Ned Hayes Writing

Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer). I wrote the national bestseller THE EAGLE TREE and the historical novel SINFUL FOLK,, illustrated by New York Times bestseller Nikki McClure. Both of these books were nominated for the "Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award." |

Bookstores: The Strand in New York City

In 2018, I’m writing a short series of posts on bookstores I know and love. The series was due to begin in early February, and I’ve already written love letters (not yet published) to many of the bookstores I love, and told you exactly why you should visit so many of these lovely bookish communities.


However, I decided to begin my Bookstore Series earlier than I expected, when I read the obituary for a legend of the bookselling trade whom I have met and whose bookstore I enjoyed.


Strand Books in New York City is a legend for people who love bookstores, and I had the pleasure of visiting the Strand nearly every time I went to New York and even spending time chatting with the inimitable Fred Bass, who is featured in this wonderful obit in this week’s New York Times. To be clear, I got to know Mr. Bass only perfunctorily, by way of asking about books and talking about books. But as we both enjoyed the conversation. There are few people who seemed to have so much interest in knowing the exact catalog of over “18 miles of books,” so I’ll miss him and his bookish knowledge tremendously.


Strand Books in 1938 (Photo via Strand)


Strand Books began in the 1930s, in a district long known for books. Back in the early 1900s, an entire book district covered Fourth Avenue from from Union Square to Astor Place. Fred began working for his father in this bookselling district back when he was 13 years old in 1928. Back then, many bookstores in bookseller’s row had particular specialties and antiquarian interests and Strand Books was only one among many. Yet Fred persevered. (Remind me to set a librarian-magician story in NYC’s classic bookstore district!)


Strand Books eventually moved to Broadway and began expanding under Fred Bass’s leadership in 1956. Now at Broadway on 12th Street, Strand Books took over half the ground floor of what had been a clothing store. Eventually, Strand Books took over three floors of the building and eventually added an antiquarian books department. By the late 1960s, Strand Books was the only surviving bookstore from old bookstore row in New York city.


He loved buying books. “It’s a disease,” he told New York magazine in 1977. “I get an attack, something like a panic, of book-buying. I simply must keep fresh used books flowing over my shelves.”


Fred Bass in the 1970s (Photo via Strand)

As the New York Times article points out, Fred Bass nearly single-handedly grew Strand Books into the renowed giant of bookstores it is today. The Times notes that the 70,000 books in the Fourth Avenue store swelled, at the Broadway site, to half a million by the mid-1960s and 2.5 million by the 1990s, requiring the purchase of a storage warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. By the time Mr. Bass bought the building for $8.2 million in 1997, the Strand had become the largest used bookstore in the world.


Now that’s an accomplishment! Wow!

The largest used bookstore in the world.


As the Times notes, Mr. Bass was perhaps most famous for creating a literary quiz for prospective Strand employees to take when filling out their applications. “I thought it was a quick way to find if somebody had any knowledge of books,” he told the Times. Applicants had to match 10 authors with 10 titles, and maneuver around one trick question, in an exercise that became a cherished bit of New York lore.


Credit: George Etheredge, New York Times


(Here are more details on the Strand Books quiz)


And in the mid-1990s, I met Mr. Bass himself. As always, he stood behind the counter — sometimes when I saw him he was perched on a high stool, like a king overlooking his bookish palace. He looked like a bartender of books; I almost expected him to slide a bookmark across the table to me, and say in his oddly kind New York accent “What’ll you have today? What’ll take the edge off?”


Credit: Tony Cenicola, New York Times

Yes, Fred was a pusher of books, and he got me to spend hundreds of dollars on books at the Strand over the years. “I got the dust in my blood and I never got it out,” he told McCandlish Phillips, author of City Notebook: A Reporter’s Portrait of a Vanishing New York.


Now you can find Strand Books everywhere around New York City. Besides the main bookstore on Broadway and 12th, you can also find satellite Strands in kiosks outside the entrance to Central Park on Fifth Avenue at Grand Army Plaza and downtown in the South Street Seaport. You can also find Strand Books in a smaller Flatiron district location. Finally, just last year Strand Books opened a summer-season kiosk in Times Square. You can even watch a Video Tour of Strand Books right here.


Strand Books is one of my literary touchstones, and I’m happy to share that bookstore experience with my readers! Enjoy!


Find my books at The Strand




Pinterest – Ned Hayes Bookstore Board

On Writing: Where And How I Write

I read something today that really surprised me. The brilliant Kris Rusch wrote that some writers cannot write on planes. This surprised me, because I’ve never been one of those writers who just writes in a certain location or a certain environment. Sure, it’s tempting to be one of those “special snowflake” writers, but I wouldn’t get near enough writing done if I chose that route.


