I recently had the pleasure of reading at the Artsmith Salon on Orcas Island. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest a short time, and I’m ecstatic at every opportunity to hop a ferry and venture out to the San Juan Islands, so to get to do a reading on Orcas was pretty much perfect, and I was thrilled to get the invitation from authors/directors Jill McCabe Johnson and Jennifer Brennock.

The islands are always great to visit. Hippy pastoral with tremendous heart. Land and farms galore.  Here is one place, later in the day:

Orcas has this terrific art salon. In their literary series, guest authors read and talk about their books, then everyone shares their work, drinks wine, and eats.  It is typically hosted at the charming Kangaroo House, a Bed and Breakfast owned by Jill and her husband Charles (also a Texas native).

 The day was awesome. After arriving on the island, I only got lost once while trying to find the Kangaroo House (because I get lost everywhere I go); I got to spend some time reading beside a lake before the event; and Orcas has a great independent bookstore, Darvill’s. Most importantly, I got to meet, hang out with, and hear work by all the writers, except Jennifer (which was too bad, because I’ve since read some of her material, and it’s great). I had a great time sitting up late into the night with Jill (whose work I already knew, and whose short story floored me when she read it that night), talking about our current projects. I can’t wait to get back, to see more of the island and to hang out with these folks again. Here are two pictures (JB standing, Jill seated).

I feel lucky and honored to have gotten this invitation and this experience. Thanks so much to everyone involved.


The next night, I met my friend Kelly in Seattle, and we saw the band Wilco at the Paramount. Wilco was important to writing Hustle. Revising it, really, because I wrote the final version toward a line from a Wilco song that I’d intended to use as the book’s epigraph (a trick I learned while reading Kurt Vonnegut’s archive in Bloomington). It’s from a song titled “She’s a Jar.” The line – which is perfect – is: “When I forget how to talk, I sing.” Unfortunately I couldn’t use it because I couldn’t get the rights. Not because of singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy or Wilco’s management – neither had any idea this was happening – but because a person working for one of the two (yes, two) companies holding the rights to the lyrics made it impossibly difficult. I went back and forth with him for over two months, until the conversation reached Kafka-esque absurdity. As the publication date approached, I decided to let it go. When I tried to think of a new one, my editor Robin suggested I only use an epigraph that would be meaningful like that one. Finally I decided to go without, and I’m glad for the decision.

If you’re interested, here is a link to a video of Wilco performing the song:

She’s a Jar

What I’m Currently Reading: Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot
What I’m Currently Listening To: Whatever the name is of the new Maroon 5 album and REM’s new collection