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Beer and a Chat with Carl Deuker

By Jay Craig

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, Jay Craig interviews Carl Deuker.

Carl Deuker

Jay Craig

We scheduled our interview for a Thursday in mid-May at my go-to beer joint, the Market Arms. Unfortunately, it was the local Norwegian’s version of Cinco de Mayo and the place was packed because it’s on the parade route. We instead went to the Sloop and I was really hoping Amanda, who I’ve known for years from Mulleady’s and the Olde P, was working and not the blonde who was on the last time I was there, several months earlier.

Several months earlier, I was there eating dinner at the bar when an attractive woman sits down and starts talking to me. After a few beers she suggested we go find her ex-boyfriend, who was last seen at the George and Dragon, and start making out in front of him. “He won’t know WHAT to think,” she said, putting her hand on my leg.

The ex-boyfriend dumped her a few months ago and she’s been stalking him ever since. Getting him back was the only thing that mattered to her and none of her friends or even her mother would talk to her anymore. She’s slept with four guys already and even THAT hasn’t worked. I thought I’d be doing her a favor by being very honest and direct about how messed up she was and when she started crying loudly the blonde bartender gave me such a frustrated and nasty look I avoided the Sloop from then on.

But now the blonde bartender had dyed her hair and was currently a brunette. Maybe this meant I got a clean slate, I thought. We took a table and after a bit of a wait, the blonde/brunette got us some beers and told us she was the only one on, hinting that we should go up to the bar for our next round.

A couple days earlier, in preparation for my first interview, I went around looking for an Interview Notebook. They don’t actually make Interview Notebooks so I had to take a few sheets of paper and fold them in half. Since it would have felt rude to be writing things while he was talking, their blankness was glaring up at me the entire interview. It reminded me of a last minute high school book report on Moby Dick that was a bunch of blank pages stapled together and titled, On the Whiteness of the Whale. It got a ‘not funny’ F.

Carl grew up in Northern California and followed the 49ers, disregarding immediately, even at a young age, the dirty Raiders of the lowly AFC. I judge a lot about man based on his football politics and when he told me that he, too, didn’t pay any attention to the Seahawks until Holmgren came in and then a year later got switched over to the NFC, I knew he was alright. Plus, he knows who Sonny Jurgensen is.

When Carl was a little kid, his mother got a call that her husband, provider for her and their two young children, had died of a heart attack while he was out on the road. He told me to imagine what that must have been like for her and, of course, I couldn’t.

There wasn’t much in the way of support back then and things weren’t easy for the young family. One of his earliest thoughts was that he needed to do well in school, and not to impress anybody, but because life was going to be harder without a dad.

Since he’s got a bunch of books and they’re apparently very good, I just assumed he was a full time writer. “Oh god no. That would be horrible,” he winced.

Carl’s married with a daughter, teaches sixth grade, enjoys golf, plays the recorder, follows sports in addition to football, and publishes a book every two years or so.

As we finished our beers I asked if I could send him an email to follow up on some things and he thought I probably had more than enough. “I think these interviews are only supposed to be 400 words.”

Since the blonde brunette bartender was too busy to come out from behind the bar, we had to guess at the tab. We left a messy pile of bills and didn’t bus our glasses, but I’m pretty sure there was a good tip.

Carl Deuker is the author of several young adult novels featuring sports. Read more about him at his page on

In the Backyard Garden with Joshua McNichols

By Joan Shott

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, Joan Shott profiles Joshua McNichols.

photo by Harley Soltes

“Convince me,” I told Joshua McNichols, co-author of The Urban Farm Handbook, when we met at his Ballard home in early May just as his vegetable garden was beginning to take hold. I told him I was a flower gardener and I had misgivings about my ability to grow vegetables in our cool and cloudy climate, even with our post-July 4th summer days. Joshua said he’d show me the way. Living in the cool and cloudy Northwest hasn’t deterred him from growing food on his property. He said it would be easy to think of planting a garden in warm and dry southern California, but this is where he lives and he’s learning to work with what we Northwest folks have: cloudy skies and rain and slugs.

