Local authors launch new Books on the Bus program in Kirkland
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
June 27, 2012 · 2:21 PM
Riding the bus can be a solitary experience.
Some plug in their earphones, look out the window, or take a nap until they reach their destination.
But a new community-wide book program for bus riders, Books on the Bus, aims to make mass transit commuting more of a conversational experience.
“We are all so busy being in our own different little worlds – being behind our computers, in our cubicles and in our homes,” said Garth Stein, Seattle author of the New York Times best-seller “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” during the program’s launch on Thursday at the Kirkland Transit Center. “With mass transit, we all come together with a common goal. We may go our separate ways when we reach our destinations, but for a few minutes we form an ad hoc community on a bus. The Books on the Bus program will take that community and grow it.”
Transportation Choices Coalition, King County Metro, Richard Hugo House, King County Library System, and Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association partnered to form the new program.
Each quarter, Books on the Bus will highlight a book for participants to read on their bus rides. The first selection is “Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices.” A project of the Seattle7Writers group, “Hotel Angeline” was written live on stage as part of a weeklong collaboration among 36 Pacific Northwest authors. Half of the proceeds from sales of the book will support local literacy nonprofits.
The majority of selections will be written by local authors or take place in the Pacific Northwest. During the reading period, riders will have many opportunities to discuss the book—on buses, at stops, or in gathering places across the county. At the end of the reading period, Transportation Choices will host an event to celebrate the book and encourage further discussion.
Stein, who came up with the idea for “Hotel Angeline,” said the Books on the Bus program “civilizes” everything that the book’s authors believe in – a community coming together around books.
“Conversation and dialogue are essential to our society,” Stein added. “The act of literature necessitates that a book be read to be valid. This is the epitome of conversation and so stands at the center of our communities.”
Several regional and local officials attended the event, including Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee and King County Councilman Bob Ferguson.
Ferguson knows firsthand how valuable reading on a bus is. He takes time to read during his daily work commute to Seattle on Metro Route No. 41.
“One thing that really resonates with me is finding time to read in our busy lives,” said Ferguson. “With a full-time job and now 4-year-old twins, I value more and more every day that 25 minutes I get on Route 41 that takes me downtown to read the books I’m reading.”
Several years ago, Ferguson started a segment in his online constituent newsletter called “Bob’s Bus Books.”
“As I would ride the Metro buses, often the person sitting next to me would say, ‘Hey, what book are you reading?’ or ‘I’ve read that book too,’ or ‘What do you think of that author?’ which is a good conversation starter and it was a little bit of community on that bus that I would take every day,” said Ferguson. “It’s that sense of community that bonds around books and bonds around literature that is simply different than so many other mediums we have.”
Carla Saulter, membership manager at Transportation Choices and author of the blog Bus Chick, Transit Authority, said public transit also provides many opportunities for interaction.
“Buses create mobile and very diverse communities all over the county, all day long,” added Saulter.
Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee, who travels a lot internationally, says its universal that people who ride public transportation usually keep to themselves.
Lee said the new Books on the Bus program will create opportunities for others to “know their neighbors” and to break the ice.
During the event, local novelists Stein, Jennie Shortridge and Dave Boling read chapters of “Hotel Angeline.”
“My mother and father met on a bus, by the way, so we have them to credit or discredit,” laughed Boling, who lives in Redmond. As he read, Metro buses pulled up to the bus bay, unloading passengers who briefly listened as they passed by.
Boling described the experience of helping to write “Hotel Angeline,” as “pros in a pressure cooker.”
He added the funniest part about the writing process was that people watching the streaming video were allowed to see how the process works.
“I thought the hilarious one was when (author) Carol Cassella showed up in her blue, fuzzy bathrobe because that’s how she writes at home.”
To sign up for Books on the Bus, visit transportationchoices.org/books.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at email@example.com or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).