Hotel angeline, p.1
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Hotel Angeline




  A Novel in 36 Voices


  Jennie Shortridge - Teri Hein - William Dietrich - Kathleen Alcalá

  Maria Dahvana Headley - Stacey Levine - Indu Sundaresan

  Craig Welch - Matthew Amster-Burton - Ed Skoog - David Lasky

  Greg Stump - Kevin O’Brien - Nancy Rawles - Suzanne Selfors

  Carol Cassella - Karen Finneyfrock - Robert Dugoni - Jarret Middleton

  Deb Caletti - Kevin Emerson - Kit Bakke - Julia Quinn - Mary Guterson

  Erik Larson - Garth Stein - Frances McCue - Erica Bauermeister

  Sean Beaudoin - Dave Boling - Peter Mountford - Stephanie Kallos

  Jamie Ford - Clyde Ford - Elizabeth George - Susan Wiggs




  Chapter 1. Jennie Shortridge

  Chapter 2. Teri Hein

  Chapter 3. William Dietrich

  Chapter 4. Kathleen Alcalá

  Chapter 5. Maria Dahvana Headley

  Chapter 6. Stacey Levine

  Chapter 7. Indu Sundaresan

  Chapter 8. Craig Welch

  Chapter 9. Matthew Amster-Burton

  Chapter 10. Ed Skoog

  Chapter 11. David Lasky and Greg Stump

  Chapter 12. Kevin O’Brien

  Chapter 13. Nancy Rawles

  Chapter 14. Suzanne Selfors

  Chapter 15. Carol Cassella

  Chapter 16. Karen Finneyfrock

  Chapter 17. Robert Dugoni

  Chapter 18. Jarret Middleton

  Chapter 19. Deb Caletti

  Chapter 20. Kevin Emerson

  Chapter 21. Kit Bakke

  Chapter 22. Julia Quinn

  Chapter 23. Mary Guterson

  Chapter 24. Erik Larson

  Chapter 25. Garth Stein

  Chapter 26. Frances McCue

  Chapter 27. Erica Bauermeister

  Chapter 28. Sean Beaudoin

  Chapter 29. Dave Boling

  Chapter 30. Peter Mountford

  Chapter 31. Stephanie Kallos

  Chapter 32. Jamie Ford

  Chapter 33. Clyde Ford

  Chapter 34. Elizabeth George

  Chapter 35. Susan Wiggs





  PART OF THE REASON I love living in Seattle is that there are two strong communities—one of writers and one of readers. I think of their relationship as a kind of Venn diagram. Each group has its own uniqueness and individuality, but there is a crucial overlap where their separate existences come together. And this overlap is, I think, crucial.

  Of course, Seattle is not the only city in the United States, or even the world, where this is the case. There are the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and, of course, Brooklyn, not to mention Portland, Oregon (and maybe Portland, Maine, for all I know); San Francisco; Austin; and Sydney, Australia. In fact, when I think back to the places I’ve traveled in the last decade, and the writers and readers I’ve gotten to know, perhaps every city, large and small, can claim these two separate but connected communities.

  The relationship between reading and writing is well documented, but I always remember that it was Ernest Gaines, author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman and other novels, whom I first heard articulate it to an audience. When he was in Seattle in 1999 (his novel A Lesson Before Dying had been selected for “Seattle Reads”), someone in the audience asked him if he had any advice for aspiring writers. He said, yes, he had eight words of advice: “Read, read, read, read, write, write, write, write.”

  Another aspect of the Venn diagram that—for me—expresses the relationship between readers and writers, or reading and writing, is this: No two people read the same book, even when it appears to be identical, with the same author, same cover, same publication date, and same pagination.

  When I say that no two people read the same book, I am thinking of three quotations.

  Robertson Davies, the great Canadian writer, stated in “A Rake at Reading”: “Reading is exploration, extension, and reflection of one’s innermost self.”

