Writing a New Reality: Clarion West and the Power of Speculative Fiction

 
Marnee Chua, Executive Director of Clarion West Writers Workshop

Marnee Chua, Executive Director of Clarion West Writers Workshop

 

By Brooke Clayton

 “Whether you’re talking about cyber punk, or futuristic space opera, or elves and orcs, we know that fiction helps bring out empathy in other people,” Marnee Chua says.

This is her third summer as the Executive Director of Clarion West, and fresh off yet another successful six-week writing workshop that the organization has become famous for over the past 34 years, enthusiasm oozes from her every word.

“We also know that a lot of people who go into the science field read science fiction,” she goes on.

This was the case for her. She explains that she’s “unknowingly” been a fan of the speculative fiction genre forever: these stories invigorated her imagination as a girl and inspired her to earn a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon, despite the fact that the heroic protagonists she read about were all men.

“If you’re reading the books and there are no stories about people that look like you,” she continues, “you don’t really get the chance to see yourself in that role and project what you may become.”

After building a successful career in the non-profit world, an opportunity at Clarion West allowed Chua to return to the fiction which shaped her childhood. Today, she’s dedicated to diversifying the genre as a whole by creating a global network of writers that hope to inspire readers from every walk of life to achieve what we can only imagine.

Chua describes speculative fiction as stories that offer “alternate histories” and introduce “a ‘what if’ scenario” for readers to compare to reality. They indulge in the all too human instinct “to project a different future on to the world,” and along the way, even accidentally, they often reveal something about the source of this mentality. “It’s all a reflection of ourselves,” Chua explains.  

Recently, and especially because of the genre’s focus on science, there’s been a proliferation of stories expressing concern for the natural environment.

“You see a huge number of dystopian stories about just after some natural disaster in the past 10 to 20 years, stories that really focus on the possibility—probability—of climate change,” she says.  

Even in these survivalist stories, though, some of the most captivating elements of speculative fiction have little to do with the physical scenery and everything to do with the societal landscape. Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale, written in the 80’s and adapted into an adored TV series today, might be the best example. While declining birth rates are the inciting incident for Atwood’s dystopian world, it is her astute depiction of a society dedicated to exploiting and degrading fertile women which brought the book so much fame. The story has forced audiences to confront misogyny that is subverted but still present in our own world, provoking protests colored by the symbolic red hoods of the handmaids and proving the power of imaginary societies to shape our own.

Seattle, with a trademark blend of intellectual angst that has influenced generations of punk rockers and poets alike, is the perfect home for speculative fiction, and it had a home here with Clarion West a decade before Nirvana’s songs started topping the charts.

Chua explains that for the writers who take part in the intensive summer workshop, hailing from every corner of the country and world, it’s new and exciting to truly feel the presence of such a dedicated audience.

“The fan base and local writers here really come together to support new writers,” she says. “During the six weeks or during any kind of outreach event, the community really comes together and comes out to support the writers and get to know them.”

Hailing from Slovenia to Sweden, from right here in Seattle to the swamplands of Gainesville, there is a lot to get to know when it comes to this year’s Clarion West residents. Yet, different as they all are, Chua explains that the greatest priority of her organization is fostering the passion these writers have in common.

“There are hundreds of people locally, nationally, around the world, that call Clarion West a kind of home and family,” she says, “and they’re extremely passionate—not just about speculative fiction, but about helping diverse writers from all over the world tell their stories and do it well.”

This year’s six-week workshop embodied this family bond in an extra special way. Two of the 2019 instructors were alumni of the workshop, with “quite a bit of writing and publishing under their belts already” to prove the impact that six intensive weeks can have on a writer’s career.  

These two instructors go to show that whether speculative fiction concerns climate change, gender equality, or just tries to entertain readers with a world different in every way from our own, Clarion West is an organization created to support a community of bold humans with one shared desire: “getting good stories out there that will help us become better people and imagine a better world.”

 

For a full list of this summer’s residents, follow this link.

Interested in attending a Clarion West event or applying to the summer workshop? Learn more here.

Want to show your support for speculative fiction? Consider donating or volunteering.

Apply Now for a Residency in a City of Literature!

Sharpen your pencils! FOUR (!) Cities of Literature currently are accepting applications for their residency programs. Which one will you apply for?

 

Tartu City of Literature Fall Residency (Tartu, Estonia)

Tartu, Estonia

Tartu, Estonia

Tartu City of Literature Office announces the second 2019 call for applications of Tartu City of Literature International Residency Program for writers and translators.

The call for applications is now open. The residency period is October-November 2019.

Deadline for application submission is August 15, 2019.

Learn More

 

Prague City of Literature Creative Two Month Residency (Prague, Czech Republic)

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Do you have a breathtaking project you would like to work on during your residency in Prague?
Prague City of Literature offers residency stays for foreign writers and translators.

There are six residencies available for 2020; each lasts for two months.

Deadline for application submission is August 31, 2019.

Learn More

Dilsberg Writer in Residence Program (Heidelberg, Germany)

Dilsberg, Germany

Dilsberg, Germany

Produced in cooperation with the UNESCO City of Literature Heidelberg for authors from UNESCO Cities of Literature, this residency runs for three months, and takes place in the “Commandant’s House Dilsberg”, at Dilsberg Fortress, in Neckargemünd (approximately 14 km from Heidelberg).

The call for applications is now open. Residency period runs from February 1-April 30, 2020.

Deadline for application submission is September 16, 2019.

Learn More.

