A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Faces of SAL: Karen Maeda Allman

Welcome to the SAL board, Karen Maeda Allman!

You probably already know Karen from her work as the Author Events Coordinator and bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company, where she worked for over thirty-three years. Karen is now an Assistant Agent at Wales Literary Agency, and she has also worked as a nurse and a nurse educator for twenty years.

To welcome Karen to the board, we spoke to her about her favorite book as a kid, what she recommends you read now, and some of the many SAL events she’s seen over the years as a bookseller . . . 

Favorite book as a kid (and why)?

I loved Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, and reread it annually for many years. I think that Harriet’s New York City setting made me think about life beyond Phoenix, which is where I grew up. Harriet’s New York was a place where a girl could walk around a big city neighborhood filled with fascinating people and think about becoming a writer. Snooping was of course part of the deal. Years later, on my first trip to New York, I rode the Roosevelt tramway to Long Island and during the trip and I glimpsed Harriet’s beloved Carl Schurz Park.


Before I came to SAL (and/or my current occupation), I . . .

Worked as a bookseller for over 33 years, 23 of these as Author Events Coordinator at the Elliott Bay Book Company. I also worked as a nurse and as a nurse educator for 20 years.


Favorite SAL event (and why)?

Most of my SAL experiences have involved significant time working at the book sales table at events. I’ve always loved catching up with SAL patrons, guests, staff and volunteers about our favorite books and about the events yet to come. That said, one of my favorite SAL events was with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who appeared in conversation with Seattle luminary, Vivian Phillips in 2015. Reading his book (Between the World and Me) and listening to the conversation, I could feel a generational shift.


What’s on your desk?

You’ll find an enormous to be read pile, an old wooden cigar box filled with family pictures, some Kaweko fountain pens and a calendar from Seagull Press.


Favorite book right now (and why)?

My favorite book is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Even though I’m always interested in science writing and medical history, that a “biography” of cancer could be so suspenseful, so moving and so personal surprised me. And I could finally put to rest some lingering questions I had about the illness, treatment and death of a close friend.

Thank you so much, Karen! We’re so thrilled to have you on the SAL board!

Posted in SAL Staff/Board