Last year’s Magic Barrel photos

Here is a gallery of photos from the 2013 Magic Barrel. Great thanks to Barbara Grant for taking the photos, and apologies from Robert Crum, who lent her a camera and lens that were much too slow for the low light. Nevertheless, these are worth viewing and preserving. You can click on them to enlarge.

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Magic Barrel chart of money taken in for Linn Benton Food Share

Here a chart of the funds raised for Linn Benton Food Share, over the years, through the Magic Barrel.

Thanks to all for your help!

magic barrel historical graph

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Archived reader bios for 2011

These are the reader bios from our 2011 event…..

Tom Birdseye, fiction

Tom Birdseye grew up in North Carolina and Kentucky, an ardent fan of anything that smacked of sports, crawdads, mud balls, forts built in the woods, secret codes, bicycles without fenders, butter pecan ice cream, and snow. He was, however, decidedly uninterested in writing — or any academic aspect of school, for that matter — never imagining that one day he would morph into the award-winning author of eight novels, eight picture books, and three non-fiction books for kids. Life, it seems, is full of who’d-a-thought-its.



Tim Black, poetry

Timothy Black’s first book, Connecticut Shade, a fusion of poetry, prose and play, was published in 2008 and is currently in its second printing from WSC Press. His poetry has appeared in the journals The Platte Valley Review, The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry, The Great American Roadshow and Words Like Rain. In 2009, Black won the Helen W. Kenefick prize from the Academy of American Poets for his poem, “Heavy Freight.” In 2009 he was awarded a grant to edit and publish Where We’ve Been and What We’ve Seen, an anthology of student essays dealing with the experiences of war veterans in northeast Nebraska. He is currently working with Nebraska State Poet, William Kloefkorn, on a book of interviews and portable poetry workshop. A Cave Canem Fellow, Black currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon with his wife, author Cynthia Black, and two sons, Jake and Titus.

Alison Clement, fiction

Alison Clement’s first novel, Pretty is as Pretty Does (MacAdam/Cage, 2001) was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Book Sense choice. Her second, Twenty Question (Washington Square Press, 2007) won the Oregon Book Award. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Sun, The Alaska Review and High Country News. One of her short stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was anthologized in The Mysterious Life of the Heart (Sun Publishing, 2009). Alison lives in Corvallis, Oregon where she is currently experimenting with electronic publishing. (

Debra Gwartney, nonfiction

Debra Gwartney is the author of Live Through This, a memoir published in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and a finalist for the National Books Critics Award and the National Books for a Better Life Award. The book was also shortlisted for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Oregon Book Award, and named one of the top ten books of the year by the Oregonian. Debra is also the co-editor, along with her husband Barry Lopez, of Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, published in 2006. She is the recipient of many fellowships, including those from Hedgebrook, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Writers’ Center (of Bethesda, MD), the American Antiquarian Society, and the Oregon Arts Commission. She is working on a new nonfiction book, a chapter of which appeared in the summer 2011 issue of American Scholar. Twice the recipient of the annual teaching award at Portland State University, she is currently on the nonfiction faculty for the MFA program in writing at Pacific University, and lives in Western Oregon.

Karen Holmberg, poetry

Karen Holmberg’s first book, The Perseids, won the Vassar Miller Prize and was published by the University of North Texas Press; her second book, Axis Mundi, won the John Ciardi Prize and will be published by BkMk Press in 2012. A Discovery/The Nation Award winner, her poems and nonfiction have appeared widely in such magazines as The Paris Review, Quarterly West, Slate, The Nation, West Branch, Cimarron Review, Southern Poetry Review, Cave Wall, Nimrod, Subtropics, and Black Warrior Review. She teaches in the MFA program at Oregon State University.



Jon Lewis, nonfiction

Jon Lewis is a professor in the English Department at Oregon State University where he has taught film and cultural studies since 1983. He has published eight books: The Road to Romance and Ruin: Teen Films and Youth Culture, which won a Choice Magazine Academic Book of the Year Award; Whom God Wishes to Destroy … Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood; The New American Cinema; Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry, a New York Times New and Noteworthy paperback; The End of Cinema as We Know It: American Film in the Nineties, American Film: A History, Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and for the British Film Institute’s Film Classics series, The Godfather. Professor Lewis has appeared in two theatrically released documentaries on film censorship: Inside Deep Throat (Fenton Bailey, 2005) and This Film is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006). Between 2002 and 2007, Professor Lewis was editor of Cinema Journal and had a seat on the Executive Council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Keith Scribner, fiction

Keith Scribner’s third novel The Oregon Experiment is set in a thinly veiled Corvallis and was released by Alfred A. Knopf (Random House) this year. His two previous novels, published by Riverhead Books (Penguin), are The GoodLife and Miracle Girl. The GoodLife appears in translation, was selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers series, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Daily Beast, TriQuarterly, American Short Fiction, Quarterly West, The North Atlantic Review, the San Jose Mercury News, the Baltimore Sun, and the anthologies Flash Fiction Forward (W.W. Norton) and Sudden Stories: The MAMMOTH Book of Miniscule Fiction. He teaches in OSU’s Creative Writing Program and is married to the poet Jennifer Richter.