As we spoke on his deck about the apple trees growing in an espalier row along his property line, I saw a familiar face in the back yard directly across from his. It was Donna, my former piano teacher. We waved hellos and I made a promise to call her about more lessons. It had been ten years since I studied with her. Sigh. That means more work in my schedule. But seeing Donna through Joshua’s apple trees made me think of how small a world we live in. Too small, McNichols knows, to allow mega-grocery stores to take over the globe. Too small to give in to a lifetime of processed foods. But it’s big enough to find a way to grow enough food in your own yard.

Joshua McNichols lives with his wife and two young children in a modest bungalow on a 5000 square-foot lot with a small back yard. Yet he grows a large variety of food there. His secrets to success as an urban vegetable gardener are spelled out in the book he has co-authored with Annette Cottrell, The Urban Farm Handbook. It is part recipe book, part grocery list, part how-to garden, and totally inspirational. After my first read-through, I am ready to tear out half the shrubs in my front yard and build a raised bed to grow lettuce, maybe some asparagus, but most definitely, tomatoes.

Tomato bed in May

Joshua shared with me his secret to growing tomatoes. I confessed I was one of those people who bought tomato plants at my local nursery and put them in the ground in late May and prayed for sun and warm weather. Some years there would be nothing but green tomatoes along my fence by September and other years a few red ones we could actually enjoy. It was always a gamble, but I believe after talking to Joshua, I can grow a crop that will give me enough yield to pass along extras to family and friends. Joshua’s method is as follows:

1. Mid April: prepare bed (fertilize, add compost)
2. May 1: purchase tomato starts (1 for 3 x 3 area)
3. Plant with bamboo tepees and protect with water-filled plastic sleeves (available at nurseries). Cover with plastic over hoop frame.
4. Water once a week if it doesn’t rain (May-July). Water deeply so that a good root system develops.
5. July 4, lift plastic sleeves (the book describes how to cut to reuse for another year). Prune hard.
6. August 1, cut off all watering, allow to ripen. During August remove young branches and thin flowers.

Joshua’s yard is also home to chickens which he raises for eggs (orange-tinted yolks, he claims due to their diet) and meat. Okay, so I’m not going to raise chickens in my yard even after reading the book. Josh, who was trained as an architect, designed and built his stylish coop, including the installation of shutters to keep his hens quiet on weekend mornings to placate his neighbors. It turns out that chickens get especially squawky when they are laying an egg. Imagine that.

Chicken coop with small run and custom shutters

McNichols gets approximately 30 percent of his family’s food in his yard or directly from farmers. He told me his co-author Annette gets closer to 90 percent. She’s hard-core. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all as I drove away from Josh’s yard. I imagine Annette’s would stun me. But I left the garden and the chickens and the apple trees with two goals and another big sigh: grow those tomatoes next spring and get back to my piano lessons with Donna. Anything worth having in life is worth working for. I’m pretty sure I’ll do the tomatoes.

You can learn more about Joshua McNichols and The Urban Farm Handbook on Joshua’s page at

Podcast Episode #3: Peggy Sturdivant

It’s the third episode of the Ballard Writers Collective Podcast!

This podcast features unpublished stories told live, without notes, at Egan’s Ballard Jam House.

Today producer Joshua McNichols introduces us to storyteller Peggy Sturdivant. Well, he can’t really introduce her, since you already know her as the regular host of this podcast, or as the founder of the Ballard Writers Collective. Peggy is also a newspaper columnist and author of the book Out of Nowhere. Today Peggy shares her story “Unprescribed Honeymoon.”

You can listen to this episode of the podcast here.

If you want to subscribe to this podcast and have episodes download automatically to your listening device of choice, please visit our feedburner page and select your podcast subscriber tool of choice (such as itunes) by clicking one of the icons in the upper-right hand corner.

Getting to Know BJ Neblett

By Rita Bresnahan

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, Rita Bresnahan profiles BJ Neblett.

BJ Neblett: Comfortable in Front of a Microphone

A South Philadelphia native, BJ Neblett was always “Billy” growing up. In his 30’s he became DJ Billy James. It was only in 2011 that he became “BJ,” at the behest of his publisher, who thought “BJ” sounded more professional and mature. But “Billy” is who this man really is, the name he is known by everywhere except in the publishing world. At times it still might take him a few seconds to respond when someone calls him “BJ.”

After serving his country during the Vietnam War, Billy came back and fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a radio DJ. He built a career across the U.S. as popular radio DJ Billy James, honing his writing skills on radio scripts and commercial copy.

