How small is the literary world? So small that it sometimes feels like a game of musical chairs. An example: The former programming coordinator for

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As the Page Furns

How small is the literary world? So small that it sometimes feels like a game of musical chairs. An example: The former programming coordinator for the Northwest Bookfest, Jennifer O'Neal, recently left Seattle and the Bookfest to take a job with the Academy of American Poets in New York, where her boss is a fellow named Matthew Brogan, who just before her arrival announced his intention to leave New York for Seattle to take a job as the director of Seattle Arts & Lectures. And the music plays on. This fall marks the inaugural season of both Brogan and his rookie counterpart at the Northwest Bookfest, executive director Kris Molesworth. They have taken over for two founders—Sherry Prowda (Arts & Lectures) and Kitty Harmon (Bookfest)—who built their organizations from scratch. Sherry Prowda likes to joke that if she'd applied for her job last year, she wouldn't have even made the shortlist. Prowda's experience was mainly as a writer and editor; her replacement comes to Seattle Arts & Lectures with a full résumé in nonprofit arts management and five years experience overseeing the programs at the 8,000-member Academy of American Poets, including the prestigious $100,000 Tanning Prize. Brogan started work on September 1 with this year's season already in place. His challenge, he says, is to figure out what new programs Arts & Lectures should establish. "The lecture series is already incredibly well run," he says. "The only task is maintaining the high quality, keeping it fresh. "The bigger challenge is creating an organization that's larger than the lecture series, which Sherry had already started with the Writers in the Schools program. My sense is, if you look out three or four years from now you'll see an organization that has three or four major programs: the lecture series, Writers in the Schools, and one or two other programs." What might those other programs be? "That will take time to develop," Brogan says. "What I need to do in the first year is identify what the community needs from an organization like Seattle Arts & Lectures." Some ideas that have already been floated, he says, include creating a series of events at a smaller venue with writers who are less well known, working more with people at the University of Washington, and developing a larger World Wide Web presence. And, of course, there's also the hunt for next season's authors, which has already commenced. "If you've got anyone you want to see, let me know," he says. "Let me know soon!" Kris Molesworth is discovering that programming the Northwest Bookfest is, as she puts is, "a little bit like stocking a bookstore: It's a balance between what's available and what people want to read." Molesworth's connections to the local literary scene go back to the mid-1980s, when she served as the first director of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Before coming to the Bookfest she worked as an editor and project coordinator for former galloping gourmet Graham Kerr (her invisible hand guided Kerr's latest book, The Gathering Place). Kerr was and is a neighbor of Molesworth's in Stanwood. "It's the best of both worlds," she says. "I get to work in Seattle and go home to the Skagit." She stepped into her job as executive director six months ago, just as founder Kitty Harmon was wrapping up the loose ends on the third annual festival. "We started early on scheduling authors," she says. "We went to New York in June, when we had a pretty good shot at [getting on author] tour calendars, and we had a lot of success there. They know who we are, and that the Northwest Bookfest is the right place to be, which is a tribute to the work that Jennifer and Kitty did in the past." In addition to lining up big-name authors like Dave Barry, Susan Isaacs, and Paul Theroux, Molesworth and programming director Holly Smith (formerly of Wallingford's Second Story Books) spend their months putting together the kinds of panel discussions that make Bookfest browsers stop and listen in the aisles. Just recently she convinced Bill Kramer, of the now-infamous Kramer Books in Washington, DC, (a.k.a. the Intern's Favorite Bookstore), to fly out to Seattle and join Village Books co-owner and former American Booksellers Association president Chuck Robinson in a discussion of readers' and booksellers' rights—e.g., how to refuse a subpoena and stay out of jail. "We're always looking for volunteers," Molesworth says, "to do everything from thinking up panels to showing people where to park. By the way, that job is open."

 
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