Out of that thought, I thought I’d chart my own route. I thought I’d make a small list of the places and times I’ve written, just for my own amusement. 


Here’s the List of how I write:


  • Writing via different mediums (I write in notebooks, by hand, in pen and pencil. My most recent complete novel was hand-written before being typed in. I also write on various software products on Windows laptops, Mac laptops, and via audio-dictation on my phone and tablets. I’m not religious about what tools I use, but I am religious about writing every day.)
  • Writing with different instruments (I’ve written whole notebooks that are full of a scribbled mass of fiction composed with ballpoint pens, fountain pens, pencils, felt-tip pens and even a few crayon paragraphs when I couldn’t find a working pen. I’ve composed on torn scraps of paper, newspaper margins, magazines, the backs of old books, and even on restaurant napkins — oh, and occasionally, I buy a fresh clean notebook for this purpose. Typically the cheapest available.)
    • I met a writer who actually would not write unless they had their special leather-covered notebook and a fountain pen. I was wholly under-whelmed: I mean, how do you get any writing done, if you need special equipment? It’s not like rock-climbing. No one will die if you write with a pencil, my friend.
  • Writing around the clock (I’ve written at all the following times: 7-10 a.m., lunch time 11:30-1 pm, afternoon 3-6 pm, thru dinner 6-8 pm, after dinner and bedtime writing 8 pm – 12 am, late night writing 12-3 a.m., early morning writing, 4:30 am-7 am. The longest I’ve ever written one one stretch of 16 hours. The shortest is about 10 minutes at a concert once.)
  • Writing in different postures (I’ve written while standing up, while sitting at my desk, while lying down. I wrote a thought down once while riding a bicycle, but I’ve never managed to write while running.)
  • Writing at different furniture (I often write at my jerry-rigged standing desk in my home office. But I have also written sitting down in my chair, and at my kitchen counter, on the couch while hanging out with my children, in the backyard on the lawn, beside the pool at a pool party, and on top of a wine barrel at a crowded party full of people.)
  • Writing while driving (When I drive, I write 99% thru audio-dictation on a hands-free headphone/microphone, and just recently I crossed the 20K line written by audio-dictation to my phone. Only occasionally, have i hand-written a quick thought by hand on paper while driving)
  • Writing every day of the week (Yes, I’ve written Mon-Fri and Sat and Sun. I’ve written during work days, and right thru a vacation (finished a book on vacation)
  • Writing at Home (I’ve written in every room in my house, including the kitchen and the bathroom.)
  • Writing at Work (before meetings, after meetings, early morning and late afternoon. Every now and then at lunch, and only occasionally, during a meeting, when a thought occurs to me. I respect my work hours and I get a lot done at work… but it is interesting that in just a 15 minute break, I can crank in 500 words, if I have a good idea. I love my work at Intel… and it’s a great motivator for me, so I’m energized when I get to my writing after work each day.)
    • Past jobs: Once I knew I was going to get laid off at a company, so I started just writing at work until the call to the manager’s office came. I thought it would be 3 days of limbo, but they waited 3 weeks “because I looked so productive.” So I ended up finishing writing the book at that job!
  • Writing on other transport (I’ve written on my laptop and in my notebooks on public buses, public trains, small shuttle planes, large 747 planes, on small transports and as a passenger in cars.
  • Writing while waiting (I relish getting way-laid by a delayed flight in an airport or while sitting on an airplane, because it’s almost like I can step out of time, and have a dedicated hour or two to write. I love sitting on a plane, stuck there with nothing but a notebook, a pen OR a laptop. I can get a couple hours of writing in while everyone is whining around me. It’s heaven to know that no one can bother me: I’m stuck outside of time, able to do nothing but write.)

An ideal day is when I get writing in. It doesn’t matter if I have a two hour commute by car (I can write by audio dictation), or if I’m stuck in an airport (yay, time out just to write!), or if I’m at home (I can wake up early and write in peace and quiet in my home office before work or Saturday chores).


I don’t care where I am: I can write.


A literary update from
Readers can find my books at these bookstores:



Amazon bookstore Barnes & Noble Indie Bookstores






How to Get a Signed, Personalized Copy of Any of My Books, Shipped Anywhere in the World!