  Jorge Luis Borges wrote: “I sometimes think that good readers are poets as singular, and as awesome, as great authors themselves . . . Reading, meanwhile, is an activity subsequent to writing—more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.”

  And finally, in an interview with Joseph Malia in Bomb Magazine in 1988, Paul Auster said, “The one thing I try to do in all my books is to leave enough room in the prose for the reader to inhabit it. Because I finally believe it’s the reader who writes the book and not the writer.”

  This idea of no two readers reading the same book is easily demonstrated at any book group meeting. Everyone brings to the reading of a novel a lifetime of experiences—thoughts and dreams, successes and failures, preoccupations and habits—as well as his or her mood while reading the book in question. (Incidentally, that’s why I think there’s really no such thing as rereading, since each time we pick up a book we are, in some incalculable way, a different person, and therefore a different reader, with the result that it turns out to be a different book.) The writer writes a book and sends it out into the wider world, and each reader of that book makes it his or her own. I love that.

  Seattle is blessed with an enormous variety of writers who bravely send their novels out into a wider world than their own minds. The Novel: Live! project was a testament to this robust interconnected community, and the result of the project, Hotel Angeline, owes its unique charm to the diversity of that community. Loca-readers (as I like to call those people who especially enjoy reading books written by writers who live in, or set their novels in, their hometowns) can come to know the writers more fully through witnessing their literary intersection. To read Hotel Angeline is to celebrate how this diverse group of writers (and readers, all of them) can pool their talents and expertise to come up with such an entertaining and soul-satisfying novel.

  Here’s how I suggest you read Hotel Angeline: straight through, trying your best not to notice which author wrote which chapter, and only when you’ve finished that first read-through should you allow yourself to go back to the beginning and see who’s written what. When I read it a second time (still not looking at who wrote what), I put the list of contributors in front of me to see if I could figure out whom the writer of any particular chapter was. I found this to be both fun and instructive at the same time.

  As a reader, I was fascinated and awed first by the whole idea of The Novel: Live! project; second, by the number of writers who agreed to participate; and finally, by the fact that Hotel Angeline actually came to a delicious fruition. Whether it’s mysteries, historical novels, nonfiction, realistic fiction, novels for teens, thrillers, romances, or poetry that you read, you’ll find contributors to Hotel Angeline who come from each of those writerly disciplines. There are writers here whose books have been widely successful and those who perhaps haven’t yet reached the popularity they deserve—names you’ll recognize and, probably, some you might not know. And yet, despite their various literary backgrounds, they united to create Hotel Angeline.

  I was having lunch recently with a friend who has written novels for a teen audience. I asked her if she wished she had taken part in The Novel: Live! project. She laughed and said that, for her, writing was hard enough when she was sitting alone in her office. She couldn’t imagine trying to write a chapter with a camera and an audience focused on her as she was working.

  Writing a novel as performance art—who’d a thunk it? But how exciting that it worked!

  Only in Seattle.

  But wouldn’t it be great if other communitie
s of writers took on the idea and made it happen in their hometowns?

  Enjoy Hotel Angeline. I know that I did.


  THIS NOVEL WAS BORN ONE afternoon when Jennie Shortridge and I attended a planning meeting for a month-long arts festival to take place in Seattle. We had cofounded a literary nonprofit called Seattle7Writers, and so had been invited, along with a number of other people from the Seattle literary scene, to brainstorm ideas of fun events for the “literary week” of ArtsCrush.

  I have to admit, most of the ideas were a bit bland, and entailed . . . readings. More readings? Seattle, ranked the nation’s Most Literate City three out of the past six years (placing second in the off years), has dozens of readings every single evening at our wonderful bookstores, libraries, literary centers, and other venues. More readings? Was that the best we could do?

  “Let’s come up with something special,” I said. “How about a reading marathon for the entire week?”

  My suggestion was met with raised eyebrows and mumblings.

