Arts & Events

Crossing Into “The Northwest Passage”

New talk show to expose the writings of Northwest storytellers

Jack Myers and Claire Harbutt ended up in the same group for University of Puget Sound’s preliminary Urban Plunge, picking weeds and getting familiar with the community, but they didn’t think much of it until Myers overheard Harbutt talking about wanting to start a podcast.

A connection was sparked. Myers and Harbutt proceeded to spend hours at a time brainstorming for the perfect show idea until the framework for “The Northwest Passage” was born.

“We’re trying to develop a Northwest narrative,” said Myers, whose own Northwest roots go back to his blood relation to landscape painter Abby Williams Hill. Hill’s paintings can be found lining the University’s library walls.

Myers and Harbutt picked apart 20 or so show ideas before finally deciding to develop one based around local authors in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Now, the show is live on air.

According to Harbutt, the show seemed the best way for her to open up to the creative community. As an English major with a passion for creative writing, she was eager to dive into the writing culture in our area to find what made fellow writers tick. She loves hearing about each individual’s creative process, and sees exposing it as a way to inspire others to explore writing with fervor.

“We want to make writing a more tangible act,” Harbutt said,  noting that she’s met many creative people who fret about pursuing their passion and wants to show them that what they have to say is important and worthy of serious pursuit.  When writers are exposed to other writers so close to home, they see possibilities emerge and can be even more motivated to follow their own path.

Myers sees the power in writing as a medium, and also hopes to amplify that power through the radio.  Backed by two and a half years of radio experience, some of which was in talk radio, he is ready to hone his skills towards more meaningful ends.

Some of the highlights of doing radio in his highschool days were interviewing bands like Phoenix and Tame Impala, but even then he felt like “it was pretty scripted, [the bands] were basically just promoting their album.” Here, he and Harbutt want to find something that resonates and creates some propulsion here in the Northwest.

“We really want to tell stories,” Harbutt said. “People are interested in the people around them. You can find these writers just walking around.”

This kind of accessibility has the potential to come with a high impact, as people can expose more about their stories in a way that reflects the Northwest as a whole.

The talk show is part of KUPS’ goal to promote more talk radio for the station, in hopes of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with a community that transcends the bounds of campus.

“[We are] engaging with concepts and issues that matter in the grand scheme of things… that actually have relation to the stuff that’s going on on our campus and in our community and in the world,” KUPS General Manager Will Winston said.

After seeing the success and impact of shows like last semester’s “No Más,” a show that engaged with the narratives of people at the local detention center, and “Tea Talks,”  David Balgley’s guest-oriented political talk show, Harbutt is determined to keep that positive forward momentum going.

This semester’s shows, “The Northwest Passage,” “Our Hour Union Hour,” and “Stories from the South Sound” follow suit.

According to Winston, the radio provides a platform for issues and stories that get glazed over in most everyday conversation, yet can still be vital to hear.  The station is even working to give show hosts the tools they need to propel their voices beyond KUPS airwaves, providing help for podcast syndication if they desire.

“We want to inspire people to share their readings with us and each other,” Harbutt said.

If the guest authors on the show leave feeling fulfilled, that indicates a spark being lit.  Do not underestimate the power of the narrative.  Every story can help to form a new mindset, learn a new lesson or help to understand ourselves better through engagement with the Northwest.

“Everyone loves [the Northwest]. It’s a writing place,” Harbutt said.

“I feel grounded here,” Myers said.

Within just a few weeks of being here, Myers has been impressed by the abundance of voices with stories to tell.   By the looks of it, “The Northwest Passage” will help all that creative energy grow even more.

Listen to “The Northwest Passage” on Wednesdays 3-4 p.m. at KUPS 90.1 FM or at