When Patty Wixon learned there were at least 173 book clubs in Ashland and Mark Salzman was among their top authors, she and the other Chautauqua Poets & Writers board members decided to try to bring him to his fans.
Salzman, author of the Pulitzer-prize-nominated memoir "Iron and Silk," will speak at the biannual Chautauqua event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave.
"Since we announced he's coming, people keep stopping us and saying, 'Oh, I'm so glad you're bringing him. We just love his books,' " Wixon said.
In addition to his memoir about his time teaching English in China and studying martial arts, the diverse writer has penned three novels: "The Laughing Sutra," "The Soloist" and "Lying Awake." Salzman also wrote another memoir, "Lost in Place: Growing up Absurd in Suburbia," and a nonfiction book, "True Notebooks," about teaching writing in Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall.
He is one of the top selling authors at Bloomsbury Books, which keeps a list of the number of book groups in Ashland, said manager Anita Isser.
"I do know that people are aware that he's coming and fans of his have expressed delight that he'll be here," Isser said. "I think he's so popular because he's an excellent writer and he also writes different things: fiction, biography, travel lit."
A number of his books have been used as texts in Southern Oregon University and Ashland High School classes, Wixon said.
Salzman will lead writing workshops for educators and high school students during his time in Ashland.
He also is a screenwriter and an accomplished cellist whose music has appeared on film soundtracks, including the documentary "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien."
Salzman's range of interests and knowledge attracts many locals to his writing, said Wixon, who has read many of his books.
"We have a large number of writers here in this area, not just published writers, but people who write frequently," she said. "In the case of Mark Salzman, I think any of us who write are amazed when someone can write so interestingly and skillfully about a whole variety of things."
Several book groups whose members hadn't previously read Salzman decided to do so in anticipation of his visit, said Kathi Bowen-Jones, an Ashland High School English teacher and a Chautauqua board member."He's a writer people really like to read together and talk about,