  “Better yet,” I said, “how about a writing marathon!”

  Well, now, that sounded promising.

  Jennie and I immediately began tossing about ideas, and soon, the kernel of The Novel: Live! emerged. We would write twelve hours a day for six days. Each writer would take a two-hour stint, requiring thirty-six authors. We would do it in a public place, on a stage, with an audience. We would simulcast it on the Internet, have a chat room function, raise money for our causes. We would bring in school field trips, auction off naming rights, and, hopefully, get it published. But best of all, we would energize readers and writers everywhere for a once-in-a-lifetime event!

  People called us crazy. People called us unrealistic. People said, “This is not how books are written!” We said, “Wait until you see how much fun this will be.”

  The Richard Hugo House immediately joined in and offered their cabaret space, video projector, staff, and cafe facilities. pledged a grant to underwrite the production. Independent bookstores all over the region agreed to help market TN:L! and offer special discounts to attendees. Restaurants donated food. Local luminaries offered to host evening events. An army of volunteers answered our call for support.

  And thirty-six authors laughed and scratched their heads and said, “Why the heck not?”

  On October 11, 2010, at 10:00 a.m., Jennie Shortridge typed the first word. On October 16, 2010, at 6:00 p.m., Susan Wiggs typed the 73,535th word. In between first and last words, great fun was had: from Mary Guterson’s record-setting stint (4,560 words!), to Erik Larson’s record-setting cups of coffee (four!), from Kit Bakke’s Long Distance Award (Shanghai, China!), to Susan Wiggs’s costume changes (four!).

  Writers are perfectionists by nature. We immerse ourselves in our manuscripts for months or years until they are just perfect. Being allotted merely two hours, and being put on stage, was liberating for so many of our authors. Part of it was the pressure: as Clyde Ford said, “I’ve written more in two hours than I usually write in two weeks; I should try this at home!” Part of it was the camaraderie: “No matter what happens, I’m only 1?36 to blame,” Kevin O’Brien said. Part of it was the craziness: “I can’t believe I agreed to do this,” said Erica Bauermeister.

  Keep in mind, this was not a free for all. Before we began, an editorial committee was convened, composed of Elizabeth George, Robert Dugoni, Jennie Shortridge, Maria Semple, and me. We brainstormed a story idea and outlined a plot. We knew if we were going to write a complete book in six days, our authors had to have very clear goals for their writing sessions. So in addition to each author reading the text that had already been written, he or she also met with an “editor” before taking the stage. The editor reviewed the narrative arc and the themes, and made suggestions about where we had to go next. Outside of these specific plot necessities, the writer was free to let his or her imagination roam.

  It was never our intention to accomplish in six days what took James Joyce eighteen years to accomplish with Ulysses; we knew we were not writing a literary masterpiece. It was our intention to build a solid, fun story that was a collaboration between three dozen writers, various editors, and an audience both live and virtual—what we wanted to create was a community. We began our project with so many objectives: make the writing process transparent to students, support our local literary causes, and raise the visibility of dozens of local writers. But in the end, one objective stood above all the rest: create connections between readers and writers, between bookstores and customers, between literary centers and libraries and their communities.

  In that sense, TN:L! continues to embody everything we stand for at Seattle7Writers, for we are a collective of Pacific Northwest authors with a twofold mission to raise awareness of Northwest literature and to give back to our communities by doing good works for literacy causes. We began our nonprofit with seven of us. We grew to ten, then to eighteen, then to thirty-two, and at latest count we are an alliance of forty Northwest writers who make it our mission to inspire people with our passion for reading and writing.

  After working with our editor, Julie Doughty, and all the folks at Open Road Integrated Media, we are proud to present the completed result of The Novel: Live!—Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices. It is collaboration in every sense of the word—different styles, different tones, different voices all working to a common end: a single story.