Ann Staley, poetry

Ann Staley knew she wanted to be a teacher by 2nd grade and a writer by 4th grade, when her mother gave her stationary with her name printed across the top in red lettering. She grew up in the Keystone State and migrated west in her white 1961 VW bug, “Moon Shadow.” When the Golden Gate Bridge led her to Pacific Highway 101 she turned right and came north to Oregon. In this way she found herself 19 miles up the Green Springs Highway, living in a small cabin with a wood stove. She wrote terrible poetry that year, including an autobiography she sent as her letter of introduction while looking for her first teaching position in southern Oregon. Forty years later, a retired teacher who has taught everyone from grandmothers, fifth-graders, and prisoners, right on through graduate school, Ann likes nothing better than settling into a circle of strangers-becoming-friends, opening her notebook and saying, “Let’s do some freewriting for a few minutes before our introductions.” Ann has degrees from Pennsylvania State University, Southern Oregon University, and Stanford University. She has taught in five Oregon school districts, in two community colleges, and in two public universities and two private ones. She is one of the organizing publishers of FIREWEED: Poetry of Western Oregon. On her tombstone she wants the following engraved: “Loved this world, pen in hand.” Ann’s first book of poems, Primary Sources, has recently been released by PoetryTrope, Seattle. She has also been appointed Poetry Editor for the press.

Music by Sideways Portal

Sideways Portal formed serendipitously in the Fall of 2007 after a series of chance encounters: a summer potluck, a broken down van, and conversations that ended with “okay, let’s get together!” What began as a series of jam sessions at Dave Storr’s (Drums/Percussion) Califas studio with Rob Birdwell (Trumpet/Flugelhorn), John Bliss (Guitar) and Page Hundemer (Bass), evolved into recording sessions and eventual live performances that showcased the group’s sound and approach to making music. Although no single style defines the Sideways Portal sound, improvisation, groove, intention, and forgiveness provide the foundation for each of the Portal’s spontaneous compositions. Active in the Corvallis, Oregon area (and beyond), Sideways Portal performs and records regularly, sharing their craft, creative process, and unique sound for all who choose to enter the Portal.

Emcee: Mike McInally, editor of Corvallis Gazette-Times

Mike McInally is the editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and director of content for the Mid-Valley Newspapers. Before he arrived in Corvallis in December 2005, he worked at the Missoulian newspaper in Missoula, Montana, for 25 years – the last seven of those as editor. He is a native of Montana and a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism, where he crammed four years of study into a seven-year period. During his time in Corvallis, he has been involved in a variety of community activities, including Leadership Corvallis, the da Vinci Days Film Festival, the Economic Vitality Project, the Parent Enhancement Program, the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, and the First Congregational United Church of Christ, where he teaches Sunday school to middle-school students. His distinguished stage career in Corvallis includes a stint as a zombie in the Majestic Education production of “Night of the Living Dead.” This is the extent of his distinguished stage career in Corvallis. His wife, Diane, is a certified public accountant. They have two daughters: Shannon is at the University of Oregon, studying theater. Samantha is a freshman studying microbiology at Washington State University. They share a house with the four worst cats in the world.


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Feeding souls and hungry bellies: The Magic Barrel rolls again

The 18th annual Magic Barrel: A Reading to Fight Hunger is set for Friday, Oct. 21 at Corvallis High School Theatre.

The Magic Barrel is a feast for mind and body. Nine fine local writers will read delectable samples of their work, and there’ll be sweet and savory tidbits from Corvallis’s best chefs and bakers. Suggested donation is $7, but no one will be turned away.

As always, all the money raised at The Magic Barrel goes to Linn Benton Food Share to help alleviate hunger in our community.

The Magic Barrel: A Reading to Fight Hunger has become the mid-Valley’s premier literary event, says Corvallis novelist Rick Borsten. “The format is eight or nine brief readings, moving bang bang bang from one genre to the next,” he said. “I like to call it ‘inter-genre-ational.’ There’s nothing else like it out there. It makes for a lively evening.”

