Andy’s Update – December 2016
by Adam / Jan 29, 2017
Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce myself.
I’m Andy Herbst, the new Executive Director of the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas. After twelve years of Teri, there’s a new sheriff in town and he is a German transplant for whom English is a second language. A few highlights of the new regime:
- No more Teri celebrating her love of words in each of her wonderfully essayistic updates. New entries will be straightforward and frequently bulleted.
- No idioms I don’t understand (especially if they deal with the skinning of cats, beating dead horses, or killing multiple birds with one stone. Where was the ASPCA during the creation of these?) While I'm experienced at direct communication, I'm still feeling my way around the finer idiomatic points.
- A new dress code to demonstrate corporate unity. Here is an artist’s rendering of the BFI staff in their new uniforms. As you can see, despite the uniformity, there is the possibility for variety. Staff as well as students are adapting excellently to the changes.
Despite these changes, there is also quite a bit of consistency in the organization, namely the programs. We keep delivering hugely creative writing experiences and after-school tutoring to kids. So far, I’ve witnessed the whirlwind of literary activity that never stops around BFI, from our College Essay Marathons to our National Novel Writing Month workshops to our After-School Poetry Club. (I also experienced two dozen second-graders spontaneously chant "GOO-EE-DUCK! GOO-EE-DUCK!" while exiting the "Mr. Geoduck's Publishing Company" workshop with their own published chapbooks in their hands.)
Especially memorable, though, was an event during the publishing party for BFI’s new book, What to Read in the Rain: Adventure Stories!, which packed the Bureau with writers and writing fans and delighted family members. The size of the crowd was clearly a bit daunting to some of our student writers who'd agreed to read onstage. Among them was Devyn Simpson, a student at Chief Sealth International High School and a member of the Cherokee Nation, who was on the roster to read his essay "The Backpacking Trip." After Devyn gave a lovely reading, he told me how nervous he had been before. When I let him know that our Creative Director David Schmader has been doing this for 20 years and for sure is still nervous, Devyn let me know that if he's scared of something in the future, he'll absolutely recall this experience as a precedent for doing something in spite of nerves. It was a perfect encapsulation of the essence of fearlessness. (And if you'd like your very own copy of What to Read in the Rain: Adventure Stories!, you can buy one here.)
But let’s return to my opening exclamation: Jólabókaflód! This is not an agglomeration of random letters, but literally means ‘Christmas Book Flood,’ which is an Icelandic Christmas Tradition of publishing, exchanging, and reading books. I love this tradition and invite you to join me in giving books, exchanging books, and reading books with your partners, children, grandchildren, or any other loved ones. In this time of divisiveness and general bafflement about how little we know and understand each other, reading, especially with others, can work as an antidote and a connector to others. The Bureau of Fearless Ideas is a place that exemplifies this, a place of unity and togetherness and getting to know your neighbor, open to everybody, free of charge, where the #1 rule is "Be kind." Thank you for helping to make this more-necessary-than-ever oasis of creativity, diversity, and equality a reality.
(Yes, the above says 'Andy Herbst.' You'll just have to trust me on this.)