Billy first moved to the Northwest in 1990, settling in Redmond, where his sister lived. His mother, in poor health, soon joined them. At first he volunteered at Bellevue’s public radio station KBCS, then after a stint at KBSG was hired full-time by KJR. Then he was wooed away from the Northwest to become music director for a Houston oldies rock and roll station. Later, on to Charleston, and then on to…

After 35 years in radio, as DJ and as a music and program director rebuilding stations, Billy grew tired of moving around and “living the good life.” By that time, he owned ten cars, a ranch home on five acres with all the amenities and then one day he simply decided… “It’s time to retire.” So he did. At the ripe old age of 52.

But with little to occupy his time, he found himself “climbing the walls.” And doing some soul-searching as well, so unexpectedly 2002 became a marker year for him. He sold his mansion, all his cars, put a few things in storage, and with no destination in mind, he hit the road. Not in a car. Rather, he walked many a mile, he thumbed, tried his luck at truck stops, and rode buses and trains for days on end. “I had to let all my responsibilities go, in order to clear my mind, so I could hear more clearly what was there. And I just started writing, like I’d always done, all my life.”

This man was on the road for nearly six years! It was during this open-ended time that his book began emerging. While riding on trains and buses, and staying in hotels along the way, he wrote every word on a yellow tablet. He carried no computer with him. “Being on the road, and writing everything by hand, is what really got my juices going.”

HP Lovecraft

Elysian Dreams “wrote itself from inside out.” It did not start out as a book, but as a short story, or actually as a writing exercise. One short story after another came pouring forth, in the form of myriad characters. He describes himself “listening” to each character as she or he appeared. “Most of the time, and when I do my best, I feel I’m listening, almost transcribing.” Although he “hates it” when anyone labels his writing “time travel” or “science fiction,” it often does carry many of that genre’s familiar elements.

Rod Serling

Billy has been writing since he was a boy, shaped as he was, by growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, immersed in Twilight Zone and sitcoms, “where slices of life are so compressed.” He became a fan of irony, and began seeing it all around him, as “God’s personal joke on us.” O. Henry’s irony and short stories influenced him greatly, as did the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Tim Matheson, Stephen King, and Rod Serling.

BJ prefers writing the short story to the novel, and believes that short story formats are making a comeback, partly because of our short attention spans these days, coupled with the scarcity of reading time. A hallmark of Billy’s short stories: they take real people in real places, and put them into extreme circumstances. “If you want to learn about who I am, read my stories. I write about stuff that people don’t know about me. It’s cleansing, and good medicine.”

He’s written only one piece about his Viet Nam experiences. You can find “Purple Heart” on his May 27th blog posting for Memorial Day weekend. It’s quite a story, with an O. Henry twist.

And yes, he did receive the Purple Heart.

BJ is currently working on two short story collections, as well as a sequel to Elysian Dreams. He is most proud and excited about his next release, Ice Cream Camelot, a historical memoir about growing up in the Kennedy era, between the ages of eleven and fifteen. In alternating chapters the life of President Kennedy parallels that of a young boy growing up in South Philadelphia and the suburbs. With the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in the upcoming year, Ice Cream Camelot will be a most timely release.

Reflecting on his Disc Jockey past and writing present, BJ says, “My voice has been heard all over the world…a lot of people know me that I don’t know.” Through his words spoken and written he believes, “My voice is still traveling through space.”

BJ Neblett is the author of Elysian Dreams, “A book of romantic adventure which examines the costs of exploring your dreams while fulfilling your destiny.”

His Ice Cream Camelot will be released in early 2013.

You can find out more about BJ Neblett on his page.




5/24/12 Reading from Flyaway… in L.A.!

Okay, so it’s in Los Angeles, but we’re proud of Ballard Writer Helen Landalf for landing this classy gig.

6:30 PM, Thursday, May 24, 2012.

Helen Landalf reads from Flyaway as part of the Teen Reading series at the Los Angeles downtown library.

5/22/12 Workshop: How to Sell Your Book – And Yourself

When: 7PM, May 22nd, 2012.

Cost: $35

826 Seattle
8414 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
United States

Taught by Ballard Writers Jennifer Worick & Kerry Colburn.

Create a killer author platform and marketing plan that demand attention. This talk has you uncovering the many strengths and attributes that you can bring to the table as an author, participating in social media and other creative ways to build your platform, and brainstorming a robust and creative marketing plan for your title that will serve your book well, both now and after it’s sold.

