The first Seattle Children’s Book Festival will be held Saturday, September 28, 2019 from 11:00- 3:00 at Greenwood Elementary (144 NW 80th St) in Seattle. The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by The Innovation Press, Madison Books, Phinney Books, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Milk Fund, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the WA Center for the Book, and No Time for Flashcards. All the details about the programming are online here.
We had the opportunity to ask some questions of Asia Citro, author, publisher, and founder of the festival.
NWBL: What was your inspiration for the Seattle Children’s Book Festival?
Asia Citro: For sure my main inspiration is the amazing Princeton Children’s Book Festival (shoutout to them for being oh so helpful answering my MANY questions as I put our festival together). I had so much fun attending their event, but I loathe flying, so obviously the solution to that was to create a children’s book festival right here in my own backyard!
NWBL: How many authors and illustrators are participating? How did you set your goals for who/ how many to invite?
AC: Forty nine! We will be packed like (hopefully happy) sardines under the author tents. Three tents was both the maximum number I could fit on the blacktop while following fire code and the maximum number I could possibly afford, so that dictated the final number more than anything else. We had over 200 amazing applicants and it was really hard to have to turn so many away! I tried to create as balanced of a festival as I could across as many factors as possible — from reading level to price point to local vs visiting authors to big houses vs small presses and so on — it was like a really intense puzzle because any selection I made would then influence what sort of authors/illustrators I was looking for for the remaining slots.
NWBL: How did you establish your partnership with Madison Books?
AC: I am a big fan of James Crossley. In addition to being a just an all-around good person, he’s amazing to work with on events (he isn’t freaked out when I propose weird ideas like the outdoor farmer’s market signing we did for me last summer when he was at Island Books), so as soon as I saw that he had a brand new store, my decision was made. I was hopeful that this event would help sustain his new store (in addition to being super excited to work with him again). Once it became obvious that the scale of the event was likely to be a bit, erm, large, Tom from Phinney Books came on board so now we have the super power of double bookstores behind us!
NWBL: Could you tell us what to expect at the festival?
AC: An amazing time! Outside by the playground we’ll have three big tents full of authors and illustrators — you can chat with us, ask us questions, get a photo, buy a book, and seven of us will also have hands-on activities or crafts inspired by our books (while supplies last). Inside the school in the gymnasium, there will be free author presentations and panels throughout the day. In addition to the fun activities, there’s also a community support component to the event. Thanks to our partnership with Madison and Phinney Books, 20% of the sales of any books you buy on the day of the event will come back to our nonprofit; those proceeds will buy new books for kids in the lowest income Seattle Public Schools. Additionally, at checkout you can donate money to cover the cost of sending a new copy of any of your favorite author/illustrators books directly into a low income Seattle Public Schools classroom (and your donation is tax-deductible!).
NWBL: What about the festival makes you happiest?
AC: From Ben Clanton creating the world’s most perfect book festival poster (and he’s also one of our donors because gosh he’s the best), to all of these kidlit authors volunteering to come out (from Canada, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, you name it) to connect with their readers, to the wonderful booksellers in the area (a lot of whom are volunteering at the event), to all the local school librarians who are hosting visiting authors on the Friday before the festival to the local businesses donating food to feed our authors, to Greenwood Elementary, our gracious venue host. . . feeling like everyone has come together to rally around this event just makes me so happy! And getting to work with so many people who are passionate about children’s literacy is very energizing.
NWBL: What is one big hope for the festival?
AC: I would love to raise enough funds to feel like we’ve made an actual (albeit short-term) dent in the issue of book equity in Seattle.
NWBL: What is one of your biggest challenges you’ve faced to bring us this festival?
AC: Oh gosh, for sure finding funding. That’s been the hardest. As a brand new event, we can’t prove the attendance numbers or the size of the community impact we’ll have…which meant that basically every large sponsorship and grant I applied for was denied. So I’m the main funder of the event this year (via my local press, The Innovation Press). Thankfully there have been lots of nonprofits and individuals donating what they can — and that’s definitely helped (both financially and morale-wise hahaha). We also received one grant from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture that’s intended to help new events get off the ground. All to say — if any of you know big companies looking to sponsor a super cool nonprofit children’s book festival down the road, be sure to send them our way!
NWBL: Are you going to organize another?
AC: I sure hope so! A lot of that decision will come down to attendance and sales at this year’s event so if you’re excited to see it return again, come visit us and buy books!
Thanks to Asia, James, Tom, Ben, and all the other folks working so hard to bring Seattle a wonderful Seattle Children’s Book Festival!