who for $50 now had to decide what she was going to name the character.
“I think it’s a fun process to be a part of a story I otherwise wouldn’t be apart of,” Ishikawa said.
This process continued with eight other local authors as part of Write on Seaside! — all with their own stories shared and adjusted at the will of a room full of library donors.
The event, held as a banquet in the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, was a meld between two causes: Write on Seaside!, which started last year as a writing conference and fundraiser for the Seaside Public Library Foundation; and the Little Free Library silent auction fundraiser to support Reading Outreach in Clatsop County, a program that subsidizes about 700 library cards for children who live in rural neighborhoods to encourage childhood literacy.
By the end of the night, both causes reached their $10,000 goal.
“Ultimately, the goal is to get books into hands of kids in the community any way we can,” Seaside Library Director Esther Moberg said.
The two organizations decided to combine efforts into one large event and make the writing conference portion more interactive by allowing donors to become part of the stories.
Authors were asked to submit short stories about libraries and books, which will all be published into one anthology and include all of the revised character names. Ousley was inspired to blend her love for the paranormal into her library-themed short story.
“I wanted to include libraries as a theme, but I always love a good ghost story, and what better place for a ghost than at the library?” she said.
Some deviated from the prompt. One was about a brain, and another about a magic diary. One story centered around elk crossing on U.S. Highway 101 as a tribute to the Gearhart and Warrenton elk herds.
But the point was less about the “eccentric” plots of the short stories and more about the creative process, Moberg said.
“Before (the foundation) created (Write on Seaside!), we didn’t really have a writing event like this in Seaside,” Moberg said. “One of our goals is for people to get a sense of how the writing process works.”
Ousley said it was an interesting experience writing a story with audience participation in mind.
“I wrote this story knowing it was going to belong to everyone. Sometimes when you write a novel you are writing it for yourself, but with this I wrote it with the audience in mind. It was fun putting in some of those details, wondering what names they will come up with,” she said.
Holly Lorincz was one of the presenters to stray from the prompt, with a short story centered around a 10-minute phone call between in-laws before a wedding day. While libraries weren’t a source of inspiration for this story, they inspired much of her love for writing in general, she said.
Growing up in Clatskanie, Lorincz remembers spending hours in the Seaside Public Library, reading and rereading one of her favorite books, “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett.
“It was a small life, but I read all the time. I was always putting myself in other worlds,” Lorincz said.
Lorincz has since spun that love of reading into a full-blown career, which began as a writing teacher in the Neah-Kah-Nie School District. There she wrote her first book “Smart Mouth,” which eventually helped her launch into a career as a literary consultant and collaborative writer for biographies and memoirs. She is listed in the top 25 Kindle Biography/Memoir writers for work on “Crown Heights,” the story of a man named Colin Warner who was wrongfully convicted of murder in New York City, which was made into an Amazon movie last year.
“By the time I left (Clatskanie) to go to university, I still couldn’t imagine myself in this big world of publishers and clients in Manhattan,” she said. “But now that I’m in that world, I’ve realized they are all people who just want to talk about books.”
So it’s only fitting that Lorincz, who now lives in Manzanita, would come back as one of the presenting authors to support the library that once enabled her love of reading.
“I want to help the library whenever I can,” she said. “It feels like I get to give back a little bit.”