With more than 40 books and 40 years of publishing experience between them, Jennifer Worick and Kerry Colburn are the dynamic duo behind The Business of Books (, which offers publishing seminars, workshops, and consulting. Jennifer is the former editorial director of Running Press and the author of many helpful and hilarious books, including the New York Times best-seller, The Worst Case Scenario Handbook: Dating and Sex. Kerry, previously executive editor of Chronicle Books, most recently authored Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers. Now in Seattle, they guide potential authors toward marketable, savvy book proposals that have the best possible chance for success.

Tickets available through Brown Paper Tickets.

More information at 826Seattle’s website.

Pat Hughes: Writer and Expert Listener

By Joshua McNichols

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, Joshua McNichols profiles Pat Hughes.

Pat Hughes comes from a family with strong opinions. Her father, for example, disapproves of several of her life choices and lets her know about it. But Pat was always able to see more than one side of an issue. She got into journalism partly because she figured if she had all the facts about the world, she could make up her mind about things. She could develop strong opinions of her own. But that didn’t happen. Investigating both sides of the story only made her world more complex.

Somewhere along the way, Pat decided that was okay. Once she’d accepted a complicated world, she found she’d become a sort of natural mediator. Before long she began writing guidebooks in which she tries to teach large organizations how to improve their internal politics – by listening.

Pat uses some pretty “West Coast” language in her books. She uses those books as a curriculum to accompany her workshops. She writes about finding an organization’s “spirit,” about creating “gracious space” where we can “welcome the stranger.” Sometimes, the organization’s managers immediately understand exactly what she’s trying to do. Other times such touchy-feely words feel like a mouthful of marshmallows to executives more accustomed to firing off orders. “Gracious space?” one workshop participant asked. “What is that? It sounds like church.”

When Pat hears this critique, she nods and listens carefully. Then she says, “Okay, I hear your concerns. Let’s keep talking and see what happens.” Usually, she says the process wins people over. Once they see how effectively her method inspires communication, she says they quickly become enthusiastic.

Photo by The Center for Ethical Leadership

It seems there’s something important about leaving formal language behind and adopting more inclusive words. When an organization’s employees come to a weekend retreat hosted by their employer, Pat’s unfamiliar phrases take them completely by surprise. Just like redecorating a room, Pat’s language creates a space that feels different, more welcoming. Under her guidance, workshop participants open up and reveal their privately held conflicts. Rank and office melt away and people communicate. Someone once joked that Pat had found a way to sneak group therapy into large organizations.

“These ideas are as old as the hills,” Pat tells me. “Everybody already knows this stuff.” We credit Abraham Lincoln, for example, with building a cabinet that included his fiercest rivals. But though we recognize the genius of that move, few of us act on that kind of knowledge. Pat says that’s because we lack the framework, the proper language, and the courage. The words we use actually influence the way we think. She says when everybody in an organization begins to use the same inclusive language, amazing things start to happen.

Patricia Hughes is the author of Gracious Space and Courageous Collaboration through Gracious Space. To learn more, visit her page on


5/17/12 Book pre-launch party with Wendy Hinman.

Book pre-launch party for Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey by Ballard author Wendy Hinman.

Thursday, May 17 at 7:00pm at Ravenna Third Place Books.

5/12/12 Event: “Road Trip: Stories & Music”

An indescribable literary event organized and curated by Ballard writer Jennifer D. Munro, author of The Erotica Writer’s Husband.

Full-throttle fun, with Maureen (bellydance: Jabberwocky), Emily Riesser (soprano), John Henry’s Hammer (roots music), Ingrid Ricks (Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story), David P. Moore (David & Suzanne’s Big Frickin’ Canadian Motorcycle Adventure), & Jennifer D. Munro ( All Ages Welcome. This project was supported, in part, by an award from 4Culture.

Saturday, May 12, 2012, 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM

at Enlighten Cafe in Ballard.

The comfy chairs at Enlighten Cafe.

5/11/12 Book Signing at Greenwood Art Walk

Friday, May 11, 2012
6:00pm until 9:00pm

Santoro’s Books
7405 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103

Meet the authors: Elena Louise Richmond signing copies of “99 Girdles on the Wall” and Donna Miscolta signing “When the De La Cruz Family Danced”