Granada Writers in Residence Programme (Granada, Spain)

Corrala de Santiago, Granada

Corrala de Santiago, Granada

Granada UNESCO City of Literature and the University of Granada are setting up this programme to foster contacts and forge bonds between writers from Granada and those from other cities and countries all over the world, to extend the international reach of Granada-based writers, to build international awareness of the cultural fabric of the city of Granada, and to promote Granada as a city of the arts that welcomes talent from abroad with open arms.

The residency period is November 1-December 1 2019.

Deadline for application submission is September 20, 2019.

Learn More.

 

Seattle City of Literature Seeks New Board Members!

 
SeattleLibraryEBBCMontage.jpg

Seattle City of Literature, the nonprofit responsible for securing Seattle’s UNESCO City of Literature designation in 2017, is looking for new board members.

Are you:
Passionate about books and reading?
Committed to supporting the work of the literary community in Seattle?
Interested in making meaningful change in and around our city?

If so, apply now! We’d love to chat with you about our work!

Members of the Seattle City of Literature board serve three-year terms, and the board meets one evening every month for two hours. We are a working board; responsibilities include (but are not limited to) fundraising, communicating regularly with the community, and advising on Seattle's relationship to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.


 

A Statement from the Creative Cities Steering Committee

UNESCO Creative Cities Network statement on New Zealand terror attacks

We, the members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and our colleagues in UNESCO Cities of Auckland (Music) and Dunedin (Literature) during this terrible moment of suffering in Christchurch.

It is important at this moment that we stand with the Mayor and people of Christchurch, and our UCCN colleagues in New Zealand. We know that there is great shock, pain and fear to be overcome.

When one city or nation suffers from violence fueled by racism and the deliberate targeting of the Muslim community – we all suffer.

We must not suffer in silence.

We stand together to fight violence and build peace through all art forms and culture.

UNESCO seeks to build peace through international cooperation in education, science and culture. Its mandate is as relevant as ever. Cultural diversity is under attack and new forms of intolerance, rejection of scientific facts and threats to freedom of expression challenge peace and human rights. Goal 16 on the Agenda 2030 states: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”. And the main goal of the New Urban Agenda is: “Leave No One Behind.”.

Today we recognize there is much work to do around the world to fully realize peaceful cities and societies and to leave no one behind. Therefore in response, UNESCO’s duty remains to reaffirm the humanist missions of education, science and culture, and we encourage our colleagues in New Zealand to recognize that they are not alone in this struggle.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) is a project of UNESCO launched in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities which recognized creativity as a major factor in their urban development. The network currently comprises 180 cities from 72 countries.

The network aims to foster mutual international cooperation with and between member cities committed to invest in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy. The Network recognizes the following creative fields: Crafts & Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music.

Apply Now for a Residency in a City of Literature!

Dust off your resumes and polish your writing samples! Three Cities of Literature currently are accepting applications for their residency programs. Which one will you apply for?

Krakow City of Literature Residency Program (Kraków, Poland)

 
Krakow City of Literature.jpg
 

The Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Residency Program is dedicated to emerging writers from the Cities of Literature of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It aims to promote the Cities of Literature Network, provide writers with a platform to showcase their work and talent to a Central European audience, support greater diversity of voices and literatures on the Polish and Central European book market and offer local writers the chance to create links with international writers as well.

The call for applications for 2019 is now open.

The residency periods are:

May 1 – June 30
September 1 – October 31

Deadline for application submission is February 25, 2019.
Learn More

Tartu City of Literature Spring Residency (Tartu, Estonia)

 
University of Tartu_Photo by Marja Unt.JPG
 

Tartu City of Literature Office announces the first 2019 call for applications of Tartu City of Literature International Residency Program for writers and translators.

The call for applications is now open. The residency period is April-May 2019.

Deadline for application submission is February 25th 2019.

Learn More

Ljubljana International Literary Residency (Ljubljana, Slovenia)

 
panorama, photo Matej Kastelic, Mostphotos.jpg
 

Ljubljana, a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015, offers two one-month residencies for writers at the newly restored Švicarija/Swisshouse Creative Centre, which is part of the International Centre of Graphic Arts.
 
The residency periods are:
October 1-31 2019 and November 20–20 December 2019 (one month per residency/applicant).
 
Deadline for application submission is March 31, 2019.

Learn More

Apply Now to Be Seattle's Next Civic Poet!

Are you our next Civic Poet?

AR Civic Poet.jpg

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the City of Literature support an experienced poet with a two-year City residency as literary ambassador. In addition to annual City events, the Civic Poet will foster community dialogue and engagement between the City, the public and other artists while celebrating the literary arts.
Eligibility:
This call is open to Seattle-based poets who have an established body of work including published works, reading/spoken word and project-planning experience and who have skills in racial equity practices. Applicants must be eligible to work in the US, be committed to this commission's purpose and have a strong relationship to Seattle
Deadline:
Wednesday, April 24, 2019; 10:59 p.m. PST 
Application:
Find the guidelines and online application here
Workshops:
Saturday, February 16, 2 - 3:30 p.m.
Seattle Public Library – Columbia City Branch, map it
4721 Rainier Ave. S.
Seattle, Washington 98118
Learn what makes a strong application. The session will cover specifics on eligibility, and how to apply. All applicants are encouraged to attend.

Photo of current Civic Poet Anastacia-Renee courtesy Marcus Donner

Happy UNESCO Birthday to Us!

