Kitsap Authors Help Write A Novel … Live!

Bainbridge Island children's author Suzanne Selfors takes her turn onstage at "The Novel! Live" Wednesday at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

The Novel: Live! is in its third day. It’s a six-day endeavor in which 36 authors with Seattle-area ties — including six from Kitsap — each spend two hours writing a share of a novel before a live audience online at at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

The event, in which audience members can purchase character names, is a fundraiser for two Seattle-area literacy-promotion programs. Once the event is over this weekend, the book will undergo a round of editing and then be released for sale as an e-book.

As I write this, “at bat” is Bainbridge Island children’s book author Suzanne Selfors. She’ll be followed, from 2 to 4 p.m., by fellow Bainbridge author Carol Cassella. (You can follow the “action” live here, and read what’s been written so far here.)

Mary Guterson, who lived on the island until last year, takes her turn at 4 p.m. Thursday. (I expect to be on hand at the Hugo House for that, and will share some pictures.) Jamie Ford, the South Kitsap grad who now lives in Montana, takes the stage at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the last turn of the event will be taken by Bainbridge’s Susan Wiggs at 4 p.m. Saturday.

It’s an interesting concept that was most famously tried in the mid-’90s, before the days of streaming Internet, by a group of 13 Florida authors. Their effort was the comic mystery novel Naked Came The Manatee. But The Novel: Live! is different expressly because of its live element, and that has caused some trepidation among some of the authors I know who are participating in this endeavor — authors who are used to writing amid quiet and solitude.

Bainbridge author Kathleen Alcala put in her two hours Monday morning, and I asked her how it went. Her response:

It turned out to be really fun! My personal fear factor was that I would freeze up. I had a “cheat sheet” with me that just named places and ideas for people, to keep me grounded in images. I ended up writing over 2500 words in two hours, which is good for me. I joked with my editor that I should try writing in public more often.

There were around ten people coming and going while I wrote. Two friends stopped by to have a book signed (which annoyed the organizers while I went off-camera to do so), and another friend stopped by while walking her dog, so we had a glass of wine after I finished. More people were watching and commenting online. When I asked for suggestions for names for the twins, seven sets were submitted! So we auctioned that off in the evening.

I asked Jamie Ford about how he was anticipating his coming turn at the literary plate, and here’s what he had to say Monday:

I popped by this afternoon and it’s a really cool set-up. I’m not too worried about the “live” aspect. My first job out of college was working for a newspaper, which helps with the chaos-factor. At the paper I was at a desk, out in the open. Phones were ringing, people were always wandering by, police scanners were going off, that kind of thing. I think the “live” aspect is the best part, since writing is such a solitary job–the change up is exciting. As far as what emerges–It’s my sense that all of the writers involved are taking the story seriously, and the writing seriously, even though the process might be more of a spectacle. And of course it’s for a good cause.

So there you are. Sounds like as much fun to be a spectator, too. Especially since the Hugo House is hosting happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. each day. You better believe I’ll be all over that. You should too, if you’re in the Capitol Hill area and have the time to spare.

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