Katherine Boo is an internationally celebrated journalist on a quest to amplify the voices of our most disadvantaged populations. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the powerful, heartbreakingly true story of families living in a makeshift settlement in Mumbai, striving for a better life in the shadow of inequitable wealth and luxury. Boo’s current research explores social mobility in low-income families, drawing on years of intimate reporting in African-American neighborhoods in Washington, DC.
Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning writer and media critic whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, and religion. As the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, Chemaly has spearheaded successful campaigns challenging corporations to address online harassment and institutional biases that affect free speech. In her debut book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018), Chemaly urges women to understand how and why they repress their anger and to use it as a tool for positive change.
Zadie Smith is one of the world’s preeminent fiction and non-fiction writers. Her novels include White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, Swing Time, among others; and her many non-fiction works on a range of subjects from pop culture to politics are collected in Changing My Mind: Occasional Essaysandthis year’s Feel Free.“Smith’s new book is lively, intelligent and frequently hilarious” said NPR, “and proves that she’s one of the brightest minds in English literature today.”
Luiselli is an award-winning Mexican author living in the United States. She is the author of two novels, including the genre-bending, Story of My Teeth, which evolved out of a collaboration with the workers at Jumex, a Mexican juice corporation. Rer most recent book, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions, was described by the Texas Observer as “the First Must-Read Book of the Trump Era.” Her third novel will be released in February 2019.
Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage which was a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection. The book tells the story of a couple whose marriage is tested when the husband goes to jail for a crime he did not commit. Of it, Jacqueline Woodson wrote: “Tayari’s novel is timely, thoughtful, and beautifully written. Reading it, I found myself angry as hell, laughing out loud, choking up and cheering. A gem of a book.”
Seattle has long been recognized as a music town. We have plenty of big names to point to, and there’s even a city government office devoted to promoting Seattle’s music scene. But a new designation from an arm of the United Nations might upend that narrative. UNESCO on October 31st declared Seattle to be a City of Literature.
“This designation allows us to tell a story about the city that maybe you don’t know,” said Stesha Brandon, who was part of the nonprofit that coordinated the effort.
The drive began in 2014, and led to a failed application in 2015 before the successful application this year. A successful application shows the city has a rich variety of literary activities, including book stores, an active library system, publishing, literary events and programs, and more.
One place the almost certainly worked in Seattle’s favor is Capitol Hill’s own Hugo House. Hugo House had been involved in some part of the application, and the organization is excited about the city receiving the designation, in part because it shows that we’re a city that should be better recognized for its wordsmiths.
“I think it’s important for anyone in the region to know what our strengths are,” said Tree Swenson, executive director of Hugo House. “We have a vast cultural resource in the literary community.”
The designation, Swenson said, might help make Seattle more of a literary destination.
“I think this will draw people here nationally, as well as internationally,” she said. Continue reading
Wednesday, APRIL did its best to summon the spirit of Alice B. Toklas from the walls of the Sorrento along with Rebecca Brown, Joshua Beckman, Jan Wallace and “musical accompaniment.” (Images: Alex Garland)
APRIL Festival 2015 has been keeping the literature calendar packed with unconventional events for most of the last week and it all wraps up today with the grand finale — APRIL’s annual small press book expo:
Sunday, March 29
APRIL BOOK EXPO
Hugo House, 11 am – 5 pm
Our annual book fair, featuring more than 40 small presses from around the country.
Thursday night, the CHS Crow stopped by the independent literature festival’s annual collaboration with art gallery Vignettes — hosted at an offsite location this year — and chatted with poet Wendy Xu and artist Søren Nilsson. What read as a playfully deconstructive video by Nilsson was one of the eight works responding to Xu’s book You Are Not Dead that made up the exhibition. Works by Ripple Fang, Susanna Bluhm, Max Cleary, Francesca Lohmann, Klara Glosova, Aidan Fitzgerald and Paul Komada were also featured. Check it out. Continue reading
The cozy, home-like environment of Richard Hugo House’s original and current space makes it a pretty fitting last stop for APRIL Festival’s annual grassroots romp around Capitol Hill and First Hill. Add the sorta-twisted fact that the 1904 building that houses the internationally acclaimed center for writers was once a mortuary and the space might seem an even more ideal fit as a venue for the week-long literature festival known for its freewheeling spirit and often unorthodox approaches to presenting works.
