Buy this book and help Seattle become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Buy this book and help Seattle become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Fiction writer Ryan Boudinot is really, really serious:  Make Seattle a UNESCO City of Literature; “focus relentlessly on doing good.”

At the Seattle Public Library last fall, Boudinot laid out on loose sheets of paper randomly spread about his feet, the why and the how of making Seattle a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.  In short:  it would give Seattle more opportunities to collaborate both within the city and with the rest of the world.  It would introduce the world’s readers and writers to Seattle’s readers and writers.  It would foster conversation, connection, global exchange.  “We get stuck in our little tunnels,” he said.  Stuck in our own worlds, and as writers, also stuck in the worlds we create—and sometimes stuck in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest.

Putting together the UNESCO application is a collaboration in its own right, involving everyone who reads, writes, and loves books in greater Seattle area.  One of the things that struck Ryan as he went out to spread the word was how rich our literary community is.  He already knew it was rich, but:  There was so much out there that he didn’t even know about, he said—for instance, he’d discovered an independent bookstore that he’d never heard of.  And sitting in that room at the library, seeing just a fraction of people who write, read, and otherwise support literature,  I could see that richness of our literary community, too, in a way I hadn’t really seen it before.

It was because everyone was out of their little tunnels.

All these individuals and organizations willing to connect, willing to bring a little bit of fire.  Just being there, I already felt more connected:  My time spent alone in a room writing had a place out here, in the city, in the world.  That the very reason I write is to forge communication and connection—yet, it can be isolating at times.  But at the library, I realized that we already are a City of Literature, in which every one of us plays an important part.

Most is in place for Seattle to be part of the Creative Cities Network, but we are also lacking some things:  A press that devotes itself to literature in translation, an international literary festival, and a young author’s conference—and more ways for writers to find everything they need to be successful in Seattle.  Many writers still look to New York for representation and/or for publication—and to have that is something that most people, it is safe to say, would not give up.

In one of the email updates a few months after this meeting, Ryan wrote that he fired his New York agent, and told his New York publisher that they should not expect another book from him.  He decided his next book should be 100% Seattle-made, and that in order to make Seattle a thriving literary city, we need to work within it, to expand it with our own breath.

I had to read that email several times to be sure I was reading it correctly.  Then it took me a few days to process it.  A few questions continued to loop through me:  Is he crazy?  How is he going to make a living?  Should I worry about him?  Then:  In his position, would I be brave enough to do that?  I still don’t have an answer to the last question, but I hope that I would be brave enough.

It’s an understatement to say I admire Ryan Boudinot’s drive and sacrifice to connect us to each other and to the rest of the world.  We do have the ability and resources to make Seattle a great literary city, we just need to—well, believe in it.  Invest in it.  Nurture it.  Throw all our irons into the fire.

Here are a few small things you can do to help support Seattle in the quest of becoming a UNESCO-designated City of Literature:

1. Write to the mayor.

Click here to write a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to declare your support for this bid.

2. Buy Blueprints of the Afterlife.

Ryan Boudinot will pledge all his royalties from his latest novel, Blueprints of the Afterlife, towards making Seattle part of the Creative Cities network.

3. Go to the Town Hall meeting, Wednesday March 12, 7:30 pm.

Tonight Ryan Boudinot and guests will present the contents of the City of Literature bid to the public.  To quote: “Let’s come together to celebrate everything that makes Seattle one of the greatest cities in the WORLD for readers and writers.”

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