My friend Kim Ricketts, an event coordinator and book planner and the last of the big-time readers, died last month at the age of 53. She’s one of three friends who died this year and I haven’t written about any of them. I’ve written about the deaths of movie stars and baseball stars but not friends. Feels wrong. But of course the death of those we don’t know, even when their deaths aren’t easy to take, are so much easier to take.
Kim was full of energy. I worked at the University Book Store in the late 1990s, in the warehouse, and suddenly she was there. She would corral me in the hallway, grab my arm, ask me about this, tell me about that.
“Who are you again?” I asked.
“The events coordinator.”
“I thought that was Whatsherface.”
“I’m the new one.”
She arrived, bursting with energy and ideas, which is always the wrong way to enter certain rooms, particularly certain Seattle rooms, where the clothes are casual and the people are buttoned up. She didn’t care. That’s how she arrived.
She made enemies fast. She came up with a million dollar idea and shared it with the dull folks at the top who weren’t in it for the books, who were just in it to be in it. They didn’t get her idea. Or they thought it a threat. They probably thought she was a threat. They were right.
Here’s the idea: Instead of forcing people to come to see an author at, say, a bookstore, why not bring the author to the people? At, say, Microsoft, or Starbucks, or Boeing, or whatever big corporation is in your city. You can see why the bookstore honchos hated the idea. Looked at in a narrow way, it rendered them irrelevant. When they didn’t bite, she left to implement the idea herself. It became Kim Ricketts Book Events. Within a few years, she was being written up in The New York Times.
Here’s my favorite memory of Kim. I'd already left the bookstore, she was still there, and I stopped by one evening to buy something when I noticed an author reading across the room. For ... oops! David Shields and his new book “Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season,” which, the day before, in The Seattle Times, I'd panned. Badly. I immediately tried slinking away but Kim saw me and ran after me. When she caught up with me she kissed me on the lips. I nodded toward the event and half apologized for the review. She gave me that thick-as-thieves look. She said: “Honestly, somebody needed to say it.”
I saw her maybe a dozen times after that. She was always full of energy, always moving forward, always ready to introduce you to A, B or C (with “C” being Michael Lewis), always interested in what you were reading and doing and thinking—probably in that order. Whenever I left her, I’d think, “Now that’s the way to do it.”