It’s been one year since Seattle was designated a UNESCO City of Literature. And what a year! 
Let’s look back over the work that Seattle City of Literature has accomplished so far:

Creative Cities Network Update

Delegates from twenty-six Cities of Literature convened in Iowa City, April 2018

Delegates from twenty-six Cities of Literature convened in Iowa City, April 2018

Since our designation, Seattle attended the Cities of Literature Subnetwork meeting in Iowa City (April 2018) and the Creative Cities Network meeting in Kraków (June 2018).

  • In Iowa City, 26 of the 28 Cities of Lit attended. Seattle was welcomed into the network with 7 other new cities. We spent time getting to know the delegates and also how the subnetwork functions.

  • In Kraków, 180 cities across all 7 disciplines attended. Our time was divided into a literary study trip and the UNESCO conference. Seattle also had the opportunity to meet with delegates from the other U.S. Creative Cities.

  • The literary study trip introduced delegates to the breadth of the literary community in Kraków, and included meetings with publishers as well as the Polish Book Institute; visits to area bookstores; visits to cultural nonprofits; and attendance at the OffMiłosz Festival and the Szymborska Awards.

  • The theme of this year’s conference was “Creative Crossroads,” and it focused on the idea of connection and intersection. The purpose was to “strengthen ties between cities from around the world” and to “serve as a platform to define the strategic objectives of the network,” centered around UNESCO’s Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are targets for the Creative Cities to strive toward as we undertake our individual and collaborative work.

  • Seattle presented to our literature subnetwork on our Equity Trainings, and presented as part of the full conference on a “Creative Mobilities” panel on transportation—showcasing Seattle’s Poetry on Buses.

Program Updates

Maori writer Nic Low with Jack Straw writers, October 2017. From left: D.A. Navoti, Catalina Cantú, Levi Fuller, Nic Low, Jamaica Baldwin

Maori writer Nic Low with Jack Straw writers, October 2017. From left: D.A. Navoti, Catalina Cantú, Levi Fuller, Nic Low, Jamaica Baldwin

Seattle City of Lit has been producing and partnering on a variety of programs in the last year and a half. Here’s a bit more information about them:

  • Seattle City of Lit has hosted four equity trainings for members of the literary community. These trainings have focused on cultural competency, implicit bias, unpacking privilege and hiring & retaining a diverse workforce. We have some funding to continue hosting these trainings.

  • We partnered with our sister city Christchurch on an indigenous writers’ exchange. In 2016, Elissa Washuta traveled to Christchurch and took part in the WORD Christchurch Literary Festival. In 2017 Maori writer Nic Low traveled here and participated in LitCrawl Seattle. We also conducted a literary journal exchange where a journal from each city featured writers from the partner city to coincide with the writer’s visit.

  • We have had ongoing partnerships with Reykjavik City of Lit, Iceland Naturally, and their “Taste of Iceland” festival. This has included a program with saga experts and a band at KEXP (2016) and a recent visit from Reykjavik writer and environmental activist Andri Snaer Magnason.

What Have We Learned?

Since Seattle originally started the designation process, UNESCO’s focus has shifted to concentrate on ways that the network can help build sustainable cities through the arts.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals exist to help guide the overarching work that the network undertakes and give us a framework for how the arts sectors can help create more livable cities.

We’re excited about how this work can create real impact in our city and in cities around the world. The Creative Cities Network, which Seattle is now a part of, is an amazing resource for inspiration, collaboration and best practices. And the best news? 

We’re just getting started!

UNESCO designates Seattle as City of Literature in Creative Cities Network

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it designated Seattle as a City of Literature in the Creative Cities Network. Seattle joins an international network of 116 member cities from 54 countries that promote socio-economic and cultural tourism in the developed and developing world through creative industries. The bid to join the Creative Cities Network was led by Seattle City of Literature, a non-profit whose aim is to foster public and private literary partnerships in the city and abroad to promote a robust creative economy.

Seattle is the top city in the United States for arts organizations per capita, and our nonprofit arts landscape is the fourth largest in the USA. The 325 nonprofit arts organizations in the greater Seattle area generated more than $207 million in revenues in 2012, according to the Seattle Office of Arts& Culture’s Creative Vitality Index (CVI) report, which tracks economic health and development in arts and culture. Employment in arts and culture in the Seattle metro area increased by more than 6 percent from 2010 to 2012, and as of 2012, nearly 31,000 people—or 3.5 percent of the population—worked in the sector.

Over the last five years, of their $10 million annual budget, the Office of Arts and Culture has dedicated an average of more than $230,000 in funding to literary and storytelling programs and artists—meaning they have invested more than $1.2 million in literature in the last five years. Additionally, according to data provided by 4Culture, the King County cultural funding arm, the county has granted more than $2.5 million to literary programs and individual writers in the last five years, from historic renovation funds to individual artist grants.

“Seattle has a wonderfully rich literary history beginning with the storytelling tradition of Native Americans in this region,” said Bob Redmond, Board President of Seattle City of Literature. “We found widespread support in the community for this successful effort. We look forward to working with partners in the arts community to participate in this global network."

The non-profit worked with the City of Seattle to establish a Civic Poet program. Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle's first Civic Poet, served as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community. In addition, Seattle City of Literature has collaborated on events with Hugo House and Elliott Bay Bookstore, and arranged for artist exchanges between Seattle, New Zealand and Iceland. This month, Seattle City of Literature hosted the second half of its Indigenous Writers Exchange with Nic Low of the Ngāi Tahu tribe of New Zealand. Last year, Elissa Washuta of the Cowlitz Tribe traveled to Christchurch for a similar exchange.

