I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am with the city of Seattle's fast and decisive response to the AWP Bookfair situation. As soon as they learned that the book fair was closed to the public, they were devoted to figuring out a solution. I'm absolutely impressed with the way they handled this, and with how seriously they took the needs of Seattle's literary community.
That said, there's another literary matter that needs the city's attention. On March 12 at Town Hall, some of Seattle's most beloved literary figures will be discussing our application to make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature. Speakers include Chris Higashi of the Washington Center for the Book, memoirist Elissa Washuta, publisher Gary Luke, Elliott Bay Book Company events coordinator Rick Simonson, Hugo House Executive Director Tree Swenson, and famous action figure model Nancy Pearl, in addition to author Ryan Boudinot, who is spearheading this whole initiative. It will be a remarkable evening.
But I understand that the application is very nearly complete, with the exception of one very important part: The city has still not stepped up with a prospective budget for a Seattle UNESCO City of Literature office. At the risk of stating the obvious, the budget is essential: UNESCO rules insist that every member of the Creative Cities Network attend their annual meeting, to name one expense. Seattle wants to be a UNESCO City of Literature. The City Council and Mayor Ed Murray came together to unanimously show their support for this cause. But part of being a UNESCO City of Literature involves introducing our artists to other UNESCO Creative Cities around the world, and to bring other artists to Seattle to interact with our own artists. It would also install someone in the city government whose job is to oversee and connect all aspects of Seattle's literary culture, from the open mics to the libraries to the bookstores to all the great literary non-profits in town. This is not a large sum of money; even Paducah, Kentucky, which is a UNESCO City of Craft & Folk Art, managed to supply a budget in their application.
For his part, Boudinot isn't just begging for cash. He's committed the entirety of all money earned from his books for the rest of his career—royalties, advances, and so on—to the budget of this office. He believes in Seattle so much that he's willing to devote his career to it. But he can't fund it alone. The city of Seattle needs to step up and commit to a budget so the application can be complete. We need some action on this soon; I hope to see the city apply the same quick and decisive action that we saw today to this other great cause for Seattle literature.