I love author readings at Elliott Bay Books. The reading space is on the lower level, behind the cafe, and when I was a medical student I would take a break from studying and head down there to listen to writers read from their new books. Among those I heard read was Ethan Canin, whose marvelous book The Palace Thief had just come out. Canin is a physician who writes full time now and teaches at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
While signing my books, he talked about how the intensity of medical practice could inhibit creativity, and he advised me to take long stretches of time away from medicine to write. “The imagination is such a fragile thing,” he said. Partly because of his advice, I took a year off after finishing medical school. That’s when wrote my first book, What Patients Taught Me. I’ve also incorporated his advice into career choices; it’s one reason I opted to practice medicine as a part-time hospitalist.
So, no surprise, I feel a strong connection with the author space at Elliott Bay Books, and I had a wonderful time at my own reading there last week. It was terrific to see familiar faces not only from Harborview, several of whom figure prominently in the book, but also from other times and places in my life.
In case you missed it, the reading aired on KUOW 94.9 FM on August 27, 2009. Here’s the audio archive.