This year’s readers are:

* Keith Scribner, OSU professor and author of the novels Miracle Girl, The Good Life and the just-released The Oregon Experiment

* Alison Clement, author of the novels Pretty Is as Pretty Does and Twenty Questions

* Tom Birdseye, author of a dozen novels for young readers including the recently published Storm Mountain

* Jon Lewis, OSU professor and author of eight nonfiction books about cinema including one about “The Godfather” and another about Francis Ford Coppola

* Debra Gwartney, author of Live Through This, a memoir about her daughters living on the streets as runaways; the book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

* Tim Black, author of the poetry collection Connecticut Shade and Cave Canem Fellow.

* Karen Holmberg, OSU professor, author of the poetry collection The Perseids and recent winner of the John Ciardi Prize

* Ann Staley, author of the poetry collection Primary Sources and an organizing publisher of FIREWEED: Poetry of Western Oregon

The jazz group Sideways Portal will play before and during the show. Emcee will be Mike McInally, editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

The name “Magic Barrel” has deliberate literary overtones. It’s the title of an early short story by the acclaimed writer Bernard Malamud, who taught freshman composition at Oregon State College (as it was then called) in the early 1950s. He went on to write eight novels and 65 short stories, and won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his 1967 novel The Fixer.

The Magic Barrel is a rare opportunity to feed your soul and help feed hungry bellies at the same time,” said Corvallis poet Charles Goodrich. “And because of the dismal economy, there are a lot of hungry people in our community.” Goodrich read from his work at last year’s event, which raised more than $2,000 for Linn Benton Food Share.

“Most people are shocked to learn that Oregon is the third hungriest state in the nation,” said Linn Benton Food Share community services coordinator Mike Gibson. In 2009 the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that more than half a million Oregonians were “food insecure,” meaning they lived in households without enough money or other resources for food.

The Magic Barrel begins at 6:30 p.m. with music. Readings start at 7. Said Borsten: “Our goal is to fill the house and fill the barrel for the hungry in our community.

Please see for information about this year’s or past events. You may also follow us on Facebook. To learn more about efforts to alleviate hunger in Oregon, please see the Linn Benton Food Share website,

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Magic Barrel 2011

We meet today to plan our 18th annual Magic Barrel, and this time, with a grant to support our publicity. Look forward to another great lineup of superb writers and a tone poem from Sideways Portal!

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Magic Barrel awarded a grant!

The Magic Barrel is very grateful to the Benton County Cultural Coalition for a grant of $745 for the 2011 event. The Barrel will use the funds to expand publicity to draw audiences of all ages to enjoy the literary offerings, and towards the rental of the venue, in  order to maximize the funds dedicated to the Linn Benton Community Food Share.

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…to Bob for setting up this website, and to all the readers and others who made the evening so successful.

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2010 Magic Barrel stats!

All right, Barrellers and Barrellerinas, here are some totals (excluding book sales) from the 2010 Magic Barrel, held on October 22 at Corvallis High School theater:

Donations at the door  – $1,794

Donations at the treat tables – $229

Total take (excluding books sales, which appeared to be brisk):  $2,023

All of which goes directly to the Linn Benton Food Share.

For every dollar raised at The Magic Barrel, Linn-Benton Food Share purchases and distribute up to 12 pounds of food for the hungry in our area.

So thanks to everyone’s help, the Magic Barrel’s financial contribution resulted in 24,276 pounds of food — or more than 12 tons of food!

Grazie a tutti!

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Hunger in Oregon

Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to complement and aid the work of the Oregon Hunger Task Force in strengthening Oregon’s families and communities. Here’s an excerpt from their web site, detailing the situation in Oregon.

Hunger is expensive for all of us

A 2007 report (PDF, 1.42 MB) estimated that hunger in Oregon costs $1.2 billion each year. We pay through lowered academic and economic productivity, more hunger-related illnesses, and greater reliance on human services and emergency food programs.

Hunger is a public health concern with long-term consequences

There is evidence that food insecurity contributes to obesity and its subsequent health problems, particularly among women. Fetal malnutrition (PDF, 292 KB) can result in poorer overall school achievement and compromised health throughout a child’s life. Undernourished seniors can show symptoms of dementia and are more prone to falling injuries.

Rural communities hit hard

Hunger is a particular concern for rural communities that have limited access to fresh and affordable foods due to geographic isolation and higher transportation costs.

Some experience hunger at higher rates

African-Americans, Latinos, and female-headed single parent families experience food insecurity at higher rates than the national average.

Ending hunger requires addressing root causes

Emergency food programs have short-term impact. The most common response to hunger is to feed people immediately. Although extremely important, this does not address the underlying causes of hunger. Additionally, the number of Oregonians who need help continues to grow placing an unreasonable burden on Oregon’s food assistance network.

