We tend to think that book-loving cities are formed through a critical mass of writers and readers. We forget about the people who bring the writers and readers together.
In Seattle, Kim Ricketts was one of those literary chemical reactions – one with extraordinarily solid results. She was a pillar of the literary community, as Dave Eggers put it. (Another friend called her the keystone in the arch.)
Through her "Kim Ricketts Book Events," she brought the most interesting and the most high-profile authors to town (and they were not always the same people), inviting readers to what felt like a literary party, with wine and food; sharp, funny, thorough interviews, and a chance to feel a human connection with the authors and their work and their other fans. Well before creating “events” around books became a mainstream enough practice to raise questions about it (should it cost money to see a favorite writer?), Kim was leading the way in figuring out how to do it right.
Ethan Canin called his event with her “the best thing I have ever done as an author.”
I thought about writing about Kim after her unexpected death in April. I say “unexpected” even though we knew she was fighting a fatal disease, because it was almost impossible to picture the community she helped create without her presence. At that time, though, tributes poured in from friends and luminaries who knew her far better than I did.
But I’ve been struck all these months since, how much she still fuels that bookish spirit. Author Tara Austen Weaver – I last saw Kim in her company, at a “Little Women” book picnic – just self-published a book on Japan as a post-tsunami fundraiser. She thanked Kim in the afterward for her encouragement on the idea.
“It was the last email I received from her, and the reason I kept going,” Weaver wrote.
And biggest of all, I was so touched to see recently that Kim’s successors at Kim Ricketts Book Events are opening up the brick-and-mortar culinary bookstore that she dreamed of herself, one of the last wildfire big dreams I saw her put forward. “The Book Larder” is scheduled to open in Seattle this fall, with bookshelves lining the walls and high profile cookbook-related book events already in the lineup.
How I wish she was here to see it herself, and to spur us forward to other big dreams – or just to quote from a poem we had never come across before, or alert us to an upcoming title that we simply shouldn’t miss. If there are Kims in your book-loving city, be they booksellers or librarians or events coordinators or what have you, celebrate them while you can. Read a good book in their honor – and then share it with family and friends.