Noted author to give reading tonight at Port Townsend arts center

PORT TOWNSEND ­— Pulitzer Prize finalist Kim Barnes comes to town tonight to give a reading at the Northwind Arts Center, 2409 Jefferson St., just off Sims Way.

Barnes is a Northwest writer known for her memoirs In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in an Unknown Country and Hungry for the World, as well as her novels Finding Caruso and A Country Called Home.

She has won a galaxy of awards, including the 2009 PEN Center Literary Fiction prize, while In the Wilderness landed on the short list for the Pulitzer in 1997.

The evening with Barnes will start at 7 p.m., and admission is free.

Barnes was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1958, and one week after her birth, her mother took her to live in their small line-shack on Orofino Creek, where her father worked as a logger.

She was the first member of her family to attend college and holds a bachelor’s in English from Lewis-Clark State College, a master’s from Washington State University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Montana.

In a New York Times review, Bainbridge Island writer Bruce Barcott marveled at A Country Called Home:

“The novel brims with the smell of brambles and berries along an Idaho riverbank, the gritty feel of the dust in an abandoned homesteader’s shack, the sounds of grouse and quail in the fields,” Barcott wrote.

Yet the saga is “a cautionary tale,” he added, about how “nature’s beauty is a wonder, but it’s not enough. Even in the rural West, self-reliance will get you only so far. It takes other people to make a life whole.”

In addition to her own books, Barnes served as co-editor of two collections: Circle of Women: An Anthology of Contemporary Western Women Writers and Kiss Tomorrow Hello: Notes from the Midlife Underground by Twenty-Five Women Over Forty.

She also publishes her essays, poems and stories in O magazine, The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and other journals.

Barnes’ third novel, set in 1960s Saudi Arabia, will come out next year.

Husband is poet

A professor at the University of Idaho, Barnes lives with her husband, the poet Robert Wrigley, on Moscow Mountain. She’s in Port Townsend to lead Centrum’s sold-out Autumn Nonfiction Workshop from this afternoon till Sunday.

For more details about Barnes’ workshop, visit and click on “Autumn Nonfiction Weekend.”

For details about Northwind Arts Center readings, phone Bill Mawhinney at 360-437-9081.


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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