Seattle’s literary resources include thriving independent bookstores, public libraries, literary arts nonprofits and writing programs that serve diverse communities, publishers and small presses, professional organizations, readers, and writers. Seattle City of Literature aims to foster a culture where local writers can stay on the West Coast and be supported by local publishing amenities.

The board and stakeholders who generously gave their time and resources to develop the bid to join the Creative Cities Network includes writers, readers, editors, publishers, teachers, and non-profit leaders.

Seattle joins a group of 20 outstanding UNESCO City of Literature members including Iowa City (the first US city to gain recognition); as well as Edinburgh Scotland, Krakow, Poland; Baghdad, Iraq; Dublin, Ireland; Montevideo, Uruguay; and others.

EMAIL: hanady.kader@gmail.com

PHONE: 206-786-571

Frequently Asked Questions about My Trip to New Zealand

by Elissa Washuta Q: You were in New Zealand? How was it? A: Great. / Amazing. / Exceptional. / It changed my life.

Q: Vacation? Or like a book thing? A: Officially, the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, to which I was invited as a panelist, workshop co-leader, and reader. Unofficially, it was, in a way, a vacation, or the closest thing I’ll get to taking a vacation in New Zealand in the foreseeable future (starving artist, workaholic, unable to relax and suspend productivity, et cetera).

The question makes me realize that I may not even know what a vacation is, so I looked up the word in the dictionary. An extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling. Or: The action of leaving something one previously occupied.

The second fits. When I stepped into the Auckland airport before dawn after twelve hours on an airplane maybe eight times the size of my apartment, I began to cry. I felt the enormity of this gift, and I felt some hard block of pain dislodged by the knowledge that my body had just traveled to the other side of the world.

I can’t talk about this trip without mentioning that I had been heartbroken for weeks when I made the trip. I tucked my wounded heart into a winter jacket and took it to a place it had never seen.

After a few minutes of dreamlike wandering through the Auckland airport, I realized I didn’t have much time to get onto my connection to Christchurch. I rushed through immigration and biosecurity and, on the other side, headed for the next terminal, I found myself in the middle of a group of people in pristine black tracksuits with the Olympic rings emblazoned on their luggage. Together, we stepped into the public meeting area, and the people gathered there cheered, and I let myself absorb stray beams of their love.

And then I stepped into the late-winter dawn, waiting for the bus, looking at trees I didn’t recognize, and my whole body knew that it was making itself new.

 

Q: Sounds like a great opportunity. How’d you make that happen? A: I don’t make anything happen—anything that works out well, anyway.

 

Q: So what kind of stuff did they have you doing? A:  It’s impossible for me to fit all of it in a blog post, but I’ll attempt highlights. I co-lead a workshop for Ngāi Tahu writers with Ali Cobby Eckermann, Hana O’Regan, and Ivan Coyote, where we maintained a space in which we could freely talk about writing and Indigeneity. With the other international writers, I traveled to Tuahiwi Marae to participate in a pōwhiri, a Māori welcome, where I was able to introduce myself and my family and share a song and a story.

Nic Low,  Ali Cobby Eckermann & Elissa Washuta

I participated in a powerful Sister Cities/First Nations panel with Ali and wonderful moderator Nic Low (great write-up here), which unexpectedly turned into a magical discussion about anger, violation, self-destruction, and healing.

Every day, I had a lovely, celiac-friendly breakfast at the bed & breakfast. I met writers who became family for a few days and shared special meals with good people. New friends showed me around town, walked with me, department store shopped with me, went to panels with me (and came to mine), and raved, in detail, about the plot of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (stopping at spoilers).

 

Q: Is it as beautiful as they say?

A: Yes, but not in the way they say. Not like Lord of the Rings—not Christchurch, a city leveled, loved, and rebuilt. Exquisite street art is everywhere. The tenderness for beloved buildings is evident in their reconstruction. And the people—their warmth is the most beautiful thing about Christchurch.

Christchurch cathedral being rebuilt

 

Q: It must have been a good time for you to get away, right?  I mean, how are you feeling? Better? A: Better, yes. In Seattle, I’ve learned over and over that it’s easy to infuse a place with hurt. Before I moved here, I listened over and over to my favorite Pearl Jam song, “All Those Yesterdays,” and tucked one of the lines into myself: “It’s no crime to escape.” It makes sense that I would need to board a plane, fall into slumber, and wake up in a new place, a new season, smelling winter, as though I’d performed the tesseract I always hoped I would when I read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid. I traveled through space and time the short way, and even disoriented and dislocated, I had everything I needed the whole time.

You’re Invited to Participate: Racial Equity and the Literary Arts

Seattle City of Literature and the Office of Arts and Culture are pleased to present the final workshop in the series on ‘Racial Equity and the Literary Arts.' Working with facilitator, Dr. Caprice Hollins, this program will focus on understanding racial privilege. Using lecture, discussion, and experiential exercises, participants will deepen their understanding of self and the concept of privilege. We will then discuss common ways that privilege manifests itself on an institutional and personal level, and how it influences relationships within and across cultures.

The workshop will take place on Tuesday, October 18 from 1:30pm to 5:00pm at the Bertha Knight Landes Room at Seattle’s City Hall. There is no cost to attend, but space is limited, so please email rsvp@seattlecityoflit dot org to reserve your spot by October 14.

