Brendan Jones | Fifteen Notes on Writing (& Other Things)

  1. A
    few weeks back a friend went out on a kayak and didn’t return. The fire
    department found his boat in a bed of kelp. He had gone out at ten in the
    evening in the wind and rain. I was in Wrangell when it happened. I confirmed
    his photo for the radio station. Painted the side of my boat while Mountain
    Rescue searched.
  2. You
    need to do a fishermen’s reading, says the town vet. Not for the hoi-polloi.
    Trollers are the most discerning readers out there. They’re waiting for the
    snubbers to go off, out on the 60-fathom line, and so they read. And they’re
    either hooked by the story or they aren’t. The most honest critics you can get.
    But let me read the book first. I can tell you if I’ll recommend it.
  3. The
    deputy clerk in the town where I live signs her name in an elfin font. A witchy
    font. I like this.
  4. The
    kayak was returned by the fire department wrapped in plastic.
  5. Recently,
    while writing an article on surfing in Alaska, I got blowback. About the
    possibility of revealing breaks that folks in the Lower 48 might ruin.
    Horseshit, said another surfer. There are so many variables you need to line
    up, you’d need to be a goddamn meteorologist to catch a wave around here. I
    continue to struggle with this.
  6. At
    two pm tomorrow I’m bringing in my dog to get his teeth cleaned by the vet. I
    hope he likes the book.
  7. A
    friend wishes to fill the kayak with concrete and set it upright on a beach,
    just off the kelp bed.
  8. Charter
    and commercial fishermen used to be like the Montagues
    and Capulets in this town, the simmer of winter boiling over into spring
    shouting matches.
    I’ve taken flack for housing charter deckhands on the
    tugboat, albeit good-humored. Kind of. Bumper stickers read “I’d rather have a
    daughter in a whorehouse than a son on a charter boat.” “Charter Nazis.” And so
    forth. But these days don’t seem so bad.
  9. Speaking
    of bumper stickers, the other day I saw one in the harbor parking lot that read
    “BUY GUNS/BUY BOOKS.” I wonder why the enjambment? I almost would rather, “BUY
    GUNS BUY BOOKS like there was some continuity between the two. But there’s not.
    No matter how much one hopes.
  10. I’m using this time with the family
    away to work on a second novel. I realize now what a pain in the ass I was to
    friends and writers who weren’t friends, just asking them at the drop of a hat
    to read. How destructive it is to the process. Just shut up write. There’s
    nothing worse than a whiny writer. Nothing.
  11. Charter fishermen don’t care about
    their wake, I can tell you that much. I just got rocked against the bull-rail
    three times in a row. Peeked out the porthole, a parade of charter boats.
  12. A couple months ago in the Wrangell
    shipyard I met a man, short with gray whiskers, who looked like a thin Elmer
    Fudd. “I’ll trade boats with you,” he said, looking at the tugboat. I wasn’t
    sure if he was joking. In fact I’m still not. The following day he crashed into
    the side of a mountain on Admiralty Island.
  13. Next week I’m going to Homer, then
    Anchorage, then Juneau for readings of The
    Alaskan Laundry.
    I am excited about this. Also for a wedding in Homer.
    Alaska weddings are the best. And this couple is very, very in love.
  14. I don’t know how to understand
    things except by writing about them. It’s always been that way.
  15. Just shut up and write.

Brendan Jones is the author of the novel The Alaskan Laundry, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A recipient of a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Ragdale, he is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has had work in the New York TimesPloughsharesNarrative MagazinePopular WoodworkingThe Huffington Post, and has recorded commentaries for NPR. Raised in Philadelphia, he took the Greyhound west at the age of 19, ending up in Sitka, Alaska. He graduated from Oxford University, where he boxed for the Blues team, then returned to Alaska to commercial fish. He was a general contractor for seven years in Philadelphia, before heading back to Sitka, where he now lives, commercial fishing and renovating a WWII tugboat. |

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