The wonderful owner of my local bookstore Browsers Bookstore (Andrea Griffith) here in Olympia, Washington has volunteered to fill orders for signed, personalized editions of my novels for the holidays. I get down to Browsers at least once a week, so I’ll drop in regularly between now and Christmas to sign and personalize book orders you place with Browsers for The Eagle TreeSinful Folk or other books. Books make fabulous gifts, and Browsers can ship anywhere!


Here’s the page on Browsers’ website.

To order a signed personalized book, call Andrea at
1-360-357-7462 or email her at


(Fun Fact: my first reading for The Eagle Tree was at Browsers back in spring 2016!)


Ned Hayes


Exciting to see the new Chinese edition of THE EAGLE TREE now available:

Poem for Rosh Hashanah

poem by Ned Hayes


Rosh Hashanah comes
    this year
on a day of cool wind,


a breathtaking
portent of winter


taking the world, rude lover
the sheets away.


in autumn
the sadness of all things


is greatest
   for now
the world was created.


the new fruit, shot through
with decay:


birthed in the same
the racing seed
   and the worm.

Storied Life

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

A slight whimsical novel that encapsulates the important moments in the life of an over-educated curmudgeonly bookseller who unexpectedly meets the love of his life, a child to raise and complications that open up his hermetic island existence. 


A lovely book about a man who loves words and stories and the people who are part of his life. It's a little too heavy on the literary references -- but the storytelling itself has a light touch and is crafted in a way that foregrounds the beautifully limned characters and thoughtful plot twists. Reminds me in some ways of the careful crafting that goes into John Irving's books, but with a shorter path to the resolution. 


A great light but meaningful read for people who love bookstores and words. For readers who may not be familiar with the literary references, the book may feel a little ponderous. 


A James Baldwin quote for his birthday -- August 2, 1924


Thanks to everyone for your  lovely support for my novel THE EAGLE TREE. The book has done so wonderfully well worldwide -- recently, I found out that the book has been read by nearly 100,000 people already! Wow!


I'm also surprised to discover that we're at nearly 1,000 reviews on Amazon. If you have read the book and haven't quite gotten around to posting a review, it would sure be great if you could post a review. Doesn't matter if it's negative, positive, or meh. Any review helps a book to gain more visibility, as it means that readers are engaged with the book.


Write a review today >>


Fiction like a garrot

The Drop - Dennis Lehane

Powerful compactly wound crime fiction, by the author of MYSTIC RIVER. A book that's pulled as tight as a garrot against the neck. The main character is a walking cipher, both to himself and others. His moral choices have landed him a gray world of walking alienation, but he's generally a sympathetic character. A powerful book, but not a world I'd care to live in.


Powerful historical fiction

March - Geraldine Brooks

Historical fiction with a powerful grounding in both the fictive world of Louisa May Alcott ("Little Women") as well as the real history of the American Civil War. A pitiable and complicated main character (March) leaves his family to fight in the war as a committed abolitionist. As the father of Jo and Beth and Amy from Little Women, we get to hear his side of what was happening in this critical period in U.S. history.

I found the premise more intriguing than the execution, but I liked the way in which his life and decisions had complicated outcomes, not predictable ones that were clearly heroic. The story reflects the complications and horror of the Civil War itself, and capably demonstrates the terrible life of slavery and its affects on human beings in that period.


Wings -- a quote from Gustave Flaubert, who died today, May 8, 1880


Thanks to Amazon's bookstore for featuring THE EAGLE TREE so prominently! 


THE EAGLE TREE at Boston Harbor School

I had a wonderful time presenting to the school assembly at Boston Harbor School in Olympia Washington last week. What a great group of K-5 students with fantastic questions about being a writer and a lovely discussion of books they love, including my bestselling novel THE EAGLE TREE.


Here's the basic slideshow I presented (with lots of discussion and interesting anecdotes to fill out this skeleton frame of a presentation


Eating and Reading -- two of life's greatest pleasures. C.S. Lewis


Story of your Life

Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang, Abby Craden, Todd McLaren

Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" was the basis for the new film "The Arrival." The story itself is a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of one's time on earth, and the choices we make. The movie takes it in a more plot-driven direction. But what's brilliant about the movie is that it preserves the central idea of Ted's story.

If you read the entire anthology of these stories, it's also interesting to observe that Ted's general approach is a meditative questioning of the meaning of our work, our relationships and our being in the world. I personally love these kind of slowly thoughtful and illuminating stories. But perhaps they are not for everyone. If you like your SF fast and furious, Ted Chiang is probably not your cup of tea.

Oh, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ted recently and talking with him at length. His style reflects his stories: gracious, thoughtful and insightful. A true pleasure!


A book dies every time you watch a reality TV show. #reality #books

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