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.

Stesha Brandon. Photo Credit: Leah Dankertson.

“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

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Even the cats in Seattle, like Sesame here, are literature lovers.

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!

Follow Seattle City of Literature on social media!

Seattle City of Literature is on social media! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read the latest about our UNESCO bid.

In addition, this summer our board members will post their favorite literary gems to our social media channels for your reading pleasure.

https://www.facebook.com/seattlecityofliterature

https://twitter.com/seacityoflit

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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