Were Traverse City's National Writers Series a novel, co-founder Doug Stanton might be its beleaguered hero.
Three years ago, Stanton saw fit to rescue award-winning authors and journalists from the tiresome, tedious format of the average reading/signing/schlepping book tour – “It’s a lot of iceberg lettuce, a lot of Super 8s,” he explains – and sit them down in the intimate yet opulent City Opera House to have, of all things, a book lover’s conversation about books.
But as the NWS has surged in size and impact, catching the attention of national media and publishing’s heavy hitters, joining forces with local public schools to create the Front Street Writers program, Stanton – essentially an unpaid NWS volunteer (incidentally, one with a Newsweek article and book review due, uh … yesterday) – found himself spread a wee bit thin.
That’s why he and NWS co-founders Anne Stanton and lawyer Grant Parsons have written in a new protagonist: Jill Tewsley, NWS’ new executive director.
A self-described Borders books “refugee,” Tewsley brings 20 years of experience in the publishing and book retail industry. Her specialty? Event planning, promotion, marketing and fund development – with a few literacy and education initiatives on the side.
For Borders, she negotiated and arranged approximately 500+ author and book events around the country each year, leading a team that increased the national retailer’s event book sales by $1 million during her tenure.
Tewsley replaces former NWS executive director Megan Raphael and publicist Beth Milligan.
“We got where we are today in large part because of their hard work,” says Stanton, but adds that NWS’ next chapter portends need for a more national scope – one Tewsley’s extensive publishing connections can help script.
Indeed, she already has. Days after arriving in Traverse City, Tewsley has booked several authors for 2013. (Neither Tewsley or Stanton would divulge names.)
There’s talk of syndicating recordings of the NWS’ live events, which air locally on Interlochen Public Radio, for a national radio audience; building a larger donor base to spur even more programs; and potentially launching a magazine, readings and tours to other public schools via the Front Street Writers.
But, says Tewsley, her first focus is taking what she says NWS has already created – “a dream package for authors and publishers … in a magical place" – and communicating it to the public at large, ensuring NWS, its programs and its audiences can become even more robust.
Her first order of business? Integrating and engaging more readers and writers, involving book clubs and libraries – the flagship to a community’s readers.
Also in the works: plans to press flyers about upcoming events with authors Lee Child and Michael Connelly into the hands of local cops, whom she says would be – if they’re not already – ideal readers of the authors’ thriller and crime novels.
Who is Tewsley’s ideal reader?
“Everybody. [My mission] is just to figure out more and more ways to get more and more people interested in the craft of writing and the craft of books,” she says. “It’s important not just to me … but to this community and to creating future readers. Because without readers, we don’t have a system to support books. And that would be a sad, sad thing.”