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Originally published Monday, July 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Lit Life

New prospects for the return of Bookfest

A Columbia City entrepreneur is proposing a neighborhood book festival this fall, adding to a groundswell of support for the return of some version of the late and lamented Northwest Bookfest.

Seattle Times book editor

Plans for resurrecting a Seattle book festival are popping out all over — the latest involves a version that may happen this fall in the Columbia City neighborhood.

Since Northwest Bookfest, a Seattle festival of books and authors, folded in 2003, city bibliophiles have missed it — which is saying something, given the existing plethora of author readings and appearances around town. Earlier this column reported that reps from the University Book Store and the University of Washington are discussing the prospect of a book festival, possibly on the University of Washington campus, in autumn 2010.

Now a local entrepreneur has proposed a 2009 version. Paul Doyle, director of Columbia City Cinema, says he's recruiting authors and booksellers for a neighborhood book festival: If plans firm up, Columbia City's 2009 Seattle Bookfest will be both a book festival and a fundraiser for the cinema, an independently owned neighborhood theater.

Doyle said he was motivated by "a combination of things: one, I missed the old fair, and two, we were looking for a signature event for the community and a fundraiser for the cinema."

The Columbia City event is planned for the weekend of Oct. 24-25. Doyle says he's already signed up local authors Garth Stein ("The Art of Racing in the Rain"); Nancy Rawles ("My Jim"); Jennie Shortridge ("Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe"); Michael Gruber ("The Forgery of Venus") and Jerome Gold ("Paranoia and Heartbreak: Fifteen Years in a Juvenile Facility"). The event would be held at the Columbia City Event Center, a historic school building at 3526 S. Edmunds, a block off Rainier and a block from the Columbia City Light Rail Station.

For more information, call the cinema at 206-721-3156 or e-mail Doyle at

For now, Doyle's plans are separate from those for the 2010 event. Stesha Brandon, events coordinator at the University Book Store, says she's happy to see a "groundswell" of support for the idea of a book festival. But for now, the two events are on separate tracks.

Sad news

Epilogue Books of Ballard, a 70,000-volume used bookstore on Market Street, is closing in mid-August. In a post on its Web site, owner Nathan Heath says he could not negotiate favorable terms on his lease. For more information go to

Scary news

My eye was caught by this tale in Willamette Week of a Portland bookstore owner who became homeless after the bookstore she had poured her life savings into closed. Thanks to helpful neighbors she's since found a place to stay, but it's a lesson in bookstores as a low-profit-margin labor of love. For the complete story go to and search "from bookstore owner to homeless."

New news

There's a new blog in town that covers local authors and the lit scene: Reading Local Seattle, an outgrowth of Reading Local Portland. Check it out at

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM's Arts Channel at

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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