After five years of publishing book reviews, news, columns, poetry and more about the Seattle literary scene, the Seattle Review of Books announced on its website last week that the publication will be “going on indefinite hiatus.”
A post described the staff as “taxed on a number of levels” in explaining the “painful decision” to shut down. After a handful of reviews and columns and another week of daily poems about the coronavirus, “that will be it for the foreseeable future” for the publication, which received Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Prowda Literary Champions Award in 2018 alongside Mary Ann Gwinn.
“I’ve been writing about books in Seattle for 15 years, and while I think that I still have things to say, I don’t think that I should be the voice of record,” says Paul Constant, Seattle Review of Books co-founder and Seattle Times Neighborhood Reads contributor. “I still believe in Seattle’s literary scene more than anything, [but] as a white man, I don’t want to be at the center of it,” he said.
Constant said the coronavirus didn’t cause the hiatus, but it did exacerbate the site’s preexisting issues.
“Working on the site on a daily basis for five years in a part-time, nonpaying job just eventually became too much for me, and for my partners on the site,” he said. “People work really hard at SROB, plus we all have day jobs.”
Constant said the site’s sponsorship model, which covers the cost of poets and freelance writers, would be more difficult to sustain in the coming months. He added that a few Seattle-area organizations had reached out about the possibility of continuing SROB, and he’d be happy to hand off the reins.
While there’s no return set for the immediate future, Constant said the publication’s mission remains intact.
“We don’t have a specific plan yet, but we know what we have to do. It’s always been a goal that SROB reflect our amazing, expanding and diverse community. We’ve wanted to foster the next generation of younger writers who have broader perspectives, but we weren’t able to accomplish that while also managing the site.
“It’s like that old cliché of trying to repair a plane while the plane’s in the air,” he said.
After a short visit to Seattle 20 years ago, Constant relocated from Maine where he’d grown up. “I just fell in love with the city and the bookstores,” he said. Following a tenure as books editor at The Stranger, Constant and Martin McClellan, a novelist, web designer and friend, founded SROB in 2015, where Constant has since written about all things books and enjoyed daily engagement with his literary audience.
Constant said he is grateful to the city and especially its literary scene, which has given him so much. “I’ve watched Seattle grow to become an official UNESCO City of Literature.”
You can also fill in yourself.
“If you’re excited about something I hope you share it yourself on Twitter or Facebook, or start a site of our own,” Constant says. “If you’re enthusiastic about the [literary] scene, I think you can be your own media now in a way that’s pretty great, and if you’re inventive enough, I think that you could do it yourself, and I would love to read that site every day.”
“We also want the site to always be up as a representation of what was going on in Seattle at this time in history,” Constant said.
For the Seattle Review of Books, now is a time for reflection, reassessment and readjustment. But it’s not “goodbye” forever.