Gina Ochsner

Gina Ochsner is a storyteller (just like us!).

The Salem native is an award-winning novelist and fiction writer. She’s the writer-in-residence at Corban University, where she teaches writing and literature and directs the annual Portals Writing Conference.

And as a speaker at TEDxSalem, she’s going to tell you an incredible story about a series of events between 1987 and 1991 in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania that became known as the Singing Revolution.

ochsner_gina_credit-annie-beedy_catalog-author-photo“These people banded together to say to their Soviet occupiers, ‘We’ve had enough, it’s time for you to go home,'” Ochsner explains. “They banded together and made a human chain over 400 miles long and held hands. It stretched from the capital of Estonia to Lithuania. They sang songs and recited poetry and this made a difference. Within 18 months, the Soviet Union completely pulled out and they were among the first to declare their independence.”

Ochsner learned about the chain of singers while researching her latest novel, released just four weeks ago, called The Hidden Letters of Velta B. The book is about a family in Latvia, a boy who hears all, and the power of stories, words and secrets.

“I wasn’t planning on writing about Latvia,” she says. “But I got to know a Latvian woman who lives here in town, and she was telling me her family story and I started doing research there and realized this world that has opened up to me that I never knew existed. I was so struck by the richness of the culturgina-bwe and the love for song and dance and poetry, it just overwhelms me.”

These are all themes that Ochsner plans to explore in her TED talk.

“It’s interesting to think about revolution and how big change happens with something as small as words and how we use them,” she says. “I think people sometimes believe they have no voice or power and that’s simply not true. These were ordinary people who participated in these events. They were just humble, ordinary people who got together and said, when we are together, our voices are strong.”

Get your tickets for TEDxSalem IV

Tickets are on sale now for Salem’s annual TEDx event Saturday, January 7, 2017. Tickets are $50, $40 for a student. The all-day event includes talks, performances, refreshments, lunch and a swag bag. Follow us on Facebook for the most up-to-date news from our community, and check our website regularly for new information. You can also reach us at