About the facilitator: HSW_HollinsDr. Caprice Hollins, co-founder of Cultures Connecting, LLC, received her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Multicultural and Community Psychology in 1998. She became licensed in Washington State in 2000 and has over 20 years of experience teaching graduate courses, working with historically marginalized populations, researching, studying, and facilitating race related conversations. Her experience includes opening and directing the Department of Equity & Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools, developing and implementing district-wide and school-based training, while utilizing her background in psychology to assist district leaders and staff institutionalize change to promote equity and social justice. Dr. Hollins also works as a part-time core faculty in the department of counseling at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.

Fall Books Preview Part Two!

Our second preview comes from Caitlin Baker, adult book buyer at University Book Store. Catilin, a seasoned bookseller who tweets about books at @Cait_onthe_Luce, highlights some titles that might have evaded the national press. eveoutofruins Eve Out of Her Ruins, by Ananda Devi and translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman September 2016 Deep Vellum Publishing 

Narrated by four teens living in the Troumaron neighborhood on the tiny resort island of Mauritius, Eve Out of Her Ruins captures the harsh reality of life in a part of the island tourists never see. Devi's powerful novel has stuck with me weeks after finishing and  Zuckerman's lively translation captures the intensity of the daily struggle for life the teens face.

 

The Revolutionaries Try Again, by Mauro Javier Cardenas September 2016 Coffee House Press

revolutionaries-try-againIn this debut novel, three childhood friends reunite after a decade apart to run against the corrupt President El Loco. Cardenas' playful language and wit make this one of the best books of the year.

 

 

 

subsidiary The Subsidiary, by Matias Celedon August 30, 2016 Melville House

Designed by the author using a set of rubber stamps he purchased at the Santiago library, The Subsidiary is set in an office building in which the employees are trapped during a power outage. Through mounting terror, and with only a few words per page, this slim book will haunt you long after you have finished reading it.

 

 

A Greater Music, by Bae Suah and translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith October 2016 Open Letter  

greater_music-front_frame_large Early in A Greater Music the narrator slips into an icy river outside Berlin where she is house sitting for an ex-boyfriend. As the reader we slip into her memories in this gorgeously written book.

 

 

 

Thanks to Caitlin and University Book Store for these picks! And stay tuned for more recommendations from other booksellers in our community!

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Fall Books Preview!

UW+bookstore1Summer is winding down, and while we may be a little sad that the days are getting shorter, our bookish hearts are eagerly anticipating the turning of the season. Fall is the time when publishers put out their “big” books. And to help whet your appetite for what’s coming out, we talked with our friends at University Book Store about the books that they are most looking forward to this fall season. The first preview comes from Rene' Kirkpatrick. Rene' is a long-time northwest bookseller, having worked at All For Kids, Third Place Books and Eagle Harbor Book Company, before becoming the Children's Book Buyer at University Book Store.  

Looking for Betty MacDonald, by Paula Becker. September, 2016. University of Washington Press.

BECLOO Paula Becker (staff historian at HistoryLink and author of two books of Seattle/Northwest history) has written what will be the definitive biography of Betty MacDonald. Paula has been given full access to the MacDonald archives including some things never seen by any other researcher. The book will be filled with local history, maybe a little gossip, and, knowing how much Paula loved Betty M., a warm look at an amazing woman and her family. University of Washington Press is reissuing the other editions of Betty’s other books at the same time.

 

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman. September 13, 2016. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Gayle-Forman-Leave-Me

Haven’t we always wondered what we could do or be if we could start our lives over? Like The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett and Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg, Leave Me is about a woman who decides to leave everything she knows and thinks she loves. Maribeth Klein is so busy and overwhelmed by family and work she doesn’t realize she has had a heart attack until she ends up in the hospital. While she is recovering from the surgery, already besieged with family and work, feeling as if her illness is an imposition on everyone, she packs a bag and leaves. I know I have had moments where my exit is upcoming and it would be easy to just drive on. Gayle Forman is also the author of If I Stay, a young adult novel about deciding to stay or go.

635894096080491941-Kids-of-Appetite-coverThe Kids of Appetite, by David Arnold. September 20, 2016. Viking.

This is the next book by the author of Mosquitoland, one of my all-time favorite young adult road trip novels. The Kids of Appetite is filled with unforgettable and relatable characters and the story is told in alternating voices: Vic, a boy with Moebius syndrome (a neurological disorder causing facial paralysis), and Mad, a homeless girl making a family of her own. Vic needs to scatter his dad’s ashes and he and Mad’s crew of misfit kids go on a journey together to get beyond their various incarnations of grief and loss. This will be a good chance to revisit S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders! I love books that include other books. For ages 14 and up.

News of the World, Paulette Giles. October 4, 2016. Morrow. y450-293

There’s something utterly compelling about reading stories about very different people undertaking a road trip together. In News of the World, the road-trippers are in a wagon with one broken wheel surrounded by unforgiving landscape and the most brutal of outlaws. Our heroes, a 70-year old newsreader in post-Civil War Texas, and his companion, a 10-year old girl recently returned by the Kiowa four years after being kidnapped, are on a 400-mile trip to take her back home. The book itself is a beautiful package,  and it is poignant, bighearted, and, at times spit-takingly funny.

 

Thanks to Rene' and University Book Store for their recommendations! Stay tuned for more Fall Book Previews in the next few weeks!

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My Imagination's Blank Spot Takes a Trip to New Zealand

by Elissa Washuta People have been asking me whether I’m excited to visit New Zealand, and the answer is yes. People want to know what I’m going to do there. My answer is brief: I’m going to lead a workshop for Ngāi Tahu writers, present a PechaKucha, and participate in an Indigenous writers panel. Yes, but—New Zealand. I know.

