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My time is broken up into two very different kinds of writing. By day I work for Civic Ventures, a public-policy incubator founded by Nick Hanauer and Zach Silk. I do all kinds of writing there every day, both on our blog and in a behind-the-scenes capacity on messaging and communication strategy and all sorts of things like that. Basically, our goal is to redefine the way people discuss capitalism and economics and politics. (If you’d like to know more about what we do, I suggest listening to our podcast The Other Washington, which touches on a lot of the issues we care most about: the $15 minimum wage, secure scheduling, gun responsibility, etc.).
By night, I’m the co-founder of the Seattle Review of Books, a website featuring reviews, news, features, and interviews from Seattle, which I consider to be the greatest book city in the world. My partner Martin McClellan and I launched the site last July, and the response has been absolutely wonderful. Thanks to our readers, we’re becoming an authoritative resource for Seattle’s literary scene, chronicling the Seattle Public Library controversy, a certain bookstore in University Village, and the changing face of bookselling in the city. (We even taught a six-week book reviewing class at Hugo House, which was one of the high points of our first year!)
I love both types of writing. On the one hand, I adore politics and I believe that Civic Ventures is changing the political discourse for the better. But on the other hand, Seattle’s literary scene is my muse, and writing about books has been a central pleasure of my life. No matter how hard I try, I can’t write about just books or just politics, because they are my twin passions.
Anyway, Civic Ventures is based out of Nick’s venture-capital offices in the Russell Investment Center on Second Avenue—previously known as the WaMu Center before Washington Mutual crapped itself and died in 2008—and we have some gorgeous 28th-floor views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle. One day last April, to celebrate my coworker Goldy’s birthday, we bought him a hammock. In the year since, I’ve done a lot of writing in that hammock. During the day, I’ll write about politics. Some nights, I’ll stick around after hours and write book reviews while rocking back and forth, my laptop resting on my belly.
The hammock has become one of my favorite places to write. You feel weightless in there, which helps keep your focus on the words on the screen. And every time you pause and look up from your writing, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of Seattle’s skyline. I’ll occasionally go into the hammock at 5 pm, get lost in my words, and look up hours later to see the city glowing red and purple from the sunset over West Seattle. And sometimes, when you’re deep in the writing, it can feel like you’re flying through the city like Superman. It’s a stunning, literal reminder of everything that I fight for and celebrate in my writing—this beautiful city, surrounding my field of vision as I write, looking like a crystalline science-fiction dream.
Paul Constant is the co-founder of the Seattle Review of Books. He edited the Stranger’s book coverage for seven years. He’s also published reviews for outlets including Literary Hub, the Progressive, and alternative weeklies around North America.