Karen Joy Fowler Shares Her Seattle Reads Story

Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler shows off tiny dinosaurs, with tiny copies of her books in hand and mouth, at the West Seattle Branch. (Photo Credit: Katrina Shelby Photography)

The very first reading I did on my very first tour with my very first novel was at the beautiful Elliott Bay bookstore in Seattle.  My editor flew in from New York City to support me.  At her urging, I had my very first crème brulee.  (What more could you ask for in an editor?)  I fell in love with the city, but was warned that it was already full to bursting with Californians.    The year was 1991.

So when I learned that my sixth novel, We are all completely beside ourselves, had been selected for the storied Seattle Reads program – brainchild of superheroes, Nancy Pearl and Chris Higashi – I saw something in my life that I seldom see.  I saw Return and Renewal.  I saw Plot.

Nancy Pearl is a longtime heroine of mine.  Chris Higashi has been newly added to that list.  At night when I can’t sleep because of the endless presidential election, I try to tell myself that things can never go too horribly wrong with women like this in the world.

Because Chris was still recovering from a serious fall, I was given into the care of librarians, Linda Jones and Andrea Gough.  No one takes better care of you than a librarian.  You are always returned in mint condition and in good time.

My three days in Seattle were packed.  I spoke at six branches – Northeast, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, Queen Anne, and the Central library, and each event was as pleasant as the last.  I love doing Q and A and these events were mostly that.  I was asked about my attachment to science fiction, my work on the Tiptree Award, my personal history with animals, my daily routine (I need a better daily routine, if only to have a better answer to that question), my research methods, and my vocabulary.  I was asked what I really thought of psychologists?  I was asked what I really thought of science?  (For the record, I am pro both of those.)  Special thanks to the West Seattle Branch where my book was also apparently chosen for their Dinosaurs Read program and two plastic dinosaurs appeared, tiny copies of my book in their tiny hands.  When my own extinction event arrives, I hope I am reading a novel.

The Book-It Repertory Theatre production of We are all completely beside ourselves was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.  The cast was wonderful and the young woman who played my Rosemary a stand-out.  Bryan Burch’s adaption did a wonderful job compressing and illuminating the piece, as did Kelly Kitchen’s direction.  I was a bit embarrassed to find myself in tears during a couple of the speeches.  Poor Fern!  Exiled from her family!

One of the unexpected advantages of being a writer has been how often I find myself in the company of the bookish, who are the best sort of people.  Seattle has uncommonly beautiful libraries and uncommonly beautiful librarians and uncommonly beautiful patrons and writers and readers.  All this and also Elliott Bay Bookstore.  To be there is to remember that books matter and that I’m not the only person who thinks so.  Thank you, Seattle, for every minute of it.