I’ve been out of the country fewer than five times, I think, for trips to Canada. I’ve thought I should travel more after I made an OKCupid profile and quickly began to sense, from the Machu Picchu photos and lists of passport stamps collected, that my lack of worldiness should be a secret. I grew up in New Jersey, sort of in the woods, a few miles away from a sod farming hotbed, and in those lakes and trees and people, I had a world.

I have been asked to write about my anticipation for this visit, but I’ve procrastinated, because when I think about my expectations and excitement for this visit, I visualize no landscapes, no scenes. I looked up Christchurch online, but was overwhelmed by the idea of planning for the trip, so I have only a single image of a street scene in my head from a tourism website that I didn’t explore. My life is spent imagining every possible thing that could happen to me, a process that makes up the gnarled nest of fear and hope in which I live, but this trip to New Zealand is one thing that’s going to happen to me that I can’t picture.

I see my own country through the trips I make as a working writer.  I spend time teaching in Santa Fe every year. I travel around the country for readings. This is how I spend my summer vacation: spread throughout the year, in patches and pieces, working. This is my comfort zone. I don’t think I could take a vacation without a tutorial.

With my trip just weeks away, I went back to the Christchurch tourism website. Reading about tours, museums, and parks, I realized that I draw only mental blanks when I think of places. When I think of New Zealand, I think of people.

In 2013, I told Ronnie I wanted to visit Aotearoa—and, really, it was the first place outside North America I’d given serious thought to visiting. This desire to travel, for the first time, was infused with purpose and thoughts of making relationships.

When I wrote a letter of support for Seattle’s bid to be a UNESCO City of Literature, I thought of the Māori visitors to UW, the group of Native UW students who spent a quarter in Iceland, and my colleagues connecting with Indigenous scholars around the world. I expressed my hope that the City of Literature could provide opportunities for the Native writers from Coast Salish territory to collaborate with other Indigenous peoples. To be the first Seattle writer to participate in the programming I imagined for the City of Literature is a tremendous honor.

I suspect that my imagination’s blank spot has to do with something that’s become commonplace in my brain lately as I take on projects that scare me in their thrilling enormity: My excitement is mixed with the sobering knowledge that I have a responsibility. I will make new relationships, represent my family and community, and learn from the people I’ll meet in Ōtautahi. I’ll come home with mental pictures of lands where, like here, people have created place by making and maintaining relationships with their environments over innumerable generations.

For more from writer Elissa Washuta, visit her website.

Q&A With Writer Elissa Washuta: She's Going to New Zealand. What For?

Seattle writer Elissa Washuta will present a workshop and participate in a panel featuring indigenous writers at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand. Seattle writer Elissa Washuta is going to New Zealand. Read on to find out why she's headed to that part of the world and how she gets preoccupied with poetry.

What are you working on these days?

Washuta: I'm working on my third book. I don't like to say too much about it, because I find that it's really not very good for my writing process to say too much about work that hasn't been written yet. I've killed a lot of essays, and even whole books, that way. But I'm working on an essay collection, or two, or three. I'm burrowing into texts the same way I did with a college term paper in My Body Is a Book of Rules and filling those textual containers with my own story.

I'm also the writer-in-residence at the Fremont Bridge this summer, and I'm just beginning a big project about the bridge, the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the land, the water, and the unseen world.

What story or book have you read lately that’s stuck with you? Why did it resonate?

Washuta: Last Sext by Melissa Broder. I often feel kind of lost when I read poetry because I get preoccupied with questions about what makes a poem a poem and how line breaks work--the stuff I've been told not to worry about. Last Sext was different because it was like the speaker's language had come out of my own body: "The hole I fill with sickness this time / Every time / This is what I do with love"

You’re going to New Zealand's WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. What’s the plan for you there?

Washuta: Right now, I plan to participate fully in the festival. I will be reading and speaking at least a couple of times, and I plan to attend other events as much as possible. I'm going to be part of an Indigenous writers panel, and I'm making my first PechaKucha! I haven't made any other plans because I'm not very good at travel. I've never been outside the US or Canada and I'm a little inept at sightseeing and planning for that, having never done much travel apart from book tour events, conferences, and work trips. I'm open to suggestions for things to do in Christchurch. I plan to be curious and happy.

A lot of your writing is influenced by your background as a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. You’ll be taking that experience to New Zealand to teach a non-fiction writing workshop with Maori writers. Do you think there are experiences or themes that come up time and again in the writing of native people? Why?

The things that I think a lot of readers identify as common themes in work by Native American writers--identity, land--are, really, common themes in work by non-Native writers, too. There is so much variation in theme, structural approaches, style, and subject matter in work by Native writers. I think that some readers who approach the "Native American" shelves in bookstores are expecting to find books about dead people, tradition, war, spirituality, and reservations. Perhaps that's changing. So many of us don't appear on those shelves, and so many of us are concerned with all sorts of other things: Law & Order, Disney characters, illness, cities, language, detective stories, parenting, vampires--the list is actually endless. I can barely even begin to create it.

For more from writer Elissa Washuta, visit her website.

PRESS RELEASE: Seattle writers to participate in New Zealand literary festival

(Seattle—June 23, 2016) Seattle City of Literature is pleased to announce that local writer Elissa Washuta will present a workshop and participate in a panel featuring indigenous writers at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand. In addition to Washuta’s participation in the festival, Seattle poets Maged Zaher, Claudia Castro Luna, John Olson and Angel Gardner will have their work featured in the New Zealand literary arts journal Catalyst in connection with the festival.

