Category Archives: Seattle

Seattle’s Queen Anne Books is up for sale again

Queen Anne Books, the independent bookstore at the top of Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, is up for sale again. The store was sold only six months ago, but on Friday the owner posted this announcement on the bookstore’s website:

To the Queen Anne Book Store community:

I am writing today to let you know that I will be leaving Queen Anne Books as of the end of November. This has not been an easy or hastily made decision, and I thank all of you for your loyalty and your commitment to Queen Anne Books during the period of time that I have been a part of the store.

I would like to find a buyer for the store from among the wonderful community of people who have supported Queen Anne Books over the years. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact the store in person, by phone, or via e-mail at

I will keep you posted as more information emerges regarding the future of the store.

~ Katharine Hershey

Queen Anne Books is a great neighborhood bookstore, full of helpful, enthusiastic, and well-read booksellers. Queen Anne Books has always been very supportive of Matt and other local authors, and event coordinator Tegan Tigani makes every book event memorable and fun.

I do hope the store finds a buyer, as I’d really hate to see Queen Anne Books close.

UPDATE, 10/22/12:  A new announcement from the staff of Queen Anne Books:

Last week owner Katharine Hershey sent a notice announcing her intention to leave Queen Anne Books at the end of November. We want to provide you with some helpful information to assist you in the coming weeks.

Officially, the store will be closing Wednesday, October 31. However, our owner is actively seeking a buyer for the store. We remain hopeful that Queen Anne Books will be purchased and continue serving our wonderful community.

In the meantime, we want you to know:

  • Queen Anne Books will operate as usual through Oct. 31.
  • As has been our long-standing tradition, we will participate in Queen Anne’s neighborhood Trick or Treat festival from 3-6 on October 31.. Be sure to bring the kids to our store.
  • We are no longer issuing gift certificates. If you have gift certificates, we encourage you to bring them in before our closing on Oct. 31.
  • We will continue to add purchases to your Book Saver plan, and issue rewards.
  • We will no longer be placing special orders as we cannot guarantee arrival before our anticipated closure. If you have special orders in the pipeline, we will do our best to get those to you. Not yet released books dated after Oct. 31 may not arrive in time, and we apologize for that.
  • Though our website will remain functional, we are no longer offering online web ordering. Please call or come in the store for all your book needs. The website will be a good source of information regarding the future of the store, so please check in there.

Thank you for your many years of loyal commitment to Queen Anne Books. We have the best customers in the world, and we hope to have positive news for you in the coming weeks regarding the store’s future. If you know of interested parties, please have them contact us at our email

UPDATE, 10/30/12:  According to a new message on the website, Queen Anne Books will be closing its doors on October 31st at 7pm.

FINAL UPDATE:  Queen Anne Books is gone.

UPDATE, 2/5/13: Queen Anne Books is being reincarnated in the same location as the Queen Anne Book Company, with new owner/managers and some of the booksellers from the old store. Their grand opening is March 1st. See my blog post for more information.


The Mirage is here!

Today is publication day for The Mirage, Matt Ruff’s new novel, which is available as a gorgeous hardcover and as an ebook.

You can read a PDF excerpt on The Mirage page of Matt’s website.

The book is on the February Indie Next list, and Matt has been posting the early reviews on his blog. This morning Cory Doctorow posted his review on BoingBoing:

I’m a huge fan of Matt Ruff’s novels, so when friends in the know started to spontaneously tell me about how fantastic the advance manuscript they’d just read for his next novel, The Mirage, was, I just assumed, yeah, it’d be more great Matt Ruff.

But this isn’t just more Matt Ruff. This is Matt Ruff with the awesome turned up to 11. To 12. To 100….

This is one of those books that you read while walking down the street and long after your bedtime, a book you stop strangers to tell about.

You can read his full review here. (Thanks, Cory!)

Over the next few weeks, Matt will be doing readings/signings at independent bookstores all over the Seattle area, as well as in San Francisco, Bellingham, Portland (Oregon), and Vancouver (Canada). The first event is Thursday, February 9th, at Elliott Bay Book Company, where Matt will be in conversation with Paul Constant, The Stranger’s book editor. If you’d like a signed book but can’t attend a reading, you can order a signed copy from one of the bookstores he’ll be visiting, as most will ship books upon request.