  How do thirty-six authors write the same characters in the same story? How does a character such as Alexis take any kind of coherent shape when drawn by thirty-six hands? Do fiction writers create their stories, or do we merely discover them and interpret what we see for others?

  I believe that we who write fiction discover our fictional worlds—or at least parts of them—and do our best to bring what we see to others. I also believe that until a reader interprets a writer’s vision through his or her own set of ideals, values, experiences, and expectations, a book is just a colorful doorstop, and it is not doing what it was designed to do: provoke thought and imagination.

  So I hope that you will take our novel as a provocation on multiple levels. First, as a story, of course. But also, as a provocation to think about what makes a community a great place to live. Conversation and dialogue are central to our society. Give and take, listening, speaking, thinking, hearing, adapting, understanding, evolving. The act of writing a book—which necessitates that that book be read to be valid—is the epitome of conversation, and so stands at the center of our communities.

  With that in mind, I encourage you to support your local libraries, bookstores, and literary centers; these are the places that help make our communities vibrant. In fact, by purchasing this book, you are doing just that: 100 percent of the proceeds earned by Seattle7Writers will be re-granted to not-for-profit literary causes throughout the Northwest.

  I hope you enjoy the story and adventures of Alexis and her wacky extended family. We certainly enjoyed bringing them to you. And now, turn the page, flick your finger across the screen of your ereader, or stay tuned on your audio book, and have fun getting to know Alexis, Linda, LJ, Habib, and rest of the cast of Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices.

  Garth Stein, Seattle, 2011



  HALFWAY UP THE BASEMENT STEPS of the Hotel Angeline, laden with a heavy stack of industrial sheets and towels, Alexis Austin was beginning to think that perhaps she’d taken on too heavy a load.

  If I just keep moving, she thought. I only have six more steps—

  The screech of a crow made her jump, dropping towels and sheets, even though she was getting used to Habib’s racket coming from LJ’s room. The crazy old man had rescued the crow from the alley behind the residential hotel the month before, finding it there with a broken wing, and all of the residents complained about the noise.

  “LJ!” she yelled, and retraced her steps down the stairs, picking up swaths of white fabric, pungent with vestigial bleach. T
he stairs creaked and sighed as they had been doing for nearly one hundred years. Alexis shivered, imagining that sound in the old days when the hotel was a funeral home, morticians and grieving families treading them every day. Death had always felt close at the Hotel Angeline.

  “LJ!” she yelled again, and the bearded man appeared at the top of the stairs, Habib on his shoulder.

  “Yo, little sis,” he said. “What’s up?”

  “That crow has to go,” Alexis grumbled, but she knew her mother would never have made their dear friend give up his pet.

  Her mother, Edith, had been running the Hotel Angeline—named for the daughter of Chief Sealth, Seattle’s namesake—far longer than the fourteen years Alexis had been alive. The people who lived here now were the people who had always lived here, society’s rabble-rousers and rebels from days gone by. Hippies, some people called them, but her mother said they were all heroes, and that she would always take care of them, no matter what.

  Only now there was no way her mother could help. Three months ago she’d gotten sick with what seemed like the triple-whammy flu—coughing, headaches, rashes, exhaustion—and Alexis had been doing more to take care of the hotel and its residents before school and after school, making the afternoon tea in the parlor, collecting the rents. No one had inquired after her mother in quite some time, and Alexis stopped now on the stairs, sheets wound around her arms, towels spilling all the way to the basement, and swallowed back salt, then drew a breath.

  “You could at least help me, LJ,” she said to the old man. He was like a father to her, truly, and he was far nicer to her than she was to him sometimes. Her own father had gone AWOL before her birth, that’s how much he had cared about her. Her mother didn’t like to talk about him. Alexis suspected he was dead. LJ would sometimes say, “Your old man was one cool dude,” and when she’d press for more, he’d shake his head. “Promised Edith,” he’d say, shrugging. For as long as she’d known LJ, he’d always kept his promises.

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