Eleven Questions with Lorie Hoffman, Executive Director of the Shoreline - Lake Forest Park Arts Council
with William Pennington
When I first heard of the Edible Book Festival in Shoreline, my first thoughts were of confusion. What the hell is an edible book? Is this a cooking event? Is this even a literary event? The second thoughts I had later that night, was of my future entry, The Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump. How else to celebrate that book that with a big pile of fake poop? I'd never made it before, but now was the perfect time to try. Check out everyone's efforts at ediblebooks.tumblr.com. I got second place, which is better than I thought, and am still hoping not to receive any...uh...retribution from our Commander in Chief.
I later talked with Lorie Hoffman, Executive Director of the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council. Her organization has been presenting the event since 2013. Not to be confused with the now defunct Seattle Edible Book Festival, the event in Lake Forest Park's is a wonderful event (at an interesting venue), one where more Seattlites should submit their work! The Shoreline - Lake Forest Park Arts Council organizes hundreds of events every year, and I'm grateful that Lorie had time in her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.
What do you hope for most each year? Do you just wish everyone has a good time, or are you hoping for that one or two edible books that transcend the show and get people to talk about it?
I think one will lead to the other. If our community has a great time and really embraces the event than from within that enthusiasm will come entries that provoke thought and encourage conversation.
Have you ever submitted a book? What was it like?
I have, our first year I submitted "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. I was making an entry for something else entirely, I can't remember what now, and the whole thing literally fell apart. The entry didn't have anything to do with Achebe's themes of colonialism or with Nigeria, but the title was apt.
How connected is this Edible Book Festival to the other ones across the country on the very same day?
We touch base with a few other organizations across the country who run Edible Book events each year to compare notes, but our event is different than most. Often these festivals are run by a Friends of the Library group, and can be fundraisers. The Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council is a 501c3 non-profit and we're committed to keeping the event free to enter and enjoy. There was at one time an International Edible Book Festival organization who lead the effort expand these events, but I think they're now closed...or at least no one is updating their website! :)
Do you have a favorite book that sticks out in your head?
I'm a sucker for any entry that incorporates peeps! We had an entry by Ann Sauer titled "Canary Row" based off of Steinbeck's Cannery Row that I loved.
How big a role does the Commons play in your yearly events? It's such a unique place for the community.
Third Place Commons is a wonderful non-profit, a close partner to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council, and a great community asset. They function as a fantastic venue for other groups and organizations to come and present their events, but they don't organize the Edible Book Festival. Their programming includes the Lake Forest Park Farmer's Market, Friday and Saturday Night live music, and a large Halloween event. Third Place Commons plays host to hundreds of free events each year and is always hoppin'
Do you model yourself after any other city's efforts? How are you trying to be unique?
We don't actively model ourselves after any other community, but I do get inspiration from my hometown of Bozeman Montana. Bozeman boasts an active arts scene and has a plethora of community arts events, which is impressive for a town of about 40,000.
We aim to be unique by offering programs that are fresh and have a twist. For example: our 6X6NW event features hundreds of pieces of 6x6 inch art, all for sale at $36 during a one-night two-hour show...if you want something you better grab it quick off of the Velcro wall...or someone else might snag it first!
When I first heard of the Edible Book Festival, I immediately had the thought of Trump and his awful book. And in my head I had this vision of more books being somewhat controversial or political, but few existed, and I felt a little out of place, but also proud I had the guts to do it. Did I cross a line though, with your Festivals' mission statement and the wholesomeness that filled the event?
Not at all, we've had plenty of political entries over the years, but this year I think folks just wanted a break from all of it. Overall, I don't expect that we'll see a high number or political or controversial entries simply because of the judging categories. With categories like "Most PUNderful" we tend to get lighthearted entries.
Is there an easy way to view photos of all the edible books over the years?
Not right now, but we're working on it. The best way to see the edible books is to come out to the event. We'll be at Third Place Commons on March 31, 2018 at 11am
In any event that includes public voting, there are important factors to consider as a participant, if you want to do well. Artistic creativity, originality, design, etc. Is there a formula for success?
Bring as many friends as you can! :) Just kidding. The key to success is simple: have a high level of craftsmanship, make folks smile, and tickle the funny bone.
What are some events that you wish you could implement, but for one reason or another, just haven't been able to get the support?
A color run! Getting road closures for a marathon is harder than you would think.
I'd also like to build an Arts Center here in Shoreline or Lake Forest Park someday, a project like that takes public/private partnerships and lots of community support. We haven't gotten there yet, but I'm keeping my eyes and ears open.
Lastly, what is your role in the Edible Book Festival?
I'm the Executive Director of the Arts Council, so I guess at the end of the day I'm in charge. :) The Arts Council produces and organizes the event, but all the credit really goes to Pam Thompson, a really really wonderful former board member and volunteer who's been the boot-on-the-ground leader of our Edible Books Festival since it started. If it wasn't for Pam we wouldn't have this awesome event.