Alexander Barrett Interview - author of “This is Portland”


Alex Barrett is a success story.

Also, a proud member of WK12.7

At WK12 we are encouraged to not only be the best at what we do, but try and be the best at other things we never thought we would be good at.  Is This is Portland the best book ever written? No. Is it the best book ever written about Portland, OR by a guy from Vermont? You bet your ass! 

We sat down with WK12 alum Alex Barrett to talk about his new book This is Portland, why he wrote it, what he’s currently eating, and what Jim Riswold would say about it.

What are you currently eating?
I am currently eating a Coconut Liberté Yogurt and it is currently blowing my mind. 

What inspired you to start writing This is Portland?
When I was in W+K 12, we were assigned mentors that worked in the agency. I was assigned Tyler Whisnand who is a maniac and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. At lunch one day, I told him I wanted him to assign me a project. The next week, he told me that I should write about what makes Portland, Portland. That was it.

Have you always wanted to write a book?
Not really. I didn’t specifically not want to write a book, but I’d never really thought about it before I started writing one. 

So being from Vermont how’d you come to learn so much about Portland?
When I lived in Vermont, I didn’t know anything about Portland. I knew about Portland, Maine, because I had seen Weezer there once. When I lived in Los Angeles, I knew that everyone loved it, but nobody could ever explain why. I had to move here to really get it.

Will you ever write a This is Vermont?
I just spent a month in Vermont. Apart from snow, I don’t have much to write about. Maybe someday when I get really into Maple products.

How was wk12 involved in the writing process of the book?
If I hadn’t have gotten into W+K 12, it wouldn’t have happened. I got feedback from so many amazing people. I made the original print run of 2000 copies by hand in the W+K studio. I’m not sure anyone there knows how much paper and ink I actually used, which is probably a good thing.

What were the steps that lead This is Portland to becoming an actual real life book?
I put my email address at the end of the original zine. One day, I got an email from Microcosm Publishing. That weekend, I had lunch with Joe, my publisher, and that was basically it. It was a very laid back deal. He just told me it needed to be double the length, so I started writing again. Then I did a total redesign and made a new cover. I had total creative control, which was nice.

Now what are you eating?
I’m licking the lid of that Coconut Liberté Yogurt and I’m so sad that this experience is coming to an end.

If you could give advice to some youngling that wants to write a book called, say,This is also Portland what would that advice be?

What are the best tots in town?
I’ve only had bad tots at one place that I won’t mention. I think Club 21 tots are my favorite at the moment.

The illustrations in the book are really great!  Did you do those yourself?
Yep! Thanks!<

Who were your inspirations for the book?
Douglas Coupland. He wrote a series of books called “Souvenir of Canada” that has a similar structure. I loved the fact that he was comfortable writing very little. 

What are you doing this weekend?
I’m making potato salad. And then I’m probably gonna eat it. 

Any advice for people thinking about applying for wk12.10?
Yes. Be yourself. If you don’t, you’ll be found out.

What would Jim Riswold say about This is Portland?
He’d probably say that it’s his “greatest fucking achievement.”

Whats next for Alexander M. Barrett??
Just drifting. Freelancing and working on all kinds of projects. I have an idea for my next book. I’m outlining it right now.

Thanks again Alex for your time!

If anyone wants to pre-order This is Portland you can do so here:

This is Portland is released May 1st, 2013.
Party with Alex at:
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