If you think writers like to gossip, you should spend some time with elected officials. Nobody — not even a well-lubricated novelist — loves to gab like a politician. I was at a cocktail party a while back when a certain public official was clearly sitting on a big, juicy secret. They tried to sound nonchalant as they dropped their intel on a tight circle of Seattle-area political figures: “did you hear?” Everyone in the circle leaned in. “I hear Erica C. Barnett got a book deal.”
The other elected officials in the room nodded, impressed. Everyone knew the name, of course: Barnett has been a reporter in Seattle for well over a decade, covering local politics, policy, and feminist issues at outlets including Publicola, the Seattle Weekly, The Stranger (where, full disclosure, I worked with her), and, most recently, at her own news site, The C Is for Crank. An uneasy cloud hung over the group after that. Barnett is well-respected, but she’s also earned a reputation as a determined and well-sourced reporter. You could see the politicians doing the mental calculus, trying to figure out if she was going to write, specifically, about them.
Over Facebook chat, Barnett confirms that the rumors are true: she’s hard at work on a book for Viking Books, an imprint at Penguin. “The book is a reported memoir about my own experiences in the treatment industry and in recovery, with a focus on relapse and the many different paths to recovery,” she writes.
Barnett pitched the book early this year. In a packed field of addiction memoirs, what makes hers different? “Most of the recovery narratives we hear share a comforting, reliable arc — from the first drink to rock bottom to redemption,” she says.
“But the truth is, recovery is messy, and it often involves relapse after relapse, rock bottom after rock bottom. I've hit a lot of rock bottoms and seen many aspects of the recovery industry from the inside.” Ultimately, she says her goal “is to share my experience and show that there are many roads to recovery, even if our treatment system is geared toward only one.”
The book doesn’t have an established publication date, but she’s already deep into the writing. The differences between journalism and memoir have already made themselves apparent to her: “One of the reasons I'm a reporter is because I like to stand to the side, so writing about myself — and reporting on myself — presents some unique challenges.”
We’ll let you know when the book is published, but for now Barnett is pulling double-duty, writing a book while keeping C Is for Crank on top of a remarkably busy tumultuous mayoral campaign. (Her candidate interview series has been the most substantial resource in Seattle media during this election cycle.) If you’d like to help her keep the lights on while she juggles this incredible workload, you should consider contributing to her Patreon.