Valley native to read latest novel at North Bend library

Residents of North Bend will receive a literary treat Oct. 17 when Snoqualmie Valley native Matt Briggs reads his latest novel "Shoot the Buffalo" at the North Bend library at 7 p.m.

Like all his novels, the story takes place in Snoqualmie Valley. It is about a family of hippies - a mother, father, daughter and two boys, Briggs said. The story is narrated by Aldous, the oldest brother, who begins the tale at 9 years of age and ends when he's 18. In the story, the uncle of the children returns from Vietnam and the family celebrates by going to the Olympic Peninsula. Soon after, the mother and uncle run away, leaving the father to raise the kids.

The father follows the others, leaving his oldest son, Aldous, in charge of his brother and sister. Aldous decides to go after his parents and uncle, bringing his siblings with him. Along the way the kids get wet and suffer from hypothermia and a death occurs in the family. However, instead of breaking the family up, the events of the story "really cements the family," said Briggs.

So what made Briggs choose Snoqualmie Valley as the setting?

"It's a place that's important to me," said Briggs. "For a lot of reasons, but probably because I grew up there. There's an amount of time I wanted to capture that doesn't exist anymore. It was much more of a backwoods kind of place - more rural. I can still see bits of that, but it's mostly gone now."

When he was growing up, the Weyerhaeuser mill was still running. The parents of most of the kids with whom he went to school worked, in some capacity, at the mill, he said. His own parents moved to the Valley because it was fairly rural, but still close to Seattle. They bought a pretty large amount of land where they ran a farm, he said.

"Snoqualmie Valley seems like a cool place to me," he said. "People there don't seem to think of it [in the same way he does], they seem to think of its proximity to Redmond and Seattle."

It wasn't that way when he was growing up. At the time, he simply thought it rained all the time and that was natural everywhere. Now, not living quite so close to the Cascades, he knows that's not the case.

"Living there in the '70s, you were hugely removed from the city even though it was only an hour away," he said. "The [Interstate] 90 [bypass] wasn't built yet. You got a sense of traveling out way beyond the city when you went to Snoqualmie."

There was even a kid on his soccer team who had never been to Seattle. He doesn't think you could find that in the Valley now. It's hard to fathom, he said.

Briggs, now a technical writer living in Renton, began writing while he was still living in the Valley. He started in the Young Authors in Snoqualmie Valley.

"It was the first time I thought it would even be possible to do writing," Briggs said. "I did think I could earn a living from it." Now he knows better. "Not very many writers of fiction earn a living from writing novels."

He ended up winning a prize, the King County Publications Award, from the King County Arts Commission. The prize is awarded every year to a manuscript, he said. The Northwest Small Press publishes the winner.

After high school, Briggs attended the University of Washington where he majored in creative writing. He continued to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he got a master of arts in writing. He didn't get a work of fiction published until he was almost 30.

His first nationally published work was "The Remains of River Names." Often the most visible part of native cultures are the names, he said. The book itself really has nothing to do with the title. A work of fiction, the novel deals with families and drug use. His second book was a collection of short stories called "Misplaced Alice." His third book, "Moss Gatherer," was set at Mount Si High School, he said.

The reading will be from his fourth, and most recent, book titled "Shoot the Buffalo." In addition to being a published writer, Briggs is a writer-in-residence with the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, a writer's resource center that provides a menu for aspiring writers to go public.

Briggs was also selected as the winner of the 27th annual American Book Award for 2006, and the 2003 Stranger Genius Award. The American Book Award will be presented to him Dec. 15.

"I'm really excited to read at the North Bend library," said Briggs. "It's one of the libraries I used to go to as a kid, although it's not the same building."

The North Bend library is looking forward to Briggs' reading, too.

"It's a very exciting book and author for this area because Matt grew up in Snoqualmie Valley," said Vicki Heck, reference librarian. "It's wonderful to have the exposure of this beautiful area written in his books. It's quite a testament to the beauty of the area and the meaning this area has for him."

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