Oregon’s Call to Action 2010-2015

Ending Hunger Before it Begins: Oregon’s Call to Action is designed to guide Oregon’s collective efforts over the next five years to make sure all Oregonians can put healthy food on their tables every day. Your actions will have a measurable impact.

There is a role for eveyone to play

  1. Learn about the programs we support.
  2. Sign up for eNews.
  3. Learn about the many ways you can take action to end hunger.
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Magic Barrel: What’s that name all about?

From Jana Zvibleman’s 2006 introduction to the Magic Barrel

Leo Finkle and Pinya Salzman were two European Jewish immigrants in New York City. They were the protagonists in a short story titled The Magic Barrel. So, our evening here tonight should be named after some buba monsa about a rabbinical student and a marriage broker?

It might be because of the author of that Magic Barrel story. Bernard Malamud is one of the famous people Corvallis can claim. “Bernard slept here,” you know. He wrote fiction that has a notable place in American literature, and he wrote some of it just a few blocks from this theatre. Malamud said in the introduction to a collection of his stories that “The Magic Barrel” was created “in a carrel in the basement of the library at Oregon State, where I was allowed to teach freshman composition – but not literature, because I was nakedly without a Ph.D.”

When I first heard of this Magic Barrel literary reading, I hadn’t yet read the naked instructor’s story. I knew this event raises money for the Linn Benton Food Bank, and I figured  the title referred to some folk legend – something about abundance, like  bottomless pots, hens that lay golden eggs, loaves and fishes, and soup from stones. It fit, right after harvest time in this fertile valley – sharing food and getting ready to collect candy and give thanks for zucchini and turkey for all.
But I sought out the Malamud story.  I had to really hunt in it for the reference to a barrel. The story goes that the marriage broker carried around cards on which he wrote pertinent details about potential wives. At one point Salzman said “You wouldn’t believe me how much cards I got in my office. The drawers are already filled to the top, so I keep them now in a barrel.”

But Leo the rabbinical student – he was needy yet very particular – he rejected one-by-one the contents of the barrel. The would-be wives that the broker brought out were too defective, or too used, or too this or that – in the bachelor’s opinion.

Ah, but with magical realism, Leo himself reached in Salzman’s “barrel,” and what he found surprised everybody.

I assume that Malamud was referencing some old, old Yiddish folk tale.

So I’m back to “is the magic barrel the right name for this gathering?” Maybe there are a lot of eligible wives -  or husbands – in the audience? You can meet around the barrel by the food later. We do know that our hometown is a cornucopia of other types. Like – is there a massage therapist in the house? And this year Corvallis made headlines for having more scientists per capita than any other American city.

And of course, we also have artists, including literary artists. Mr. Malamud slept and wrote here for just a few years, and just once upon a time.

It’s today’s writers  – the living-and-registered-to-vote kind – that the Barrel committee fishes around for, with the hard task of pulling up to this stage just a few. There are, we know, good writers still in the barrel, many right in this audience.

Some of the magic tonight is us all gathering together around the fire – and gathering food to share -  and it’s magic that we’re about to enjoy wonderful, diverse versions of our shared story.

Let’s reach in.   May your barrels always be full.

As Salsman would say, “Go. Enjoy.”

Quotes by Bernard Malamud about Corvallis, Oregon

from the introduction to The Stories of Bernard Malamud, 1983

“New York had lost much of its charm during World War II, and [in 1949] my wife and I and our infant son took off for the Pacific Northwest when I was offered a job in Corvallis, Oregon. Once there, it was a while before I had my bearings . . .  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Oregon, its vast skies, forests, coastal beaches, and the new life it offered, which I lived as best I could as I reflected on the old. . . .  “

“I didn’t much worry about what I was asked to teach at the college so long as I had plenty of time to work. My wife, wheeling a stroller, handed me sandwiches at lunchtime through the window of the Quonset hut I wrote and taught in . . .”

“It was a while before I was at ease in the new culture  . . . At first I felt displaced – one foot in a bucket – though unafraid of  – certainly enjoying – new experience. Yet too much was tiresome. Oregon State, a former land-grant college, had barely covered its cow tracks; Liberal Arts was called the “Lower Division,” to no one’s embarrassment . . . “

“About three years later and a few stories in print, to my surprise, . . . [a publisher] wanted “The Magic Barrel,” a story . . .. I had written it in a carrel in the basement of the library at Oregon State, where I was allowed to teach freshman composition but not literature because I was nakedly without a Ph.D. Later, they permitted me to offer a night workshop in the short story to townspeople who, for one reason or another, wanted to take a writing class; I earned about a hundred dollars a term and got more pleasure than I expected.”

“Before we expected it we were on our way abroad . . Partisan Review had recommended me for a Rockefeller Grant; and the college, somewhat reluctantly, kicked in with my first sabbatical leave.”

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