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.

Open Letter, upon UNESCO designations 2015

Dec. 11, 2015 To the literary community:

Today UNESCO's Creative Cities Network announced designations for cities in seven disciplines. We were sorry to learn that Seattle, which had bid for City of Literature status, was not one of them.

We offer enthusiastic congratulations to our fellow US cities who did win designation: Detroit (Design), Tucson (Gastronomy) and Austin (Media Arts). Also, big kudos to the nine cities internationally who won designation as Cities of Literature: Baghdad (Iraq), Barcelona (Spain), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lviv (Ukraine), Montevideo (Uruguay), Nottingham (UK), Óbidos (Portugal), Tartu (Estonia), Ulyanovsk (Russian Federation).

We deeply thank Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, his staff at the Office of Arts & Culture (particularly Randy Engstrom and Calandra Childers), City Councilmember Nick Licata, Rebecca Brinbury, Barbara Malone and all our stakeholders who were generous with resources, time and input as we developed the 2015 bid. We also want to thank our many supporters nationally, especially State Department staff and Iowa City's City of Literature staff, and our endorsers at the American Library Association, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and PEN America.

The widespread support in the national and local arts community for this effort is evident as it is inspiring. We are assessing potential support for another bid and how to move forward best to support the literary arts community in Seattle and regionally.

Our non-profit has made progress in galvanizing local literary support for the effort and in establishing connections with literary cities around the world. Among our successes this year is our work 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, our organization collaborated on events with Hugo House and Elliott Bay Bookstore that focused on diverse international voices.

We will be in conversation with our local literary and arts stakeholders to develop a path forward, and will share news when those next steps are clear. If you want to be part of that conversation, please contact us!

Sincerely,

On behalf of the The Seattle City of Literature Board of Directors,

Bob Redmond Board President

Seattle City of Lit: What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

IMG_7178 Greetings, Seattle readers and writers!

We had a heck of a busy summer and wanted to update you all on where our bid to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network stands, among other things!

We submitted our UNESCO bid in July and celebrated with a small toast the Sorrento Hotel, which has been generous in hosting us. UNESCO committees will discuss the bids and make decisions. We will find out if we received the designation before the end of 2015.

We also also finished a short video about Seattle's literary community. The video features Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Ruth Dickey, Chris Higashi, Gary Luke, Rick Simonson, Garth Stein, Ken Workman, Tree Swenson, and Eric Reynolds.

We brought in some money! Our board continued efforts to fund our initial program, the International Writers Exchange, working closely with the office of Nick Licata, various staff at the City of Seattle and the Office of Arts and Culture. The Office of Arts & Culture accepted our proposal and contributed $7500 in additional funding for this program (thanks OAC!).

And there's more money! Every board member has made a financial contribution. Between those, other community contributions, and additional pledges, we've raised nearly $14,000 towards the organization's overall programs and operations.

We compiled an Inventory of Literary Elements thanks to our Advisory Board, which has been generous with ideas and resources. We brainstormed a list of elements in the local literary ecosystem. We expanded this (ongoing) list, which you can find online here. Feel free to send us additional ideas!

We are planting seeds for a future board. We would love to see a diverse and representative Board of Directors, and we have developed a board recruitment committee. In the past few weeks we confirmed members to this committee, whose formal meetings are being scheduled now.

We made poetry a priority. We were deeply involved in the design of the Civic Poet program, worked on it this summer, and are thrilled to welcome Claudia Castro Luna, for whom we co-sponsored a reception at the Sorrento Hotel in September. Luna will be involved in City of Lit programming via the Writers' Exchange and other programs.

We've been partying! We have officially co-sponsored two events this fall, one at Hugo House featuring readers from the Iowa International Writers Program: Sara Baume (Ireland), Margarita Mateo Palmer (Cuba), Homeira Qaderi (Afghanistan), and Antônio Xerxenesky (Brazil). Wow!

On Friday October 9 we're headed north of Iowa with Taste of Iceland at Elliott Bay Book Company: Eliza Reid, co-founder of the Iceland Writers Retreat, in conversation with Tree Swenson of Hugo House. They will discuss Iceland's special inspiration for writers, gender equality, and Cities of Literature (Reykjavík is one!). The event is followed by Nigeria's Chinelo Okparanta with Seattle poet Montreux Rotholtz, presented by EBBC and Hedgebrook. Amazing evening!

What to do now? While our bid is pending, talk to us and about us and with us on social media! Send happy vibes for our bid to join UNESCO! Tweet or Facebook at us with interesting literary material that brings you joy or makes you think! You can find us on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

A happy, bountiful autumn to you all!

