SEASIDE — After reading a book, sometimes you’d just love to talk to the author.

Perhaps you want to explain what meaning the book had for you, how it changed your life. Or, maybe you have questions that only the author could answer.

Possibly, like a Seaside High School senior honors English class intends to do, you just wish you could give that author an award to show your appreciation.

The 34 students in Adrian Anderson’s class plan to present the first Oregon Coast Literary Award to three authors during a presentation at 7 p.m. May 31 in the Coaster Theatre at Cannon Beach. The event is free.

Steve Duin, a columnist for The Oregonian, will also speak on ways high school students can influence literature.

Over the past several months, the students read and reviewed books and discussed the stories. From 36 books, they narrowed their choices to 10. Then, after debating those choices – as well as the authors’ ties to Oregon – they continued to pare down the books until they ended up with the final three.

The first authors selected to receive the literary award are: Craig Lesley, for “Sky Fisherman”; David Duncan, for “The River Why”; and Chuck Palahniuk, for “Fight Club.”

But the literary award project was more than an exercise in reading books and selecting authors, Anderson said.

“One of the things we talk about in education is that we want to come up with innovative ways to provide real world education. We want to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in a cumulative project,” he said.

To plan the event, the students broke into committees. Some focused on the budget: How would they pay for the award (possibly an original piece of student artwork that may come with a stipend), for flyers to announce the events, overnight lodging for the authors, refreshments and other incidentals?

Others thought about marketing and information technology, and some became managers.

But before they were appointed to their committees, they had to submit resumes to a four-member advisory committee, composed of a local publisher, bookstore owners and the high school’s principal, Sheila Roley.

“That was another real world scenario,” said James Stewart, 18, one of the project’s three managers.

To promote the event, Seth Hague, 18, and his team planned to contact businesses with reader boards where their message could be posted. They created flyers “with the basic who, what, when, where and why,” he said.

“We want to market the event so we can make it successful for future years,” Hague said.

Because this is the first year for the award and the presentation ceremony, several months were spent reading the books and developing the criteria, which was difficult to do, said Annice McEwan, 18, a manager.

“It has been like going through an unexplored wilderness, but it has been exciting,” said Charles Hawes, 18, another manager.

“We decided the award should go to authors who contributed to Oregon’s culture through their personal life or through their book,” Stewart said.

“We created a rubric to judge the books by impact, influence and emotions,” Stewart added.

The students struggled to quantify those criteria and determine how the books had affected their everyday lives, he said.

“Impact,” for example, was defined as how well the book motivated students to reconsider their perspectives.

They also asked what the book’s impact would be “on ourselves and the rest of society,” Hawes said.

Palahniuk’s “Fight Club,” a violent, psychological novel, was “eye-opening and provocative,” McEwan said.

Palahniuk was born in Washington, attended the University of Oregon and worked in Portland. Together, the book and the author had an influence on the Northwest, the students agreed.

Oregon native David Duncan wrote “The River Why,” which focuses on a journey of self-discovery. The book is set in the Oregon Coast Range and includes several references to Oregon’s rivers and streams.

Craig Lesley’s book, “The Sky Fisherman,” is a coming-of-age novel that explores Native American spiritual beliefs and the forces of nature and takes place in Eastern Oregon. Lesley, who lives in Portland, has won an Oregon Book Award and several other awards. He is a senior writer-in-residence at Portland State University.

Spending time to carefully review each book and discuss it thoroughly was a “life-changing and mind-changing experience,” Hawes said.

“You get a perspective on life for 18 years, and then you have to consider other perspectives,” he added.

The idea that they could talk to the authors excited the students, Stewart said.

“We spend hours ‘hearing’ their voices through their works, then we get to meet them and ask questions,” he added.

But because they took so long to read the books, develop their criteria and select their award-winning authors, the students admitted they were late in planning the event.

By the time they sent out their invitations to the writers, the event was only a month away.

As a result, only Lesley was available on that date, but he has confirmed his appearance, Hague said.

“The timeline was the biggest obstacle,” Stewart said. “But being high school students, we’re pretty good at working at the last minute.”

The Oregon Coast Literary Award is meant to show appreciation for the authors’ works, McEwan said.

“We didn’t want to be established as critics,” she said. “We are high school seniors who want to thank them. We enjoyed their books as readers.”

At the same time, Hawes said, the students want to “avoid amateurism.”

“We want it to have a high school aspect, but we want (the authors) to know we are serious young adults. We want the award to be taken seriously,” he said.

Eventually, McEwan, added, the students hope the award will gain prestige.

“We want it to be something that authors want to get and put on their shelves,” she said.

  

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