Author Jim Lynch sets sail from Ballard.
At Large In Ballard: Before the tour
By Peggy Sturdivant
Last week Pacific Northwest author Jim Lynch did a trial run of his presentation and talk at Ballard Library for an upcoming bi-coastal book tour. His novel “Before the Wind” has just been released in paperback. In preparation his 24 year-old daughter Grace created a Powerpoint for him. Lynch just needed to make it work.
Olympia-based Jim Lynch is what’s known as a Friend of the Garden (Secret Garden Books that is) and professed his Ballard wannabe status at the March 23rd reading, asking about a potential summer rental. An audience member raised his hand. “You have a sailboat,” he said, “Why don’t you live-a-board at Shilshole?”
Lynch looked a bit stricken at the obvious solution, given that his novel “Before The Wind” references Shilshole Marina and features a family whose life centers around the love of sailboat racing. “We all have blind spots,” he said.
I thought about the perpetual riches at the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library, wondering, is it a blind spot to Ballard? Does Northwest Seattle even realize how lucky we are to have so much programming at the Ballard Library?
The Jim Lynch appearance is a perfect example. He’ll be appearing at Seattle’s Town Hall on April 5, for a nominal ticket fee. However the Ballard audience got to preview the material and offer feedback (not to mention heckling, but that was just his High School English teacher).
After that great evening I started wondering how the literary offerings of the Ballard Branch compares to other branches. Downtown’s Central Library has extensive programming, but what about other branches? Fremont hosts PoetsWest and Columbia hosts Writers Reads. The University Branch was an early host to “It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series,” which was adopted by Ballard in 2006. For adult programming Ballard also hosts the monthly Poetry Potluck and co-sponsors many events with Secret Garden Books, or as part of the annual Seattle Reads event.
Rather than attempt my own city-wide research I employed my favorite lifeline, “Ask A Librarian.” Hannah Parker is an Adult Services Librarian at the Ballard Branch. She was in the Fiction Department at Central Library and set out to continue and expand the literary tradition of Ellen Fitzgerald at Ballard. (I still think back to missing Nora Ephron, talk about a blind spot).
Responding by email Parker wrote, “I learned that a lot of times all you have to do is ask nicely and authors will come!
During my time here at BAL, we’ve had the good fortune to host authors like Sherman Alexie, Tess Gallagher, Matt Ruff, Daniel James Brown, Molly Wizenberg, Jim Lynch (twice!), Bharti Kirchner, Theo Pauline Nestor, Don Kentop, David Lasky and Frank Young, and Dean Adams. Before I got here, Ellen (Fitzgerald) hosted Garth Stein and many other authors. Many of these programs were made possible or supported by Secret Garden Books, though not all, and many ended up being standing room only. In addition, we’ve hosted Seattle Reads authors, such as Chris Cleave, but those were arranged through the Central Library.”
I remember yet another overflow crowd in 2007 for “Truck: A Love Story” by Michael Perry. Highest ratio of men to women I’ve ever seen at a reading. Let’s face it, we’re so, so lucky in Ballard.
Jim Lynch knows. “This is such a great space,” he said, looking at the curved walls and the friendly faces. When he struggled to advance his slideshow several in the audience looked ready to step up. (I’ve seen attendees nip home for a missing power cord). Lynch had compiled some photos of his family, and other real life inspirations for the characters in his novel, which is partly set in Ballard. He made the mother a Physics teacher at Ballard High School but envisioned the family home as above Gas Works Park.
“Do you think this works?” he asked of his presentation after signing books. “This is the first time I’ve done it.”
He said he’s struggled with how to preemptively answer questions about the book as he prepares for a book tour. “How to describe writing something you feel like you’ve been preparing your whole life to write.” This is the book he first dreamed about writing, and yet it’s his fourth novel. “It all starts with my father,” he said, freely admitting his family as inspiration. He also set out to do justice to the world of sailing in a novel. His sailboat served as floating office. “My version of method acting.”
Then through a combination of circumstances, coincidental or not, whereby Ballard is both a setting in his book and possibly the most literary library branch in the city Jim Lynch previewed his talk. The audience gave it thumbs up, and wished him smooth sailing in more distant waters.
We know he’ll be back.