Why the Seattle Review of Books Is Going on Hiatus, and What’s Next for Me

Just a few of the books I’m dying to read.

Over at the Seattle Review of Books, co-founder Martin McClellan and I just announced that the site is going on indefinite hiatus. This was by no means an easy decision. I’m carrying a deep sense of sadness piled on top of all this other coronavirus weirdness, and I feel in many ways even more unrooted than I did when I left The Stranger five or so years ago.

There are a number of factors behind the decision, which are enumerated in the post, but my personal decision boiled down to this: I’ve been blogging on a daily basis for almost fifteen years. My writing for the Seattle Review of Books always happened at night, after I’d finished with my day job at Civic Ventures. I usually would write the next day’s posts after making dinner, from 7 to midnight or one am, before getting back up at 6 in the morning to walk the dog and get ready for my day. It was a 30-hour-a-week job on top of my 40-hour-a-week-job. But let me say here that the work wasn’t really the problem. I like to work, and I like to be prolific.

I am, quite frankly, sick of hearing myself talk.

The daily blogging pace has introduced a certain formulaic sensibility to my writing, and when a writing project feels more like filling out Mad Libs than writing, it’s probably time to move on. I didn’t feel I was properly engaging with the books I was reviewing, and I would have loved to flesh out my weekly interviews more. I wasn’t serving Seattle’s literary community to the best of my ability anymore.

I’d like to take a little bit more time with my writing: Explore different rhythms in my process, take my time with a story, do multiple interviews, explore an author’s whole body of work before engaging with it in a review. I also want to read differently. For the last fifteen or so years, I haven’t felt like I could take a month to really deeply explore a dense or difficult book, because the churn of daily publication required me to read, drop a take, and move on to the next book. I’m already reading more than I have at any point since my bookselling days at Elliott Bay Book Company, and that’s a genuine joy. I hope that joy will represent itself in my writing soon, too.

I’ll still be writing at my day job at Civic Ventures, and my monthly Seattle Times bookstore spotlight column will continue for as long as they’ll have me. I hope to pursue some other freelance opportunities, too. (Though it remains to be seen if there will be any freelance outlets available after the pandemic has had its way with the media.) And I’ll be blogging here, but not daily. I’ll also be linking to my freelance work on this blog, so you’ll be able to follow me across all platforms, if you’d like. But I expect that I’ll be posting original stuff here pretty often, because I process the world through my writing—and there is a lot to process out there right now.

One last self-indulgent note to end this agglomeration of self-indulgent notes: Today marks the 20th anniversary of my arrival in Seattle. I’ve now lived in Seattle longer than anywhere else I’ve lived in my entire life, and it still feels like a love affair to me. I know that Seattle has plenty of problems, but I have never felt so connected to a place than I do here. I love the land and the people and the weather and, most especially, the literary community—from the bookstores to the libraries, from the writers to the readers.

I am in my home, and I have hundreds of books I’m dying to read, and I’m still excited every day to wake up and be a writer. All told, I’m impossibly lucky. And today, especially, I’m deeply grateful for all the opportunities I’ve enjoyed and all the people who have joined me on this journey. Thank you. I look forward to what’s next.

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