Welcome to Reading Kitsap

Welcome to Reading Kitsap, the latest addition to the Kitsap Sun blog family.  It’s my hope that this becomes the one stop for all news about our writing, publishing, bookselling and book-sharing communities. A tall order, I concede, but it’s one I’m willing to fill, especially in the one online forum in Kitsap County that gets thousands of unique page viewers each day.

There’s a lot of talk out there about the future of books, that fewer people are reading books these days. But I see just the opposite happening, and as such think these topics are more relevant than ever. I’ve heard it said several times that a) more people than ever are trying their hand at writing and publishing books; and b) the people who never expected to seriously try their hand at being published writers do so in recessionary times for one of two reasons:

• They think it’s an easy way to make some money. Easy, that is, compared to the intimidating task of getting or keeping a living-wage job in a time of attritions, consolidations, closings and downsizings.

• They figure now that one dream (career) has been dashed, they might as well dust off another now that they’ve got time on their hands to do so.

Sharlene Martin, a Bainbridge Island-based literary agent, agrees with these assessments. “There isn’t a person you meet who doesn’t think they have a book in them,” she told me recently. “Everybody has a story to tell.”

In the last couple of years, Sharlene says, her agency has seen a “dramatic” increase — 50 percent or more — in the number of queries she’s been sent from aspiring authors seeking representation for their book ideas. “I’m fielding well over 1,000 queries a month, maybe more,” she says.

Who are these people? Well, me, for one.

A little about me: I’m the night and weekend news editor for the Kitsap Sun. I was raised on Bainbridge Island, lived there for a while as an adult, and now live in Central Kitsap. I’m also a book-lover who, as a kid, practically kept a sleeping bag and cot in Eagle Harbor Book Company when I wasn’t camped out at the Bainbridge branch of the Kitsap Regional Library. The late great children’s librarian there, Marian Morrow, got to know me and my reading tastes so well that she would set aside new books for me that she knew I’d like. (Also worthy of a shout-out is the late great Bob Robinson, who was the librarian at Blakely Elementary when I went to school there from 1971 to 1975.)

If you’re reading this far along, chances are you’re a fellow reader. And statistically speaking, that means that many of you are fellow wannabe authors. I very much want to be a published author, and that long and not particularly linear journey has led me to immerse myself in everything I need to know — how to sharpen my writing craft, how to find my writer’s voice, how to prepare a manuscript for presentation, how to get an agent and a publishing deal, how book distribution and marketing works, how I might be affected by the tectonic shifts in the book-publishing industry. Oh, and maybe how to get fame and respect and adoration and money. (Actually, all I want is the money.)

And because there’s a fundamental paradigm shift going on in how books are being presented and distributed (e-books, self-publishing, etc.), it’s worth our while to better understand how these changes affect our potential to break in — and stay in.

And chances are that if you’ve come this far with me, you’re also as interested in your local community of authors who have broken in and are living the dream (which, in some cases, you’ll find, actually isn’t as dreamy as it sounds) as I am. I’ve befriended several, and hope through this blog to get to know every single one. I hope you will too, vicariously.  To a person, in my experience, they’re interesting, quirky and generous of time and spirit.

So, with that in mind, here’s what you can expect to see in Reading Kitsap:

Interviews with local authors when they have new works coming out, or new projects to announce, or have achieved significant career milestones. In the next few weeks, for example, I’ll be talking with Bainbridge novelists Jonathan Evison and Carol Cassella about the upcoming releases of their second novels.

Discussions with Kitsap folk about developments in the book industry. For example, what would happen if the Barnes & Noble in Silverdale shut down (rumors about trouble at the corporate top there have people wondering)? Would that be good or bad for our independent booksellers? Or our authors? Or: How would book-borrowers be affected by the fate, one way or the other, of this fall’s Kitsap Regional Library tax levy?

Talks about writing craft. What can you be doing to shape your writing dreams into reality? I’ll share links and advice from experts, and we’ll see where the ensuing discussions (hopefully) take us.

Calendar announcements of every upcoming author reading, signing or charity event in Kitsap. Also of any meeting of writers’ group or book clubs that are open to new members.

