Hotel Angeline

Let’s face it – many of us do (at least initially) judge a book by its cover, both in terms of publications, people, places, and the world in general.  I am especially guilty of this when looking for new reads at the local library, and while it’s not enough to ensure my commitment if I read the blurb on the back cover or on the inside flap and decide it’s not my cup of tea, it definitely plays into getting my attention in the first place. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, since this tendency is what justifies the existence of thousands of ad agencies and artists collaborating all over the world to reel us in!

In this case, the cover that captured my attention was this one.

Not even so much for the illustration, though it’s pleasing, as for the”novel in 36 voices” tagline.  What did that even mean?  It’s a pretty slim volume, after all…

So I checked it out, and took it home, and read it.  And I enjoyed it. But more than that, I was fascinated by the concept behind it, which was this: as part of “Literary Week” during the month-long “Arts Crush” festival in Seattle, organizers decided that instead of the typical series of readings, they could hold a writing marathon to raise money for local organizations devoted to nurturing young writers – Seattle Arts & Lectures and 826 Seattle. The offbeat brainchild of the co-founders of Seattle7Writers was to have 36 authors write a complete novel in 6 days (12 hours a day), in 2-hour-long blocks of time.

And so they did!  They have an entire website devoted to the project – The Novel: Live! –  where you can watch some video of the writing (not your normal “action movie”!) and find out all about the authors involved as well as other initiatives that sprang from this project, including education outreach in local schools.

Most authors stuck with traditional formats, but one approached the project as a graphic novel, which definitely stood out.

I think one of the reason this project really caught and kept my attention is that it seems like one of those “this is just crazy enough to work!” ideas that are so rare yet precious.

And it never takes itself too seriously – there’s even a moment about halfway through where the main character, complaining about the unexpected twists and turns of her life, says:

“Nothing’s that simple anymore. I just got tossed into this world that I don’t agree with, where everything drastically changes in an instant.” Alexis glanced over and Linda returned a look of recognition. “It feels like thirty-six authors are somewhere writing my life,” she said. It made Linda laugh. (126)

As the organizers say in their introduction to the novel, they were not setting out to write a literary masterpiece in 6 days. They were trying to spark a fun and collaborative environment where the process mattered way more than the product.  And that is something I both respect and admire…and try to focus on every time I make art.

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