The Seattle City Council has endorsed a bid for Seattle to join an international network of cities devoted to literature, sponsored by the international organization UNESCO.
The UNESCO Creative Cities network is a group of 41 cities worldwide with specialties in film, literature, design, music, gastronomy and other areas. Seattle writer Ryan Boudinot is leading an effort to get Seattle designated as a City of Literature.
The resolution passed by the City Council Monday afternoon cited Seattle’s rich literary life, including its writers, its independent booksellers, its writing programs, and its vibrant library system. The application is supported by several local and national organizations, including the Seattle Public Library and “Nancy Pearl, the only librarian to ever be turned into an action figure,” according to the resolution.
Seattle City Council member Nick Licata said the motion, which passed unanimously, represents an enthusiastic endorsement that organizers can take to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). “We are looking good for this,” he said.
What does Seattle, with its already vibrant literary scene, get out of the designation? “It will help us attract more authors,” said Licata. “We’re recognized as a city that reads a lot. Authors can tell publishers to include Seattle on their circuit. The more authors come, the more bookstores sell books… and Amazon, of course. The literary scene has grown tremendously, but it doesn’t have that banner attention that music has. Music, visual arts, literature. I think it’s a way of pumping up the third leg of the cultural stool.”
If Seattle is approved for inclusion in the network, it will join other “cities of literature,” including Edinburgh, Dublin, Krakow, Melbourne, Reykjavik, Norwich England and Iowa City, Iowa. Edinburgh is notable for its libraries and the Scottish Book Trust; Iowa City is the location of the world-renowned Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.
In an e-mail, Boudinot said he would travel the first week of February to UNESCO headquarters in Paris and then to Edinburgh, Norwich, and Dublin “to make the case that Seattle belongs in the Creative Cities Network,” he wrote. He visited Reykjavik in October.
The full application to UNESCO is due March 20. Cities learn whether they’ve been accepted into the program on November 30.