Fun stuff. Some ideas: How about monthly lunches pairing authors and aspiring authors? Conversation and maybe a one-chapter critique? Or how about a get-together to write and share entries for the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest (the worst opening novel lines imaginable)? Or following some of you through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November? Maybe get a bunch of us together and write a novel in a weekend, for charity, like these folks in Seattle are doing this fall? (Five Kitsap authors are among the 36 participating writers)

Narcissistic blather. I’ll occasionally share tidbits from my own Sleepwalking Toward Bethlehem journey toward publication. I’ll spare you the excruciating minutiae (so not really narcissistic blather, just … well … semi-narcissistic blather), but some of what I’m doing may have relevance to your own efforts, and I like to be of service for the purpose of spearheading broader discussions of broader interest.

• Virtual book clubbing, sort of. It’s my goal to read everything that every Kitsap writers produces, be it self-published or traditionally published. I won’t review books here — the Sun employs a fine freelance reviewer in Barbara McMichael, aka The Bookmonger , and I won’t usurp her territory— but I will say that it would be hard for me to contain my enthusiasm for a book I particularly like. And as I backtrack my way through the oeuvres of our many fine Kitsap scribes, I will share a little something about each for those who might find them interesting. (Be prepared for a lot of treacly odes to the work of my friend and personal favorite, the late great Jack Olsen.)

So, to help provide grist for the pulp mill here, here’s what I ask of each of you:

Send me links to interesting stories, essays and blog posts about writers, writing, bookselling and publishing. Propose some talking points for community discussion.

Send me calendar-item info: Who, what, where, why and why, of course, and “how much” where applicable.

Send me your books, if you’re willing and able. (I’m just as willing to pay for them, and usually do, but this helps if you want me to help you promote something in advance of its release, or if you want to make me aware of something that I might not otherwise know about.) E-mail me for a snail-mailing address.

Send me tips about news as it arises. Is a bookstore closing or moving? Are there things you want people to know about the library levy measure? Did someone win an award or contest, get nominated for one, get a new publishing deal, or is announcing a new release? Did someone in the literary community move here, move away … or even pass away? Please let me know so I can let everyone know.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for reading books.

Contact Jim Thomsen on Facebook, or at desolationisland@gmail.com.

12 thoughts on “Welcome to Reading Kitsap

  1. Jim, great observations, opinions and revelations, if you will. Looking forward to following your blog. And, yup, there’s reality at work in the comments/observations/opinions. Though I’m a bit south of you, Tacoma/Pierce County, do feel a kinship for Kitsap and Bremerton. Including the fact that my husband was stationed there at the Naval base as a Marine, after returning from overseas and being phased out of his enlistment. And I use to take the ferry over to Seattle to work at the National Bank of Commerce downtown. Have nice memories of Bremerton.

    Pat Harrington

  2. Hooorrraaayyy!!! Someone from Kitsap who loves writers.
    Ilive WAY up in north Kitsap (Hansville) and I’m so looking forward to your entries/information/lessons/help and any other thing you can impart to me in my quest to publish my second book (or get an agent) or both. Looking forward to future input from you. dla

  3. Congratulations on launching your new blog, Jim. It’s a much-needed service and should be a lot of fun for all the book lovers and aspiring authors out here.
    Ann Strosnider

  4. Hey Jim,

    Great blog. This will be a fun place to hang out and discuss the common passion of writing.

    I am currently writing a weekly column for a local publication. Because I have a paying full time job in a non-writing related private sector industry, I get to write for the sheer joy of it. I don’t receive any money for it and don’t really need to. The pleasure I receive from it is payment enough.

    For me, I view my role as the community columnist as the vehicle for the thoughts of the common man (or woman in my case). As a community columnist you are restricted in some ways, but in other ways you have a whole extra level of freedom from some odd journalistic rules that govern the writings and story selections of the paid professionals.

    I look forward to talking more with you here on the blog. If you or anyone else have any questions for me please let me know.

    Thanks again,

    Colleen Smidt

  5. Like the idea!

    Book news: Kathleen Alcala, Bainbridge Island writer, was named 2010 Island Treasure by Bainbridge Arts and Humanities Council this year.

    You might want to give a shout out to Fields End Writer’s community

    It was fun to meet you yesterday at the store.

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