In 2017, the California Arts Council selected Truckee as California’s 14th Cultural District. This honor was especially meaningful for an old railroad town that, only 50 years before, was struggling to find its identity in the shadow of the glamorous Lake Tahoe. The transformation of Truckee began in the 1970s when artists, visionaries, and young entrepreneurs dreamed up a cool new vibe for downtown’s Commercial Row.
Artists and adventurers
Tom and Joanne Meschery opened Truckee’s first bookstore, Truckee River Book and Tea, on Commercial Row in 1976. Recent grads of University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, they were part of a new migration of artists and adventurers drawn to Truckee by the beauty of the mountains and a desire to live life on their own terms. Dreams were shared in the back of the bookstore while sipping one of 50 varieties of tea. A new hip downtown began to emerge and the bookstore was its go-to hub. Shops like Extravagaria, Earthsongs, and Joanne’s Stained Glass sprang up. Buildings were renovated, preserving historic stone, brick, and the soul of old-time Truckee.
Literary seeds sprout
The first dedicated Truckee Library opened in 1976, following 10 years of advocacy by Truckee Elementary PTA moms. It hosted foreign films, author readings, and story times. Book clubs emerged, as did Jibboom Street Writers, a lively collective of poets and fiction writers. The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley hosted an annual writing conference, now celebrating its 50-year anniversary. Despite the growing writing and reading culture, within two decades rocketing real estate values made it impossible to keep a bookstore downtown, and the library, faced with a population boom, expanded twice, finally running out of land.
Truckee loves books
Truckee is a smart, book-loving community and has voted to overwhelmingly pass three library sales tax measures in the last 20 years. Free access to online books has expanded offsite use while interior fixes to eke out more space are underway. But the real solution is a new, modern library as the heart of our community with the space, collections, and programming to engage all. Friends of the Library is leading the way to making that happen. Once again there is a thriving independent bookstore downtown, Word After Word, soon moving into larger downtown quarters to meet demand for popular literary offerings.
Tips for Local Writers
Since reading and writing go hand in hand, I recently interviewed four local authors/writing teachers to gather tips for aspiring local writers as well as get their recommendations for books on writing.
Top tips boil down to three actions: Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Find a writing community!
Books to inspire writing
Check out these books at the library or Word After Word for inspiration and exercises to wake up your writing chops:
Fruitflesh, Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write, Gayle Brandeis, Harper One, 2004: “So luscious, important, dramatic, raw and human — I found myself wanting to write at every turn of the page. And so I did.”
~Sara Paye, MFA candidate, Sierra Nevada University (SNU)
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, Harper Collins, 1990: “I’ve found the book extremely helpful in generating imaginative responses, both from students in my workshops and in my own creative work.”
~June Saraceno, poet, The Girl From Yesterday
Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, Anchor, 1990: “Bird by Bird is an emotional support animal of a book. Anne Lamott is hilarious and compassionate and wise and sheds necessary light along the writing path.”
~Gayle Brandeis, novelist, Many Restless Concerns
~Joanne Meschery, novelist, local historian, author of The Truckee Book
Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry To Children, Kenneth Koch, Vintage, 1990: “I’ve used this book as a reference in designing poetry workshops for second, third and fourth graders and, just as often, adjusted a lesson plan with fun results for teenagers and adults.”
~Karen Terrey, poet, Bite and Blood
Local reading and writing communities and resources
Hone your love for reading and sharpen your writing with these opportunities around the region.
The Truckee Library
(530) 582-7846, visit mynevadacounty.com/296/events
Local Author Showcase, March 21, 1 to 4 p.m., Keynote speaker Todd Borg, plus two dozen local writers, Friends of the Library used book sale, local interest books by Word After Word, at the Community Arts Center, Truckee
Poetry Writing with Susan Wooldridge, Writer’s workshop for adults and children 9 and older, April 9, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Community Recreation Center
Nevada County Reads and Writes, Station Eleven, Evelyn St. John Mandel, featuring weekly book-related events
Poetry Writing with Kat Terrey, Tangled Roots Writing, April 2, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Just Books Book Club, on the third Tuesday of the month
Next Chapter Book Club, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Read, learn, and make friends. Second and fourth Tuesdays, 11a.m.
Story Art for children, monthly book and art program with local artist Anke Hass, April 9
Tangled Roots Writing
Karen Terrey, MFA karenaterrey.blogspot.com
Workshops, manuscript review, and coaching.
Word After Word Bookstore
Author events, writing workshops, book clubs, and story times.
Community of Writers
Annual summer workshops in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, financial aid
Sierra Nevada University
MFA in Creative Writing
Writers in the Woods, ongoing readings/workshops
Kaveh Akbar, Iranian-American poet, professor, and scholar April 10
Annual Poetry Slam, April 24; cash prizes
Truckee Welcomes New Librarian
Bobbi Luster joined the Truckee Library as branch manager in August 2019. She, her husband Jonathan, and their two teenage children moved from North Carolina to Truckee to be near the family’s business, Second Home Care, as well as to live near the many outdoor activities that the area has to offer.
Professionally, Luster spent the past seven years as a school library media specialist and technology teacher, and prior to that she spent 15 years heading up client services and a corporate library at a research and consulting firm. She also had a stint as a sportswriter.
“The Town of Truckee and Nevada County have welcomed me with open arms, and my favorite part of my job so far is meeting locals and networking with community partners to collaborate on projects,” said Luster. “We have many great developments coming up at the library as we’ll soon be undergoing a remodel in our current space and our Friends of the Library are working hard to build us a larger library in Regional Park. Regardless of what space we’re in or where we’re located, my goal is to have our staff provide the best service and programming to the patrons of Truckee.”
Main Image Caption: ~ A member of Friends of the Truckee Library, Ruth Jackson Hall has loved books and libraries all her life. An English lit grad from Detroit, she lived in New York City, Iowa City, Missoula, and San Francisco before joining the Mescherys in 1977 to open Truckee’s first bookstore.