At Large in Ballard: Ballard Days, Turkish Nights
A little over a year ago I ran into then Ballard News-Tribune news reporter/online editor Anne Marije Rook at the Ballard Bartell’s. I pulled out my camera, already considered vintage digital, and showed her a photograph of the Egan’s Ballard Jamhouse marquee from the night before, upon which was written in large, “Ballard Writers.”
“I feel like a proud mama,” I said. Inspired by friends who would mention other friends who were writers, I had launched the Ballard Writers Collective. Despite the events already under our belts, nothing means more to a writer than seeing their creation in really big letters.
“Are you going to write about it?” Rook asked. It hadn’t occurred to me. I just wanted to show everyone the photograph. Contrary to what my family and neighbors may fear I really don’t write about all aspects of my life. I happened to be present at the birth of Ballard Writers but they don’t belong to me; however, I am exceedingly proud of the connections that happen when we share our stories.
The first Ballard Writers’ event was billed as “The Writer Next Door.” Subsequent years have proved that not only is the writer next door to where you live, they are beside you on a yoga mat, in the same line at the grocery store and have been walking their dog past your house for years. It turns out their mothers work with your friend’s husband or they are Facebook friends with someone on the same Masconomet High School French exchange trip in 1977. It is wonderful and a bit frightening to learn we are all connected in more ways than we knew.
I have regularly mentioned that I am a believer in making lists, but I think the most important list is the one that documents what gets crossed off the to-do list. I like to take stock occasionally of what’s been accomplished and list that instead. Since Ballard Writers began meeting in person, online books have been published that might not have otherwise been completed (at least according to Claire Anderson and Alison Krupnick); and collaborations have come about such as that between Ingrid Ricks and teacher Marjie Bowker resulting in not one, but two anthologies of stories by teenagers.
,Joshua McNichols, of The Urban Farm Handbook, has not only helped connect stories with KUOW producers and create a relationship with Egan’s, he has come to my house on a half-hour’s notice for a cherry tree consult. (Even though I didn’t have any more wood shavings for his chickens.) Ballard Writers Collective members have trooped to my porch to drop off items for Ballard Senior Center auction, Sunset Hill Community Center and our own lending library, and even forgiven me when a bottle of wine intended for a book basket was deemed too good to donate.
As with things given the most freely, we don’t think twice about lending our time or efforts, offering to help with a website or review a draft. It’s a delightful surprise to see our names in the acknowledgements but even better than an individual’s name is those words on the signboard. We exist as an entity, if only for a Tuesday night on Market Street, Ballard, USA.
On a night that was too warm to be early May in Seattle, I circulated through the tables at Egan’s, querying the twelve people who had prepared new short pieces about travel. I was trying to decide the order in the way I think bands must create their playlist, a fast song, a slow song, a new work, one that everyone knows … but my choices included “heavy & depressing,” “Summer of Love,” “wartime” and “revenge fantasy.” Having only heard one of the pieces I just had to leap.
For the next two hours, as an overworked server wove through the tables with food pronounced delicious, Ballard Writers took us on a wartime island hop looking for General MacArthur, to a county in Ireland, two Greek islands, a nude beach in Italy, a surprising number of Turkish nights, a diner and finally onto a motorbike, lost in Ho Chi Minh City. It was twilight as we finished and the words were shining even brighter on the marquee. Inside, two distinct themes had emerged, “travel at your own risk,” as Alison Krupnick put it, and how often we realize the meaning of home when we travel.
Based on the stories just heard, yet more people were connecting, unwilling to break apart on the twilight sidewalk. Carol’s husband had obviously been stationed near Roselle’s father; by coincidence another chaperone from an Istanbul trip was in attendance. The next morning, words from the night before were still taking precedence over thoughts in my head. So yes, I did feel like a proud mama once again, for bringing together more people, for encouraging others to share their stories who in turn encourage others.
A friend once said I wouldn’t be able to stop until I had connected everyone in Ballard. I can’t cross that off my to-do list yet, but with every Ballard Writer’s event I feel a bit closer.
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