Write science fiction and fantasy under the guidance of George R. R. Martin, Cassandra Clare, Chuck Palahniuk, Ted Chiang…

The 2012 Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshops for science fiction and fantasy have each lined up an amazing group of writers as teachers.

Clarion West will be held in Seattle from June 17 through July 27, and the instructors are Mary Rosenblum, Hiromi Goto, George R. R. Martin, Connie Willis, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, and Chuck Palahniuk.

Clarion will be held in San Diego from June 24 through August 4th, and the instructors are Jeffrey Ford, Marjorie Liu, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare.

The two workshops are each accepting applications now through March 1st.  See their individual websites for more information and instructions.

Seattle’s snow leopard kittens have grown up and are leaving home

The Woodland Park Zoo has just announced that our two-year-old snow leopard twins are leaving Seattle. Gobi (the male) is moving next week to Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, Kansas, and Batu (the female) will be moving in a few months to Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. So this is the last weekend to see the two cats together. {Sniffle}

Here’s what they looked like when they were young:

And here they are all grown up:

Well, at least I’ll be able to visit Evita, the new ocelot kitten, when she makes here public debut in late April:

I’m still here

Sorry for the blog silence, but my attention was elsewhere.

The good news is that Matt has finished writing his new novel, The Mirage, which will likely be published in January 2012. (More details to come.) One of the perks of being married to an author is that I’m his first reader, and I can’t begin to describe the remarkable experience of reading manuscript pages and watching a master storyteller work his magic. As an added bonus, I enjoy assisting him with research, fact-checking, and editing. (But it’s not all fun– helping my obsessive and perfectionist husband get over the finish line and let go of the book is grueling.) I don’t want to tease you, but let me just say this book is his best yet– it’s mind-blowingly great and unlike anything I’ve ever read, yet still clearly a Matt Ruff book.

To help make amends for my absence, here are two photos of the ocelot kitten born in January at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo:

One of my favorite Seattle used bookstores is closing

Abraxus Books, one of my favorite used bookstores in Seattle, is closing and everything is 50% off. Their shop is in a building that’s going to be torn down and they have to vacate by February 12th.

Abraxus Books has a very large and deep inventory of high-quality used books in many fields. It’s a great place for browsing, as I always find interesting and unusual books that I haven’t seen in other bookstores. Yesterday I spent two hours browsing and never made it out of their excellent and extensive history sections– I left when I reached the limit of what I could carry on the bus. I’ll be back, and I recommend that you visit before they close.

Their address is 524 1st Ave. N. (in lower Queen Anne near Seattle Center), and their new hours are:

  • Tuesday through Friday, 12 noon to 8pm
  • Saturday, 11am to 8pm
  • Sunday, 12 noon to 6pm
  • Monday, closed

Here’s the link to their Facebook page and here’s the link to their location on Google Maps.

If you are self-employed and live in Washington state, read this (updated)

Important new update, October 2016: “Group of one” small group health insurance may no longer be an option for self-employed individuals in Washington state because of federal ACA law, though you can still purchase individual insurance either inside or outside our state’s health insurance exchange. I recently spoke with an analyst at the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s office, who confirmed that though Washington’s “group of one” law is still on the books, it has been preempted by federal law (ACA and ERISA) and a legal challenge from an insurance company. Now you must have at least one employee on payroll to qualify as a group (and business owners are no longer counted as employees), so self-employed individuals or sole proprietors without employees don’t qualify for small group health insurance and must purchase insurance through the individual market. Insurance companies have begun phasing out “group of one” insurance on renewal or audits of group size, so keep an eye out for new language like this in your documentation:

“To qualify as a group health plan according to clarified common-law rules, at least one employee needs to be enrolled. Employees by this definition do not include someone who is: self-employed; a sole proprietor or his/her spouse; the sole owner of a corporation or sole owner with his/her spouse…”

Original 2010 post:

One of the biggest obstacles for the self-employed is health insurance. Individual health insurance plans are very expensive and often impossible to get at any price if you or anyone in your family has medical issues. So if you are self-employed, a freelancer, or a sole proprietor, your options usually are:  get coverage through your spouse (if you are lucky enough to be married to someone with a job that provides health insurance); pay a huge amount of money for a comprehensive individual plan (if you are healthy enough to qualify for one and can afford it); pay somewhat less for a crappy high-deductible or catastrophic individual plan (if you can qualify for one and can afford it); or go without insurance. This is why so many self-employed people–especially writers and artists–are uninsured. This is also why many people who want to quit their day jobs to work for themselves or start a new business can’t.

