Oregon’s Largest Community Read Program, A Novel Idea, Marks 21 Years

Posted By:  Liz Goodrich
Date Posted:  4/18/2024

Dive into the worlds of adventure and imagination with Shark Heart: A Love Story by Emily Habeck and No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin as part of A Novel Idea 2024

After a milestone 20th anniversary in 2023, Deschutes Public Library is ready to launch the annual celebration of building community, one book at a time. This year, the Novel Idea community read program centers around Shark Heart: A Love Story, Emily Habeck’s debut novel and the youth selection, No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin. Starting in May, Central Oregonians can take a bite out of free cultural programs, book discussions, and visits from the authors.

“Over the years, A Novel Idea has taken us around the world and across time, and this year the books add a dose of magical realism,” said Deschutes Public Library Programs Supervisor Liz Goodrich. “Finding two books for two different age groups of readers is always an exciting challenge—and these books really speak to each other across genre and age demographics.”

Each novel is a love story, between Lewis and Wren (Shark Heart) and Penny and Rose (No Matter the Distance). The achingly beautiful center of both stories is the unavoidable good-bye and both Wren and Penny choose to make them as meaningful and beautiful as possible.

Last year was a huge retrospective for the Novel Idea community read program with more than 15,000 participants joining the month-long celebration honoring 20 years of reading together. Every year the program continues to gain momentum as readers take part in the power of books to build empathy and understanding, as well as foster connections between people.

“Mark your calendar for the kick-off events on May 3 featuring live music and Novel Idea beer by Kobold brewing and a quilt exhibit highlighting this year’s selections at the Deschutes Historical Museum,” said Goodrich. “A Novel Idea promises to continue giving Deschutes County readers something to talk about for years to come.”

Programming for A Novel Idea kicks off on May 3. During the weeks leading up to the main author event, readers can explore and expound upon ideas found in Shark Heart and No Matter the Distance. A Novel Idea culminates with a free author event featuring Emily Habeck on Saturday, June 1, at Caldera High School and a visit from the youth edition author, Cindy Baldwin, on Saturday, May 18, at the Downtown Bend Library. All programs, including the authors’ presentations, are free of charge thanks to the support of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation and individual donors. Tickets are free, but required for the main author event and are available at starting May 13.

About the Programs

This year the library is hosting more than 36 programs in support of A Novel Idea. Visit the A Novel Idea website ( for dates, times, and locations. Programs with an asterisk (*) require registration.

No Matter the Distance Main Event: Struggles Into Superpowers

No Matter the Distance author Cindy Baldwin talks about how growing up with cystic fibrosis influenced her author journey, teaching her resilience and the true power of books. She’ll show us how the hardest things in our lives can lead to our strongest superpowers.

  • Saturday, May 18, 2024 2:00 p.m. | Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall Street, Bend

Shark Heart Main Event: A Novel Idea Author Emily Habeck at Caldera High School*

Join us for this capstone event, as Emily Habeck takes the stage to discuss her book, her writing process, and more. Free tickets are required and are available online ( starting May 13. Limit two tickets per person.

  • Saturday, June 1, 2024 6:00 p.m. | Caldera High School, 60925 SE 15th Street, Bend

Adult Programs

A Novel Idea Kick-off Events at Kobold Brewing | Read/Create: A Novel Idea 2024 Exhibit | Bird Watching* | Mother’s Day Card Making* | Reader’s Theatre: Thornton Wilder's Our Town (Parts I and II) | Diving for the Solution to Pollution | Sew Felt Sea Creatures | Eggshell Garden Starts | Paint a Watercolor Shark | Mystic Vibrosis: A Guide to Living Indubiously | Healthy Eating at Arome* | Roundabouts Improv Comedy Show | Sushi-Making Workshop* | The Art of Falconry: Ancient Sport in a Modern World | Myth and Magic in Everyday Life: Understanding Magical Realism | Create a Customized Gratitude Journal* | Shark Heart in Real Life: The Science of Studying Sharks | Writing Workshop with Emily Habeck* | A Novel Idea Book Discussions

Youth Programs

“What I Know About Myself” Collage | Gelli Plate Print-Making Workshop | Family Kayaking Expedition* | Healthy Eating at Arome* | No Matter the Distance Book Discussion | Three-Part Storytelling Workshop with Cindy Baldwin* | The Art of Falconry: Ancient Sport in a Modern World

About the Donors

A Novel Idea is made possible by gen-ferous donors: Roundhouse Foundation; Lonza; Hayden Homes; Worthy Brewing; E.H. and M.E. Bowerman Advised Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation; Chris Mahr + Associates, CPAs; Best Best & Krieger Attorneys at Law; Cascade Hasson Sotheby's International Realty; Savory Spice; Guild Mortgage; Howl Intentional Goods; Yes! Tree Care

About the Book: Shark Heart: A Love Story

For Lewis and Wren, their first year of marriage is also their last. A few weeks after their wedding, Lewis receives a rare diagnosis. He will retain most of his consciousness, memories and intellect, but his physical body will gradually turn into a great white shark. As Lewis develops the features and impulses of one of the most predatory creatures in the ocean, his complicated artist’s heart struggles to make peace with his unfulfilled dreams.

About the Author: Emily Habeck

Emily Habeck has a BFA in Theater from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts as well as master’s degrees from Vanderbilt Divinity School and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. Her debut novel Shark Heart was a Book of the Month selection, a New York Times book review editor’s choice, and the #1 Indie Next pick for August 2023. She is from Ardmore, Oklahoma, and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

About the Book: No Matter the Distance
Penny Rooney has cystic fibrosis (CF), which means she has to do breathing treatments to help her lungs work. Some days, it seems like her CF is the only thing Penny knows about herself for sure. During spring break, Penny spots something impossible in the creek behind her house: a dolphin, far from its home. As Penny’s CF worsens, she realizes that Rose, the dolphin, needs to return to her pod to get better. Will Penny be able to help guide Rose back to the ocean, even if it means losing her friend?

About the Author: Cindy Baldwin

Cindy Baldwin is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Where the Watermelons Grow, Beginners Welcome, The Stars of Whistling Ridge and No Matter the Distance (a Junior Library Guild selection). She lives just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

For more information about A Novel Idea, please contact Liz Goodrich at (541) 312-1032 or Visit the A Novel Idea website at for event listings as they are scheduled and for author information.


Page Last Modified Wednesday, March 8, 2023