The Journey You Must Take - A Conversation with Maggie Downs and Katherine E. Standefer

Friday, January 8, 2021 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Co-hosted by Mechanics Hall as part of the First Friday Reading Series via Zoom!
Moderated by Jenny O'Connell

In this conversation moderated by local Portland writer Jenny O'Connell, authors Maggie Downs and Katherine E. Standefer give a short reading and discuss their debut books, each of which tells the story of a journey they understood deep down that they must take. In Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother's) Lifetime, Maggie Downs backpacks around the world to visit countries her mother--struck with early-onset Alzheimer's--cannot make it to herself. In Lightning Flowers: My Journey To Uncover the Cost of Saving A Life, Katherine E. Standefer travels to mines across Africa trying to understand whether her potentially-lifesaving implanted cardiac defibrillator might have caused loss of life along its supply chain. 

Maggie Downs is an award-winning writer and essayist based in Palm Springs, California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Palm Springs Life, and McSweeney's, among other publications, and has been anthologized in The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology: True Stories from the World's Best Writers and Best Women's Travel Writing. She is also the co-host of the radio show and podcast Open Book, with New York Times bestselling writer Tod Goldberg, and holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert. Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother's) Lifetime, is her first book. Find out more at

Katherine E. Standefer writes from a piñon- and juniper-dotted mesa in New Mexico, where she lives with her chickens. Her debut book Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life is a November 2020 selection for Oprah Magazine's Reading Room, was shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Prize from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and received a Kirkus Star. Standefer's other writing has won the Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction and appeared in The Best American Essays 2016 (ed. Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan), Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays (ed. Stephanie G'Schwind), and How We Speak To One Another: An Essay Daily Reader (ed. Ander Monson and Craig Reinbold). She has been a Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good, a Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow at the Mesa Refuge, and a resident at Jentel Arts. She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Arizona and teaches for Ashland University's Low-Residency MFA program.

Jenny O’Connell's debut book project, Finding Petronella, traces her 2014 solo trek across Finland following the footsteps of a female legend into the heart of the Arctic Circle. A 2019 Maine Literary Award finalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, Jenny's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Creative Nonfiction, SLICE Magazine, Appalachia Journal, Hippocampus, Camas, Stonecoast Review, Decor Maine, Flyway Journal of Writing & Environment, and the anthology Awake in the World, v. 2 (Riverfeet Press). She is an outdoor contributor at Maine Magazine. Jenny earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast. She lives in Portland, Maine, where she teaches creative writing at The Telling Room, works for Stonecoast MFA on initiatives that empower writers to create positive change through the literary arts, and guides wilderness expeditions in the eastern U.S. and abroad.

Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother's) Lifetime By Maggie Downs Cover Image
ISBN: 9781640092921
Availability: At Our Partner Warehouse - Usually Ships in 4-8 Business Days
Published: Counterpoint - May 12th, 2020

Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life By Katherine E. Standefer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316450362
Availability: At Our Partner Warehouse - Usually Ships in 4-8 Business Days
Published: Little, Brown Spark - November 10th, 2020