— Jenny Neill


Lit Crawl Seattle, the local offshoot of the literary pub crawl founded by Litquake in San Francisco, is taking over many boozy spaces that wordsmiths gather for a second year. Starting at 6pm on Thursday, October 24 our local literati, myself included, will be bringing stories to the streets at 19 venues mostly found in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Jenny Hayes, a longtime friend and the woman behind the Three Jennys grouping, approached me to emcee because, duh, my name is Jenny. (Plus, I think she knew I’d groove on the idea.)

Come hear

Come hear “Three Jennys Walk into a Bar” at Sam’s Tavern,
Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 6pm

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My first camera, one I still occasionally take out to shoot with, is the Pentax Spotmatic my father gave me many years ago. He invested in this model with the then brand-new, through-the-lens exposure metering to cover sports events when he was a college student. Dad taught me how to manage the manual adjustments of that old 35 millimeter SLR while taking cues from the needle of the TTL light meter.

Seattle Sounders fans in rival territory

Seattle Sounders fans in rival territory

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Wine was always my drink of choice until a few years ago. That’s when I started doing double duty as sommelier and service bartender at Ray’s Boathouse on slow nights. It’s also when I began to associate the onset of the rainy season with trying new (to me) cocktails. As I developed my palate for booze, I struggled with gin. The strong flavor that juniper imbues to this base alcohol was usually too much for me. That is, until I put myself in the hands of Murray Stenson.

Murray Stenson

Photo courtesy of Scott Heimendinger. All rights reserved.

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“You guys need to be having fun back there!” Those were our eating orders straight from the mouth of Penny De Los Santos, food photographer and instructor. I first met Becky Selengut, the sassy chef known on Twitter as @ChefReinvented, in person in May. It was cold and rainy. We huddled under a blue awning over a picnic table with a hole in the middle.

Jenny Neill and Becky Selengut at Oyster Roast Shoot for Penny De Los Santos Food Photography Workshop on Creative Live. May 15, 2011

Becky Selengut and me at the Oyster Roast Shoot

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view of vineyards from trail between Vernazza and Corniglia in 2003

Vineyards viewed from trail between Vernazza and Corniglia in 2003.

I didn’t plan on writing about travel this week. I was going to tell you I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this month. (Hey, looks like I just did!) Thing is, I kept coming across the subject of Cinque Terre and photos of the damage done to it by torrential rains while doing novel-related research. So like any distractable and procrastinating writer, I went looking for more news, more photos, more information.

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what is left of Nothing, Arizona

On a whim, I decided to go looking for ghost towns on a recent visit to Arizona. That road trip led me to Nothing.

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Part One

I was a writer of a different sort 10 years ago. I wrote business analysis and functional specifications as a fulltime employee at an “enterprise portal solution” company. Working with our team’s engineers, I recorded technical designs and customized documentation for end users.

By August of 2001, though it hadn’t been announced to us or the public yet, I had deduced my employer was about to be acquired. I jumped at the chance to go when my dad suggested I join him and my stepmother for their trip to Italy to visit my sister, Missy. I knew that in a matter of weeks what little vacation time I had could be meaningless.

I carried a hardbound journal with me the whole trip with the goal of writing every day. I wanted to be able to share my experiences with my husband, Mike, who could not come with me. He had just started a new job.

I confess I’ve struggled to write this post. A lot. The trip most definitely changed me. I’ve decided to let the writer I was then tell the story. What follows are excerpts from that journal.

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The boat gives off a low putt-putter and hum. My fingers clutch the metal railing while my eyes scan the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near Victoria, BC. A few feet below the surface something enormous, like an oil slick made solid, slides by.

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