An Interview with Jenn St. Claire, SAL Board Member
September 23, 2020
Jenn St. Claire recently completed her third term on the SAL Board of Directors. We are so grateful to Jenn for her 9 years of generous and enthusiastic service! Lucky for us she has taken on a new role—she will be interviewing past SAL Board members in this space in the months to come. But, before she steps in the interviewer role, we wanted you to get a chance to get to know Jenn better.
How did you find SAL?
Oh goodness! I stumbled upon SAL at a kiddo school auction I was attending a million years or at least lifetimes ago. I was working my way around the silent auction area of the event and spied tickets to SAL’s Literary Series. I was intrigued, bid on the item, then guarded the auction like my life depended on it. I was the savage winner and thus began my love affair with SAL—I haven’t looked back since.
What partnership would I like to see?
I’d love for Hanif Abdurraqib to curate a SAL Spotify playlist, coupled with a poem that should be read with each song. He has such an attuned ear, an encyclopedic knowledge of and deep emotional connection to music, that I think a ‘mixed tape and reading list’ from him has the potential to save us all.
When were you on the Board?
I served on the Seattle Arts and Lectures board from 2011 until just this past June. It has been one of the true honors of my life to be part of this amazing group and while I did peacefully leave the board—no insurrection from me—there is no getting rid of me. I plan to be a SAL cheerleader for life and hope to worm my way into helping and activities wherever I’m allowed.
Tell us about a favorite or memorable SAL event.
Oh no, reflecting on this brought so many amazing memories to mind—there are too many to list just one, so I’ll stream-of-consciousness name them off as they come to mind.
Having the opportunity to chat with amazing author, Karen Russell, backstage before her reading at Benaroya. I flush red often, and especially when experiencing big emotions, so of course, I blushed when I started talking with her. Ms. Russell stopped me, squealed and told me she, too, is a huge blusher—then mentioned me and our shared blushing later on stage. Big Emoters—UNITE!
Marina Abramović and that amazing scream at Town Hall—oh, how I wish to be packed in shoulder to shoulder and just let loose again with a primal howl. (I started tearing up just thinking of it). Dancing at Town Hall when James McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band spoke and played. DANCING—at a Seattle Arts & Lectures event!
WITS student Gianni Johnson reading his poem “Turf” before Hanif Abdurraqib came out to lecture. Sitting down with Sunil Yapa before his event because he wanted to discuss more fully my question about a scene, and then we connected on such a geeky level! I think what I’m realizing is every event with SAL is memorable.
If you could bring any three authors to SAL, who would you choose?
Lydia Millet, Andrew Sean Greer, Percival Everett, and… maybe, just maybe, I’d like to start a mystery series: Jane Harper, Attica Locke, Ivy Pochoda, Louise Penny, Walter Mosely—OH MY!
What’s “your” local bookstore?
I used to go from store to store to spread the love (each in Seattle has some unique offering and feel), but Covid and uncertainty had me stake my neighborhood claim to Phinney Books and the amazing curation of Tom Nissley. I feel silly walking into their store with a book in mind, since I know I’m going to discover some new (or old) wonder each time I’m there—a book I had no idea I needed to read. (I cannot recommend the Phinney Books Newsletter enough!)
What has inspired you lately?
My inspiration of late has come from the beauty of our common struggle. Each person I talk with is doing the best they can in this hard moment and is willing to be real and raw and vulnerable in talking about how they are coping and getting from day to day. Common themes are deeper connections with those who matter most and the inspiration and hope found in the quiet of nature.
I’ve been keeping a daily gratitude journal this year and sharing entries (through text) with former SAL board member, wonderful friend, and fellow daily gratitude journal keeper, Andrea Voytko. (Thank you for sharing this much-needed idea, former SAL Board President, Mary Ingraham!). Reflecting back on small moments of gratitude has grounded me this year and reminded me of the good in each day—no matter how hard it is.
Thank you, Jenn!