We’re Starting a Portland Book Club (And You’re Invited)

It’s happening! Our fledgling book club is already 25 50 75 members strong, and we’re almost ready to get started with our first read: Okay Fine Whatever by Portland writer and former Live Wire host Courtenay Hameister.

The book tells the “hilarious and poignant” story of a “chronically anxious woman’s quest to become braver by seeking out the kinds of experiences she’s spent her life avoiding” — and New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Strayed is one of the people who has very nice things to say about it.

Want to join us? The book club will be a low-key, no-pressure opportunity to read and discuss the book with other Portlanders, either online or in-person or both. We’ll send you a weekly conversation prompt for thought and discussion, and in March we’ll invite you to join us and Courtenay at Rose City Book Pub for a face-to-face gathering where we’ll dive in deeper.

Sign up for the book club here — or read our Q&A with Courtney below to learn more about Okay Fine Whatever and what inspired it.

Q: Where did the idea for OFW come from?

A: I had this empty space when I stepped down as host (of Live Wire) — I’d lost this wonderful, amazing thing. And I just thought, “Is there a way to teach my anxious brain that it’s going to be OK?” Maybe if I just do some things that scare me a little instead of this gigantic thing that scares me a lot, it’ll be like exposure therapy.

Q: How does the anxiety of writing a book compare to the anxiety of hosting a radio show?

A: It’s significantly more private, but just as harrowing — or possibly more harrowing. My book came out about four months after it was supposed to because I had this four-month period of crippling self-doubt where I couldn’t get myself to write. I literally could not get myself to sit in a chair and write something.

Eventually, my editor called me and was like, “we have to have this.” So my fear of mediocrity and being attacked on Twitter was overcome by the fear of losing my book deal.

Q: You write in the book about pushing yourself to try new experiences, like going to a sex club. Is there anything you’d actually like to do again?

A: I went to the sensory deprivation tank again because my boyfriend wanted to try it, and he had a much more interesting experience than me.

I never went to the sex club again, although I’ve said [to friends], “If anybody wants to go, I’ll go with you. It’s fascinating.”

Q: Are there any places in Portland that you go to unwind or relax?

A: I like Lower Macleay Park. I’ve hated to exercise my whole life, but I like hiking (in Forest Park) and the Leif Erikson trail. Also bars that I go to with my friends. Those are the places where I feel safe and where I’m able to get out of my head and just be with people.

Being in the moment is what takes you out of your anxiety. Because when you’re an anxious person, you live in the future or in the past — and anything that brings you into the present helps to alleviate that anxiety.