Photo by Peggy Sturdivant
Ballard Writers gather for last minute Big Event planning.(Front) Rita Weinstein, Ingrid Ricks, Laura K. Cooper, Jay Craig, Nancy Alton, Sheila Kelly (Rear) Jan & Bob Dalrymple, B.J. Neblett, Jo Simonian

At Large in Ballard: Proud Mama

As I reclaimed the laptop from the cat to write this column, a message from Alison Krupnick popped up in the corner of my screen. It read, “If it weren’t for the Ballard Writers Collective, I wouldn’t be about to release this book!”

There it was, the answer to the question I’ve asked myself in the years since I decided to try and identify as many writers in Ballard as possible and create at least one annual showcase event. After last year’s Book Slam, someone (I’m sure it was Ballard’s preeminent kilted man Jay Craig) suggested next year’s event be even bigger, and all day instead of just evening. Thanks a lot, Jay.

With just hours remaining until this year’s Ballard Writers Collective (The Big Event on Saturday, November 24th at 1 p.m.), I’m going to keep Alison Krupnick’s post open on my screen, to remind me why the headaches of organizing an event are worthwhile, even if it creates just one new positive.

Judged by that measure, the Ballard Writer’s Collective, informally started over beer and coffee at Aster a week after last year’s event, has yielded almost improbably high returns. Prompted by the willingness of Sunset Hill Community Association to allow me to create a literary event two years ago, I worked with Secret Garden Books to locate writers in Ballard who might be hiding underneath mossy rocks. Nearly 40 writers, from all genres, were placed elbow to elbow, and in alphabetical order, around the upstairs wall at the clubhouse. Many writers became understandably chummy.

The 2011 event, billed as a Book Slam, featured local writers reading from their work for just three minutes. I guess that wasn’t enough time, because immediately after the packed event most of the writers wanted to keep meeting, without a timer. Then they wanted to create a website, and did so within the few weeks between the event and the holidays.

They call me their founder, but it’s out of my hands now. The ever increasing number of high energy (one might say over achieving) writers can’t seem to help themselves from launching and executing new collaborations. At monthly meetings in the back room at Copper Gate (graciously available because of the owner’s support for all things literary) friendships hatched and new ventures have launched. What a support network. Writers in Ballard can only hope to be lonely if they never leave their home.

Joshua McNichols, The Urban Farm Handbook, got the group into performing live, and without notes, at Egan’s Ballard Jam House. He and fellow KUOW reporters featured the stories of several writers. Ingrid Ricks started working with high school students and they published the book I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Although I’ve loved running into so many new friends at the market, the connecting tools like the Facebook page, website, Google Group, the collaborative readings, the lending library and exchange of services, it’s the Ballard writer profiles that warm my heart the most. One meeting we put names in a hat and each person drew someone else’s name. Each writer has taken the assignment of profiling another writer so seriously, from tape recording the interview in journalistic style, to research in advance. (I’m an exception; my assignment is overdue.) We write and edit together. We suggest new members. We try to explain that if you write, you’re a writer, whether or not you’re publishing.

So how could I resist another opportunity to create an event, if only to watch what it inspires this year? In order to lure people from their homes on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (Small Business Saturday by the way), I was encouraged to add artists and children’s activities to the literary mix. That way, The Big Event can be a one-stop place to shop, hear new works of fiction, memoir and poetry, meet teenage authors who are getting national attention for sharing their raw stories, eat treats, and then watch 20 writers pushed far from their comfort zone by reading three-minute new works that incorporate three given words.

Pottery from Lily and the People and Regnor, story-time for children with the authors themselves reading, food samples from cookbook authors, sneak previews, hourly programs starting at 1 p.m. and The Secret Garden carrying a special selection on-site. In addition, all the vendors, authors and some local businesses are donating items for themed gift baskets for the hourly raffle prizes. The event kicks off with previews of upcoming works by Q13FOX’s meteorologist M.J. McDermott and soon-to-be famous Alison Krupnick.

For months I kept trying to think of a catchy title for the third annual Ballard Writers event, but I just kept calling it big. As I’ve accepted that whatever started years ago has taken a life all its own, so too have I accepted that Saturday, Nov. 24 at Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse is, simply, “The Big Event.”

Gotta go. I’ve a lot of work to do before Saturday, including writing a three-minute piece that includes the words jingle, interlude and slump. Yikes! See you Saturday.

Love, Peggy.

P.S. Did I mention the bagpipe-making?

An hourly schedule for The Big Event is available at www.ballardwriters.org Doors open at 1 p.m. for an afternoon of programs, activities and shopping opportunities. Ballard Jam Live! starts at 7 p.m. Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse. 3003 NW 66th Street. Free admission. Great prizes.

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