Events

Peggy Sturdivant, at Large in Ballard

By Laura Cooper

Read Ballard Writers on other Ballard Writers every couple of weeks. If you join our group, you may enter your name on a slip of paper and put it in Bob Dalrymple’s hat. We’ll draw the name of someone for you to profile and someone else to profile you. Who will it be? The surprise is all part of the fun. Today, Laura Cooper profiles Peggy Sturdivant.

Peggy Sturdivant

I have known about Peggy Sturdivant for years because she writes a weekly column for our local newspaper, the Ballard News Tribune, called At Large in Ballard. She shares her thoughts on various topics through well written, thought provoking and sometimes quite personal pieces. When I finally met her in person, it turned out that we had led extraordinarily parallel lives: we are the same age, from the same part of the world, and our fathers, both economists, worked together. In our Twenties, we worked within blocks of each other in Boston and snacked on the same huge muffins from the same store. We moved to Seattle at about the same time, have attended the same yoga class at the Ballard Health Club (owned by a Ballard author) for years, both volunteered for the Nordic Heritage Museum’s Oral History Project and both have a great love for good food, the farmers market, cello music and Ballard at large. In fact, it is quite remarkable that it took us half a century to meet face to face.

We met two years ago at the first Ballard Authors Night, an exciting evening conceived and executed by Peggy. Bringing together Ballard authors and people interested in local writers was a hit. This has become an annual event and led directly to the formation of the Ballard Writers group. Members of this group meet once a month to share ideas about writing. As a result, their books can be found in a special Local Authors section at Ballard’s Secret Garden Bookstore. At the Ballard Library, Peggy currently moderates a monthly series called Its About Time, where writers now have an opportunity to read their work. They can also perform live pieces at the Ballard Writers Jam at Egan’s Ballard Jam House, available as podcasts here, thanks to Ballard author Joshua McNichols. All of this because of Peggy’s vision.

Peggy has ideas—lots of them—and an ability to infuse others with enthusiasm. A few months after the first Ballard Authors Night, she approached me at a Tom Douglas cookbook function where I was busily doling out samples of a recipe from the cookbook I co-authored. Since I sit on the Board of the Ballard Historical Society, she casually asked me, between bites of potsticker, if I would help her get Ballard’s old Town Hall bell ringing again. Five intensive months of community involvement (organized by Peggy, myself, and Jay Craig, another Ballard author) and many memos and articles later, the bell was automated and now rings, adding an auditory dimension to Ballard’s historic ambience. This project was typical Peggy, an example of how one idea, a few people and lots of words can lead to many great things.

Peggy has also co-authored a book called Out of Nowhere, the true story of a young woman in Seattle who was disabled by an unsecured load flying into her car from the back of a truck. Given her focus on community, it is no surprise that Peggy was involved in communicating the story of a tragedy so pivotal that it led to the creation of federal legislation regulating unsecured loads.

After many years of teaching writing classes around town, Peggy has begun assisting people in writing their memoirs. I am enrolled in one of her classes and have found the community dimension of meeting regularly to discuss writing and practice our craft to be more rewarding than I could have expected. Peggy is supportive and energetic–a natural teacher. Her personal aspirations as a writer are specific: to read her work on NPR, to write regularly for the Vineyard Gazette and to publish a book of her own stories and essays. Writing is her art form. Community is her goal. She connects people through writing and creates communities large and small, which are deeper, richer, and safer, through the power of words.

3 Comments

  • martina on Aug 03, 2012 Reply

    When I meet Peggy in Ballard and we walk more than a block, it is like walking with a celebrity. Every few steps she meets someone she knows. Various subjects/ideas/observations are discussed. Along with a bit of laughter. Like Damien said “If you are lucky enough to be in her orbit, you’re a better person for it”. Being a friend of Peggy’s is a blessing. You described her beautifully.

  • Scott McCredie on Aug 01, 2012 Reply

    Well done. A lovely and loving portrait of an amazing woman.

  • Damien on Aug 01, 2012 Reply

    This is why I like Peggy. If you’re lucky enough to be in her orbit, you’re a better person for it.

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