It was the kind of meeting where absences were noteworthy. Last week at Hugo House, local author Ryan Boudinot led an informational session to discuss how to make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature. In attendance were representatives from a passel of local literary institutions including Open Books, University Book Store, Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, Island Books, the APRIL Festival, and Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture. On a whiteboard, the group came up with a list of 30 or so other organizations that help make Seattle such a vibrant book city: Seattle Arts & Lectures, Fantagraphics Books, Clarion West, Town Hall, Hedgebrook, and so on.
Boudinot showed videos demonstrating what the UN's City of Literature designation means to cities, like Reykjavík and Dublin, that have already earned the title—a sense of international community, tourism dollars, an agency to advocate for the literary arts and to bring organizations together for a common cause. He opened the floor to questions about practical matters (the application process opens in mid-October). And people talked amongst themselves about what the City of Literature title might do for Seattle, including the benefits of having an independent agency that could successfully resurrect the idea of a book festival, and creating more landmarks to celebrate Seattle's young-but-vigorous literary history.
Getting a bunch of like-minded people in a room often creates a joyful frisson, and in many ways the meeting was the first test of Boudinot's thesis: The community generated by the City of Literature program will be guaranteed to throw off sparks of ideas that would illuminate the beauty of Seattle for the rest of the world. Boudinot is hosting a second informational meeting on Monday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Attendance is required for anyone who gives a good goddamn about the written word in Seattle.