South Sound guide book of a different color

By Volcano Staff on January 21, 2012


To the outsider, the South Sound can seem like a sea of trucker hats, strip malls, teriyaki restaurants and traffic jams. At first glance, we may be viewed as an over-caffeinated lot with seasonal affective disorder that loves a good cover band and burger while we try to claim a more liberal definition of the American Dream.

Three talented Tacomans have a different view of the South Sound. They see the nooks. They see the treasures. They see the back trails. And they see it through a creative eye.

Civic activist Ken Miller and artists Chris Sharp and Sean Alexander have assembled a team of writers and visual artists to produce the South Sound Users Guide - a guidebook to the region's more than 3,000 square miles and its 1.1 million inhabitants.

This will not be your typical, glossy travelogue. From what I can gather, it will carry an independent tone with sass completed with hand-drawn illustrations and an out-of-the-box design.

I traded a few questions with Miller as the team generates money for the project via Kickstarter.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What sparked this project?

KEN MILLER: I've been convinced for a long time the South Sound is a distinct cultural and economic region, and then I saw some of Sean's drawings and talked with Chris and it just sort of tumbled together.

One of my motivations really is to help us see ourselves as a distinctive place. We don't have a Pottery Barn, for example; but by population we're bigger than eight states.

Plus with LeMay and the U.S. Open, we'll need a guide of our own, and I want it to be cool, rather than glossy photos of daffodil fields.

VOLCANO: What's your definition of the South Sound?

MILLER: We're concentrating on Pierce, Thurston and Mason counties – breaking them down by locations, much like Saul Wurman's Access series.

VOLCANO: Where will the guide be distributed?

MILLER: We're finalizing a distribution agreement with Partners West, to put the book into bookstores and gift shops across the western U.S. and Canada. We'll have an e-version, too. There won't be advertising in the text, but we have the ability to offer "customized" back covers in volume - over 100 copies - for $5 per book. The retail price will be $20.

VOLCANO: You already have 32 backers on your Kickstarter.

MILLER: We're using Kickstarter to finance the front-end costs - with rewards at various levels of donations. Among the rewards on Kickstarter are three opportunities to write up one's own "feature" - a business, for example. Those rewards are at the $500 level, and are the only paid content.

For more details, to provide support or to pre-order a copy of the book, go to and enter "South Sound Users Guide" in the search box; or contact Miller at