However, next year APRIL will have to find another site for its capstone small press Book Expo, and other events it has traditionally held at Hugo House. The writing center’s current building will be torn down in 2016 to make way for the construction of a six-story mixed-use structure. Thankfully, the new building does promise to provide a continued home for Hugo House on the east side of Cal Anderson Park, but it will of course take some time to build. And the new space will of course be a change; a welcome change in many respects, Hugo House’s executive director Tree Swenson says, but aspects of the ambiance will certainly shift.
It remains to be seen how APRIL will adapt in 2016 and if it will return to Hugo House once the new incarnation is completed. And while thanks to generous support Capitol Hill gets to hold on to Hugo House, some fear that trends the Hugo House property revamp reflects — including the continuously rising property values and rents helping spur the rolling redevelopment of the neighborhood — may threaten to push most less-commercial artists and arts out of the neighborhood once and for all. Meanwhile, the city’s designation of Capitol Hill as Seattle’s first official Arts District represents one effort meant to help prevent that from happening.
All that said, though at its inception four years ago it may have entered a Capitol Hill already past its prime as a readily accessible place for the arts to thrive without intervention or initiatives, APRIL has nonetheless seen impressive growth since its humble beginnings. Whats more, APRIL continues to find some ways to grow in 2015, as it now looks to adapt to new challenges in the near future.
“It’s definitely getting bigger and bigger than we ever could have imagined when we started it,” said Tara Atkinson, who founded APRIL along with Willie Fitzgerald back in 2012, when the two found themselves unemployed roommates in a Capitol Hill apartment that also served as APRIL’s headquarters. The acronym they chose as the name for the festival that comes every March, and which has morphed in to an organization that also offers some smaller literary events throughout the year, is descriptive — ‘Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature.’
This year’s festival runs one day shorter than 2014’s, kicking off Tuesday, March 24, with a party at Barboza, and wrapping up Sunday, March 29, with the Book Expo at Hugo House. However, while the number of days and events is indeed slightly lower, some other numbers are up. Continue reading
Writers from the Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing program present the ninth installment of Lit.mustest! Join us for an evening of literature and friendship with live readings of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing.
Featured Reader: Gary Lilley.
Gary has uprooted from North Carolina to settle in Port Townsend where he teaches at Centrum and the Port Townsend Writers Conference. He was a founding member of the Black Rooster Collective in the other Washington. He received the D.C. Commission on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry in 1996 and again in 2000. His poetry collections include The Subsequent Blues and Alpha Zulu.
Additional Readers: Theresa Barker, Penny Hinke, Susan Lynch, Randy Shinn, and Doug Smith.
The Sorrento Hotel announced Wednesday that a new “book-filled conference room at the hotel, where readers and writers can work, meet, and learn more about the UNESCO Creative Cities network” is part of the project underway to overhaul the 105-year-old landmark.
“Cultural tourism is a major tenet of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and the Sorrento understands the impact cultural tourism can make, both here and abroad,” Seattle City of Literature director Ryan Boudinot is quoted as saying in the announcement. “For those who love books and writing, in Seattle and beyond, this is going to be a destination unlike any other.”
CHS reported last fall on the “Pike/Pine-style” makeover for the Sorrento with a new management company, overhauls of The Hunt Room restaurant and Fireside Room lounge, and a new look for the hotel’s Madison-facing courtyard. You’ll also soon see a giant mural on the hotels parking garage.
The Seattle City of Literature initiative seeks to include the city’s writers and literary history in the United Nations’ Creative Cities program. According to the announcement, Seattle City of Literature will organize readings, conferences, book clubs, festivals, and more at the hotel. The new meeting space is scheduled to open by spring.
In the meantime, a longtime favorite Sorrento event for lovers of literature won’t be taking place this month. January’s Silent Reading Party has been canceled, organizer and Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle announced, citing the work underway to update the Fireside Room. “I am sad to say they’re getting rid of that carpet. I love that carpet. I really wish they wouldn’t get rid of it,” he writes. “But seasons change, carpets change… Happily, the new management is not getting rid of the silent-reading party.”