Washuta, a Seattle-based memoirist and essayist, will run a non-fiction workshop for Māori writers in conjunction with Christchurch’s Ngāi Tahu tribe, and participate in a ‘Sister Cities/First Nations’ panel with a Māori writer from Christchurch, Nic Low, and an Aboriginal writer from Adelaide, Ali Cobby Eckermann.

“I am thrilled and honored to share my work in the home of the Māori people,” Washuta said. “Participating in an Indigenous writers exchange in New Zealand has been one of my dreams for years, and WORD gives me the opportunity to do this. I look forward to being in the company of such a brilliant group of writers.”

WORD Christchurch presents a variety of literary events, including a biennial Writers & Readers Festival – the largest literary event in New Zealand’s South Island. The events bring writers, thinkers and performers together to celebrate the written word and provide a window for readers to respond to ideas.

“Elissa is a masterful writer and we’re delighted that she’ll represent Seattle’s literary community in Christchurch, one of our sister cities,” said Stesha Brandon, Interim Executive Director of Seattle City of Literature. “We’re hopeful that this will be the first in an ongoing cultural exchange.”

Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the author of two books, Starvation Mode and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and BuzzFeed.

She holds a Master’s in Fine Arts from The University of Washington and serves as undergraduate adviser for the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington and is a nonfiction faculty member in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a faculty advisor for Mud City Journal and Saturday editor for The Rumpus.

Washuta’s visit is supported by the Christchurch City Council Sister City Programme, which is supporting the attendance of an indigenous writer from both Seattle and Adelaide, two of its Sister Cities.

For more information about WORD Christchurch, visit: http://wordchristchurch.co.nz/ For more information on Elissa Washuta, visit: http://washuta.net/about-elissa

MEDIA INQUIRIES: Didi Kader media@seattlecityoflit.org

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You're Invited to Participate: Racial Equity and the Literary Arts

Seattle City of Literature and the Office of Arts and Culture are pleased to present the first in a series of workshops on ‘Racial Equity and the Literary Arts.’ Working with facilitator, Dr. Caprice Hollins, this program will provide a framework on how to address issues of equity and race in our community, and help to create a common language for entering into discourse.

Participants will begin to appreciate their role in becoming culturally competent by deepening their awareness of self--moving from color blindness to racial cognizance; increasing their knowledge of others and their experiences of racism and oppression; developing skills to work effectively across cultures; and advocating and taking action to initiate change.

The first workshop will take place on Thursday, June 2 from 1:30pm to 5:00pm at the Bertha Knight Landes Room at Seattle’s City Hall. There is no cost to attend, but space is limited, so please email rsvp@seattlecityoflit to reserve your spot by May 31.

After the initial workshop, Seattle City of Literature will convene an advisory committee from the community to help shape our goals for the remaining workshops.

If you are not able to attend the first workshop but are interested in hearing about subsequent meetings, or participating in the advisory committee, let us know! Email Stesha Brandon [executive@seattlecityoflit.org] for more information.

About the facilitator:

HSW_HollinsDr. Caprice Hollins, co-founder of Cultures Connecting, LLC, received her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Multicultural and Community Psychology in 1998. She became licensed in Washington State in 2000 and has over 20 years of experience teaching graduate courses, working with historically marginalized populations, researching, studying, and facilitating race related conversations. Her experience includes opening and directing the Department of Equity & Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools, developing and implementing district-wide and school-based training, while utilizing her background in psychology to assist district leaders and staff institutionalize change to promote equity and social justice. Dr. Hollins also works as a part-time core faculty in the department of counseling at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.

PRESS RELEASE: Seattle City of Literature Appoints Interim Executive Director

Interim Executive Director Stesha Brandon brings extensive experience in arts non-profits and long involvement in local literary community MEDIA INQUIRIES: Didi Kader media@seattlecityoflit.org

(Seattle—Feb. 24, 2016) Seattle City of Literature has appointed Stesha Brandon as its Interim Executive Director. Brandon’s role will be to strengthen the Seattle City of Literature organization, lead the upcoming bid to join the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network, and initiate a comprehensive search for a permanent Executive Director.

Brandon has a long history of engagement with Seattle’s arts and culture community, especially the literary arts. Brandon was most recently Program Director of Town Hall Seattle, which produces more than 350 events each year, and worked for University Book Store for over ten years, where she programmed 500 events annually for nine branches. She's a veteran of numerous boards and committees, including the Bumbershoot Task Force and the Washington State Book Awards jury.

“I am delighted to join this effort to designate Seattle a UNESCO Creative City, and excited to deepen our relationship with local literary and arts organizations,” Brandon said. “We have a vital role in supporting Seattle’s literary community, and there is still valuable work to be done.”

Seattle has been invited to apply to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2017 after narrowly missing UNESCO’s 2016 endorsement as part of the Creative Cities Network.

