PORT TOWNSEND — Historically, Melody Sky Eisler was not a homebody. But like most of Washington state, the Port Townsend Library director became one in spring 2020.
She went on a kind of trip with local author Erica Bauermeister. Titled “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” the book turned out to be a supremely appropriate 2021 Community Read.
“I love that Erica is very much a philosopher,” Eisler said, as Bauermeister’s book chronicles the long, dirty process of fixing up the house she’s just bought.
“House Lessons” is a memoir in essays about not only the home, but also the marriage and family that live within.
Eisler talked with Bauermeister about creating a Community Read that would bring people together — mostly online — to explore their own living spaces. They wanted also to acknowledge the housing crisis in Jefferson County.
With funding from the Port Townsend Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Port Townsend Library, some 400 copies of “House Lessons” have been purchased and made available for checkout through PTpubliclibrary.org. Audio and e-books are also available via the Washington Anytime Library at anytime.overdrive.com.
Bauermeister, for her part, has enjoyed many discussions about “House Lessons” since its release 11 months ago.
“I love the conversations about this book. I love watching people look at their houses in a new light,” she said.
Readers talk about renovating physical space as well as inner space, and which things they do and don’t want to keep in their lives.
Eisler and her team have organized six free public events around the book.
And if you haven’t had time to read it — or haven’t gotten your hands on a copy yet — that’s not a barrier to participating, she said.
To start, the library is collaborating with the Port Townsend Film Festival to stream “Community First: A Home for the Homeless,” a documentary about a project in Austin, Texas.
Bauermeister is inspired by its story and by that of Peter’s Place, a community of transitional housing in Port Hadlock.
These projects are examples of what can happen when just a few motivated people pull together, Bauermeister said, with the common goal of helping neighbors find a place to be safe and warm.
This is the library’s 16th annual Community Read, Eisler said, and it’s unlike any before; she and Bauermeister look forward to the online events just the same.
“We’re re-learning what community means,” the author said.
This book and the events surrounding it will give people chances to connect with the creative and literary people who live here, Eisler hopes.
The art exhibition at downtown’s Grover Gallery showcases art by Max Grover, Liz Reutlinger and Joe Wuts. The March 18 evening book discussion features local architect Richard Berg, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.
And all those copies of “House Lessons,” which Eisler encourages readers to share once they’ve finished, were purchased through Imprint Bookstore of Port Townsend.
As for Bauermeister, 61, also the author of novels “The Scent Keeper” and “Joy for Beginners,” she’s working on another work of fiction about “how differently we all see the same thing.”
“House Lessons” will probably be her only memoir, she added. It took 19 years to write and, several times, rewrite.
“Some things take time, as we’re learning,” she said.
Here’s the lineup of free Port Townsend Community Read events:
March 1-7: “Community First: A Home for the Homeless,” a documentary, streaming online via PTFilmfest.com.
March 1, 2 p.m.: Book Lovers’ Cafe discussion of “House Lessons” via Zoom with Library Director Melody Sky Eisler.
March 13-14, 10 a.m. to noon: “Jump Start Your Memoir” writing workshop with Erica Bauermeister via Zoom. Register at PTpubliclibrary.org or 360-385-3181.
March 18, 7 p.m.: Online community book discussion of “House Lessons” with Richard Berg of Terrapin Architecture.
March 20, noon to 4 p.m.: StoryWalk of “The Little House” for children and families along the path at Kah Tai Lagoon.
March 25, 7 p.m.: Meet author Erica Bauermeister as she reads from “House Lessons” via Zoom. Signed copies may be purchased at Imprint Books, 820 Water St.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]