In 2019, Whatcom County Library System celebrated its 75th anniversary with a new annual event “Read & Share.” Read & Share aims to spread the love of reading while connecting the community through ideas, information, and a nonfiction book by a regional author.
This year’s book is “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” by four-time bestselling author Erica Bauermeister. A collection of essays in memoir format, the book follows Bauermeister’s journey renovating a house in Port Townsend, WA. If you’ve ever poured your heart into a home, you’re sure to enjoy this story of marriage, family, and roots.
Get to know Bauermeister and her work in this Q&A and through these events by the Whatcom County Library System:
Author Interview: October 12, 7 p.m.
Book Talk: October 14, 7 p.m.
Memoir Workshop: October 16- October 17, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience writing “House Lessons: Renovating a Life?”
A: “House Lessons” was written over the course of 15 years. The first draft was written in 2001, as the events were actually occurring. While writing in the midst of the action meant I captured lots of vivid details that came in incredibly handy later, I didn’t yet have the perspective to step back and truly understand the lessons the house was teaching me and could teach others. They say at the end of a good memoir, the reader knows more about themselves than the author, and that requires time and distance on the part of the writer. When I came back to the story 15 years after the events occurred, with the maturity and compassion that time can give you, I was ready to write a book that took on the more universal aspects of the experience. That’s when the story became a memoir in essays, and I had the chance to play with topics such as how the psychology of space and how the houses we live in affect us, or how the parenting we experienced affects the parenting we give, among other things.
Q: As a longtime Washingtonian, how would you say the Pacific Northwest has impacted your writing?
A: From the first time I flew into Seattle, over that beautiful jigsaw puzzle of land and water with all those beautiful hiding places for stories, I knew I was home. There is something about the nooks and crannies of our geography, the long and rainy winters, the silver of the sky and water set against the greens of the trees, that sets my imagination going. Because my soul feels so comfortable here, I find it easier to access compassion and insights, and to move out of my comfort zone.
Q: What made you decide to share your story in this format? Has your past work influenced this book in any way?
A: I am a writer who thinks in images, who loves to explore the serendipitous connections between and the larger implications in things. It’s an approach that is both light and deep at the same time, and it makes sense that I am drawn to interconnected stories and essays as a structure. I tried to write House Lessons as a straight chronological description of events, but it was when I switched it to a memoir-in-essays that everything came together for this book.
Q: “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” and you are the focus for this year’s WCLS “Read & Share.” What are you looking forward to about this? What are you hoping attendees will take away from it?
A: I love when I hear from readers who say “I am looking at my house in a whole new light now.” I am excited by the idea of people learning to think of their homes as dynamic spaces that can help them become better people. And I am excited to think that this book might inspire someone to save an old house, or take on a new challenge that might seem overwhelming. Because if we can clean out 7.5 tons of trash and lift a house off the ground, just imagine what else is possible!