PRESS RELEASE: Seattle City of Literature Announces New Advisory Board, Strengthens Organization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 8, 2015

Contact: Didi Kader

206-334-3295

hanady.kader@gmail.com

Seattle City of Literature Announces New Advisory Board, Strengthens Organization

 

SEATTLE — Twenty-eight organizations have signed on as the Advisory Board for Seattle City of Literature, which is planning a bid for the city to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The organizations include the Seattle Public Library, Visit Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company, Humanities Washington, Folio: The Seattle Athanaeum, Third Place Books, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Sasquatch Books, Raven Chronicles, ARCADE, Hedgebrook, and over a dozen others.

 

The group is advising the non-profit organization Seattle City of Literature, an effort initially mobilized in 2013 by writer Ryan Boudinot. The organization also has a restructured Board of Directors, including veterans of non-profits and arts organizations. Citing unequivocal support for the community and Board, Boudinot is announcing that he is stepping down from the Board of Directors, having relinquished his Executive Director position earlier this year.

 

"Ryan did a fabulous job of manifesting a vision worthy of Seattle's amazing literary culture," said new board president Bob Redmond. "He laid the groundwork for an exceptional program that will help our entire community." Boudinot was aided greatly by Rebecca Brinson, onetime Managing Director who returns in a contract role supported by the City of Seattle. While continuing to work closely with the office of Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council, the new Board has raised over $10,000 in cash and pledges, completed the process with the IRS to be a fully recognized 501(c)(3), and worked with the US State Department and key national stakeholders to ensure progress of the effort.

 

"We're happy to see such tremendous support for Seattle's bid," said Redmond, former Program Director of Town Hall Seattle. "This has always been a group effort and many of these organizations have been instrumental in helping develop our program." The centerpiece of that program remains a writers' exchange between cities in the UNESCO network. Participating organizations will work together to share opportunities and amplify impacts.

 

"Designation as a city of literature will bring tremendous educational opportunity, help generate new writing, and support the creative economy," said Redmond. The Advisory Board is working on details of projects to help young and established writers, while the City of Seattle has already launched its "Civic Poet" program, which is also key to the City of Literature effort. Twenty-one applicants have applied for the position, which pays $10,000. The Civic Poet will be announced this August.

 

In 2004, UNESCO launched its Creative Cities Network with the aim of "fostering international cooperation between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and enhanced influence of culture in the world." The network covers seven thematic areas: Craft and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Media Arts, Music, and Literature — Seattle's intended designation.

 

Perhaps emblematic of the process, a new book — titled Seattle City of Literature, and edited by Boudinot — is scheduled for publication this September by local publisher Sasquatch Books. It features essays and profiles by 52 local writers, booksellers, publishers, and other figures in Seattle's literary community, including Tom Robbins, Claire Dederer, Elissa Washuta, Tree Swenson of Hugo House, Ruth Dickey of Seattle Arts & Lectures, and former Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken.

 

"This is a city where the only thing we love as much as language is the city itself," said Redmond. "Our story ranges from indigenous spoken traditions to the future of books themselves. It's a story that includes everyone, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together."

 

The Board is seeking endorsements of organizations and individuals, as well as donations, and will continue preparing its application, due July 15. Further information is available at seattlecityoflit.org

 

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Seattle City of Literature Advisory Board Members

as of June 8, 2015

 

African-American Writers' Alliance

ARCADE

Book-It Repertory Theatre

Bureau of Fearless Ideas

Clarion West Writers Workshop

Elliott Bay Book Company

Fantagraphics Books

Floating Bridge Press

Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum

Hedgebrook

Hotel Sorrento

Hugo House

Humanities Washington

Jack Straw Cultural Center

Mountaineers Books

Poetry Northwest

Pongo Teen Writing

Raven Chronicles

Resurrection House

Sasquatch Books

Seattle Arts & Lectures

Seattle Poetics LAB (SPLAB)

Seattle Public Library/Center for the Book

Seattle7Writers

The Bushwick Book Club

Third Place Books

Town Hall Seattle

Visit Seattle

 

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The Bid is On

Fellow Seattleites, Seattle City of Literature is actively pursuing its bid to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. A team of committed individuals from myriad disciplines has convened and begun work to make the bid a reality. Our hope is to reflect the diversity and depth of Seattle’s robust literary economy as we develop our city’s bid.

Our mission is to serve and enhance Seattle’s literary community domestically and showcase local work on the world stage. Seattle is a place where books and ideas matter. We now have the world’s attention and an opportunity to affirm Seattle’s role as one of the world’s great literary cities. Join us!

We will have more news on the team and plans moving forward in the near future. Stay tuned!

Warmest Regards,

Seattle City of Literature