The fixes for this in the health care reform legislation (health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses, guaranteed coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition, etc.) unfortunately don’t take effect until 2014. That’s a very long time to wait if you don’t have, can’t get, or can’t afford health insurance.

However, there is some good news if you live in Washington state: if you are a sole proprietor or self-employed individual, you now may be able to qualify for group health insurance as a “group of one,” thanks to a new Washington state law (Senate Bill 6538) that took effect on October 1, 2010.

You can cover your family as dependents under a group plan. The best news is that unlike individual plans, group plans do not require applicants or dependents to pass a health screening, so you can get coverage even if you or someone in your family has a pre-existing condition. Group plans usually offer more options and better coverage at lower cost than individual plans.

It’s not easy to qualify for group health insurance, as you must meet strict guidelines, fill out a lot of complicated paperwork, and jump through a few hoops. For example, you must prove that you are a self-employed individual or sole proprietor, have been working for your business for more than a year, and at least 75% of your income comes from your business. You’ll have to submit copies of your Washington state business license and your most recent tax return (Form 1040 and Schedule C). You’ll need to do your research, request quotes, and carefully compare the different small group plans and their options for deductibles, annual coinsurance maximums, co-pays, prescription drug coverage, and premiums.

You can learn more about the new law by visiting the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s website and calling the SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) helpline at 1-800-562-6900. To research and apply for small group health insurance, you can  use an insurance broker or contact insurance companies directly and request quotes and detailed plan information.

Matt and I recently completed the process, and though it took some time and effort, it was worth it in the end.

I wrote this post because few people seem to know about this new law, so please spread the word to anyone who might benefit from it. If you don’t live in Washington, go to the website of your state Insurance Commissioner to research the laws in your state.

Update, September 2013: You can find, compare, and buy health insurance plans on the new exchanges beginning October 1, 2013 for coverage that begins January 1, 2014. You can’t be denied because of pre-existing conditions. If you live in Washington state, go to the Washington HealthPlanFinder website. If you don’t, go to the website for more information.

Update, October 2013: If you are self-employed and live in Washington state, these are your options for 2014:

  1. You can buy individual health insurance on the Washington state exchange. If your family income (modified adjusted gross income) is below 400% of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for subsidies (tax credits) to help you pay for health insurance purchased through the exchange. If you qualify for subsidies, you can either take them as an advance premium credit to lower your monthly premiums or wait until you file your taxes for 2014 and take the full tax credit then (which may be simplest if you can’t accurately estimate your 2014 income in advance).
  2. You can buy “group of one” small group health insurance outside of the exchange if you qualify under the guidelines I outlined in my original post. Some insurers (like Regence) are only offering policies outside the exchange, while others (like Premera) are offering policies both inside and outside of the exchange.
  3. You can buy individual health insurance outside of the exchange.

So, you can buy insurance inside or outside of the exchange, but if your income qualifies you for a subsidy, you’ll have to buy insurance inside the exchange to get it. 

Whether you apply for insurance inside or outside of the exchange, you can’t be denied because of pre-existing conditions, and specific “essential health benefits” (including hospitalization, maternity care, and prescription drugs) must be covered.

You should do your research and carefully compare plans and provider networks. (Note that many of the individual plans in the exchange have limited networks of doctors and hospitals.) You can also ask an insurance broker to help you sort through your options.

If you have questions, you can contact the office of the Washington State Insurance Commissioner. Check out the Washington HealthPlanFinder website or call 1-855-WAFINDER. The Kaiser Family Foundation website also has information for consumers.

Update, October 2016: See my note at the top of this post– for 2017, your options may be limited to purchasing individual health insurance on or off the exchange.