Lisa Wells

In this issue, we asked two debut writers to speak about how they made ends meet while working on their books. Lisa Wells' first book, Yeah. No. Totally. (Perfect Day Publishing) came out in July. Paul Constant, reviewing the book in The Stranger, said of Wells's prose, "Listen to this lively description of nature that would make Edward Abbey light up with an ear-to-ear grin: 'In the insect-humming noon, coarse sage exploded from the earth.' Or this brutal passage about the aftermath of a car crash: 'He didn't die in the road. He was wheeled to a white room made appropriate for dying. It goes on and on like this automatically.'" Wells answered a few questions about work via email between shifts, and had a patron snap the above photo.

PROPELLER: How and why did you first start thinking you'd like to work at a bar?

LISA WELLS: I guess I decided I'd like to work at a bar out of some fundamental laziness or lack of imagination. My friends drink at bars. I drink at bars. Bartenders don't have to wake up early and we used to make close to what strippers make, without having to master any no-handed pole climbs.

Yeah. No. Totaly. by Lisa WellsPROPELLER: Why did it become a job you stayed with for a while? How long have you done this kind of work?

WELLS: I've worked in the service industry for fifteen years. It is, for the most part, mindless, decently paid work that in no way distracts from my creative pursuits. I've worked for businesses in Portland that don't require me to be perky or contrite or phony, all of which I am bad at. I've been lucky in that way. But honestly, I'm pretty tired of it now—my body's broken.

PROPELLER: How do you feel the reality of working at a bar is most different from the way we see it depicted in books or on the screen?

WELLS: I don't think I've seen/read a depiction of bar culture that describes the physical and emotional toll it can take. It's often physically demanding work (moving kegs, running around for hours, late nights) and it's emotionally draining interacting with and babysitting drunks. This is why most bartenders get a little buzzed in the back, to get closer to a shared headspace. Or why the irritable bartender grows gregarious toward the end of a shift, counting up their tips, anticipating the first drink. Ω