- Kelly O
- If it's March, it must be APRIL: Tara Atkinson and Willie Fitzgerald
Ever since Northwest Bookfest hacked up a Target-branded lung and died back in 2004, hundreds of people have tried to bring a book festival back to Seattle. One notable attempt to revive the literary festival at the Columbia City Event Center in 2009 was ill-conceived and awkwardly produced, costing local booksellers and publishers a lot of money for little return. Now there's a Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland (tagline: "It's Raining Books!") that sounds as exciting as chili night at a nursing home. And as we approach 10 years without a literary festival in Seattle, the publishing industry doesn't appear to be healthy enough to sustain a festival the size of the old Bookfest.
This is an issue that's close to my heart. At least five organizations have contacted me to sit on planning boards for prospective Seattle-area Bookfest revivals in the last five years. Those meetings were off-the-record, so there's not much I can reveal about them, but they all had one thing in common that doomed them from the beginning: None of them had any real reason to exist. Seattle is a city that's blessed with an abundance of readings—almost every single day of the year, usually with multiple events happening all around town—and dozens of beautiful, well-stocked libraries and bookstores. Quite simply, every day in Seattle is a Bookfest, and just shipping in Dave Barry to "headline" a weekend of readings from local authors we can see all year round isn't that compelling a reason to put on a show. Why should we go to a convention center to browse booths with a tiny selection of titles from bookstores we can visit any day of the week?
That's why last year's APRIL (the acronym stands for "Authors, Publishers, and Readers of Independent Literature") was such a shock. With not much other than a Kickstarter and a vision, local authors Tara Atkinson and Willie Fitzgerald founded a weeklong celebration of everything that's great and irreplaceable about Seattle's literature. It took place in venues around Capitol Hill and First Hill, from the Sorrento Hotel to Porchlight Coffee to Piecora's Pizza to the Crescent Lounge to the Hedreen Gallery to a dingy parking garage—where Ed Skoog was surrounded by a bunch of cheap-beer-swilling young poetry lovers, Fight Club–style, and read a brilliant occasional poem that he vowed never to share again.
APRIL was the kind of festival that causes you to reassess a whole scene—a new, young crop of writers seemed to find their voice all in one week...