Early this month, our Seattle-born and bred children’s book salon, The Inside Story, went international. In nine bookstores across the US and Australia, people who love children’s books gathered for their first-ever Inside Story experience, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, aka the SCBWI.

It was a proud moment for George Shannon and me. We invented the Inside Story in 1998. It was a proud moment for our local SCBWI who nurtured it over the years. Here in Seattle we celebrated our 31st Inside Story that evening, hosted by Mockingbird Books.

Our goal when we started the Inside Story was to create a forum where authors and illustrators could celebrate their new titles with local booksellers, librarians, teachers and other friends of children’s books. The idea was that book creators would share “inside” information that booksellers and librarians could use to recommend titles. Along the way, we hoped to build our children’s book community. That’s what’s happened over the past 16 years. Something like 500 books have been presented in these twice-yearly programs at a rotating venue of area independent bookstores.

Each time, authors and illustrators are each given three minutes to tell the stories behind their new books. For instance, at the recent Inside Story at Mockingbird Books, we heard Port Townsend illustrator Richard Jesse Watson talk about his latest picture book, Psalm 23. He began by telling about his atheist childhood and ended with a discussion of how he chose the models for his characters. It was interesting stuff.

The timed three-minute segments are interspersed with The Great Book Give Away, a game in which audience members win copies of the new books by answering children’s book trivia questions. The program is followed by schmoozing and booksigning and a fabulous spread of food and drink supplied by the host bookstore. It adds up to a delightful evening.

After the first couple of years, George and I asked our Seattle chapter of the SCBWI if they’d like to get involved. Kirby Larson signed on for the SCBWI and our little community event grew and prospered. In the ensuing years, Meg Lippert, Jaime Temairik, Martha Brockenbrough and Deb Lund have headed the Inside Story for our Seattle SCBWI, each bringing her inimitable style and humor as the event matured.

It was interesting to note that two local authors who presented at the first Inside Story in 1998 also presented new picture books this month: Brenda Guiberson told the story behind her latest, The Greatest Dinosaur Ever, and Nina Laden showcased Once Upon a Memory.


Seattle Inside Story, Nov. 2013: Illustrator Dana Sullivan and his new book, Digger and Daisy, and illustrator Jaime Temairik whose new book is How to Negotiate Everything.

When I think back to those first Inside Story events, Ted Rand is always there. He had a new book in every Inside Story salon until his death in 2005. He was the dean of our children’s book scene – and the only person for whom the Inside Story’s three minute presentation limit was ever relaxed.

I also remember an early Inside Story at Chauni Haslet’s All for Kids Books and Music. We wanted to honor George Shannon, so Eastside writer Mary Whittington’s partner Winnie wrote a song we could sing to him. The music and lyrics were distributed and we all sang to the accompaniment of Winnie’s recorder.

The next day George and I got a note from a writer who had just moved to Seattle from New York. She pointed out that the evening felt more like a Girl Scout campfire than a professional gathering. Oh well. Let it be noted that I believe a community bonds when it sings together.

(One of the international Inside Story events this month was at Bank Street Books in New York. I guess they didn’t include a singalong.)

There’s a gang of school librarians who show up for the Seattle area Inside Storys. Chief among them is Lynn Detweiler, who has attended just about every one. She deserves some recognition. Maybe it’s time to write another recorder-accompanied song?

•   •   •   •   •

Lately I am most likely to hear about the publication of new books via a trailer on YouTube that’s friended on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter.  I’m glad that in Seattle we also celebrate these occasions together in person at the Inside Story, as a children’s book community. I love that other cities are going to have this opportunity.

Thanks to everyone who has nurtured the Inside Story along: the SCBWI chairpeople and their committees, the bookstores, the presenters, the audience and the publishers who have sometimes donated champagne (yay, Candlewick). We are all lucky to be part of the Seattle children’s book community.


  1. Sounds great, Laura! Kudos!!

  2. Amazing!

  3. Laura,
    Thanks for sharing! i knew nothing about your organization. You are an inspiration of passion for your commitment to children, picture and word stories. I feel privileged to know you. Linda

  4. What a grand evening! It was made all the better by hearing the inside story on the Inside Story shared by our own Laura Kvasnosky. Thank you for your inspiration and your dedication to our community. xoxox

  5. Good to know what you have been up to and how you build the bonds of the communities you are a part of. Kumbaya.

  6. That evening was a blast! So great to hear your inside story that evening and even better to read more in-depth here. The Inside Stories around the country that you inspired were all a big hit as well (of course!). I’ve always loved getting the inside scoop on books, especially when you’re playing a ukelele and singing songs about your sisters. In a profession full of generous and sharing people, you stand out as one of the most generous and inspiring teachers of storytelling. Thank you, Laura!

  7. Dana — i hoped you’d leave a comment — maybe something about how fun it is to do all you do that makes the Inside Story happen — but this is too much. Bellinis on us anytime. xox l

  8. Every Inside Story I’ve been too has been extraordinary. So happy to learn you and George Shannon were the creators of this wonderful event. It’s one thing to think of ideas, another to make them happen. I toast everyone involved (even though it’s 7:30 am, I toast you with coffee).

  9. I was so pleased and proud to be part of this amazing event–my first! What a fabulous event and wonderful opportunity. Dana is so right about how supportive the community is! I am humbled by it all . . .
    Thank you so much for inventing the Inside Story!! 🙂

  10. Hey ladies–just wanted to pass this along. Our Children’s Dept Head just returned from a conference in Ohio and visited a museum dedicated to children’s book illustrations. It’s located at the University of Findlay, called the Mazza Museum. Here’s a link:
    It currently has a quilt and art work from Patricia Palacco!

    • Lizzy – thanks for that link. I’ll check it out. (P.S. I hosted a book signing at University Book Store in Seattle for Patricia Polacco when her book PINK AND SAY came out – she was so sweet, and that book continues to haunt me – so sad, and beautiful!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s