In addition to leading the 2017 bid to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Brandon and the Board of Directors have begun three projects for the organization as she takes on the role of Interim Executive Director:

  • Work with the City of Seattle and the Office of Arts & Culture to provide diversity training opportunities for our member organizations and endorsers, designed to be consistent with the Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Arts & Culture standards.
  • Engage key stakeholders in the civic and academic communities to lay the groundwork for an economic impact study of the literary arts in the Seattle region. The organization has begun putting together a collection of literary arts resources in Seattle. The inventory is accessible on the Seattle City of Literature website, and provides an overview of the breadth and depth of our literary community, as well as practical resources to help connect organizations and writers.
  • Pursue an international collaboration and writers’ exchange with members of the UNESCO Creative Cities and Sister Cities networks. Developed in collaboration with other local organizations, this program will gives Seattle audiences the ability to experience literary work by internationally based writers, and will create an opportunity for Seattle-based writers to travel abroad.

"I'm thrilled to welcome Stesha Brandon as the Interim Executive Director for Seattle City of Literature," said Board President Bob Redmond. "The organization has a great vision and has begun contributing both locally and internationally. To take the next steps we needed help, and Stesha is wonderfully qualified to provide that help. She knows both the for-profit and non-profit angles of the arts world, is well versed in Literature and many other creative disciplines, and has great support from the community. We're lucky to land her and look forward to the next steps for the organization."

Brandon will work with the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board to hire a permanent Executive Director, to start prospectively in 2017.

Seattle City of Literature has already worked with the City of Seattle to establish a Civic Poet program. Claudia Castro Luna, the city’s first Civic Poet, serves as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community. In addition, the non-profit has collaborated on events with Hugo House and Elliott Bay Bookstore.

Seattle’s literary resources include thriving independent bookstores, generously funded public libraries, literary arts nonprofits and writing programs that serve diverse communities, publishers and small presses, professional organizations, readers, and writers. Seattle City of Literature aims to galvanize the city's readers, honor our diverse literary traditions, and promote a robust creative economy.

The board and stakeholders involved in Seattle City of Literature include writers, readers, editors, publishers, teachers, and non-profit leaders.

For more information about Seattle City of Literature and future programming, visit: http://seattlecityoflit.org

 

LOCAL LITERARY AND ARTS LEADERS OFFER SUPPORT

Karen Maeda Allman, Elliott Bay Book Company

We're committed to supporting the designation of Seattle as a UNESCO City of Literature and look forward to participating in programs with authors both international and local. I've worked with Stesha for many years, both at Town Hall Seattle, and as a juror on the Washington State Book Awards Committee, and I'm so glad that someone so dedicated and so enthusiastic about literature will be serving as the Executive Director.

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Phoebe Bosché, Managing Editor, Raven Chronicles

Raven Chronicles’ editors and staff welcome Stesha Brandon as the new Interim Executive Director of Seattle City of Literature. Her background, working with Town Hall Seattle and University Book Store makes her a good fit with the goals of SCoL: building community and sharing literary resources. Raven is especially excited about the International Writers Exchange program that SCoL is working on: exchanging writers from the Puget Sound region with writers from around the world deepens our commitment to learning, scholarship, understanding other cultures and ways of seeing.

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Ruth Dickey, Executive Director, Seattle Arts & Lectures

All of us at Seattle Arts & Lectures were thrilled to learn that Stesha Brandon is beginning as the new Executive Director of the City of Literature Project. We believe The City of Literature is an incredibly important initiative to draw together and shine a spotlight on our literary ecosystem here in Seattle, and I can’t imagine a better person to guide the initiative in its next steps.

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Chris Higashi, Program Manager, Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library

The Washington Center for the Book at The Seattle Public Library is delighted that Seattle City of Literature will be pursuing the UNESCO designation in 2017. We are looking forward to learning more about and participating in programs the organization will be implementing now and in the future. We've worked with Stesha for many years, both through her serving on the Washington State Book Awards jury and her work at Town Hall Seattle. Her passion and advocacy for the literary community are well known, impressive, and much appreciated.

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Kathleen Flenniken, Editor and President, Floating Bridge Press

Diversity training, writer’s exchanges, and an economic impact study could be great assets to Seattle writers, but these kind of programs have been difficult to come by in the past because we have lacked an umbrella organization capable coordinating so many large and small (but healthy) and diverse (but disconnected) writing interests. We are excited to think that Seattle City of Literature will be that umbrella. 

We have benefited from Stesha's knowledge of the Seattle Literary Community and her generous, open-armed and open-minded approach to creating connections among large and small organizations, well-known and little-known writers and across literary genres.

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Gary Luke, Publisher and CEO, Sasquatch Books

Seattle absolutely deserves the UNESCO designation as a World City of Literature, so I’m glad that the effort to win it will continue. The vision for the Seattle City of Literature to become a support network for this town's many literary organizations is a wonderful idea. Stesha Brandon is a great friend of Seattle’s literary world, and she will contribute much to the success of the Seattle City of Literature.

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Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle Civic Poet

I am happy to hear City of Literature is moving forward with a bid for 2017. It is a great opportunity for Seattle’s diverse literary community to be heard on an international stage.

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Nancy Pearl, librarian and book reviewer

I’ve known and worked with Stesha for many years, and I am delighted that she will be leading Seattle's bid to be designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.

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Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

This is to voice strong, continued, even renewed, interest in Seattle's bid for designation as a City of Literature in the UNESCO program. This is a bid for the long haul - which feels in line with Seattle's long-term dedication to reading, writing, and books, the part literary culture plays in shaping and enriching the place we call home.  Seattle's literary interests are also reflective of connections and commitments with the larger world - part of the exchange with writers, works, and readers from elsewhere in the world. 

We are also delighted that Stesha Brandon is playing a leadership role with Seattle's continued, ongoing bid. She brings expertise, dedication, and passion to this part, reflective of both strong local ties as well as connections to the larger literary world.