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When Maria Semple arrived at Town Hall the other week to read from and discuss her best-selling sendup of Seattle, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?,” the standby line for tickets stretched down the steps.

Semple nearly cried.

“It made me moved that they were here,” she said, heading into a private reception before her sold-out talk with “Book Lust” star Nancy Pearl.

“It’s so weird to me to think that I was so alone and unhappy and thought that my book career was over,” Semple told me of the time, just a few years ago, when she moved to Seattle and started writing “Bernadette.”

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“But I guess that’s what art is,” she said. “Turning something painful into something people can relate to.”

Among other things, Semple told the crowd her book was being made into a movie and that she wasn’t writing the screenplay (“That’s one less headache”), but that the same people who wrote “500 Days of Summer” are. They were just in town, and they all slogged around Queen Anne, trying to find the house Semple could see from the window of her loft while she was writing, and in which she placed Bernadette’s family. They never found it.

“It’s an illusion,” she said.

Semple’s reading choice was a scathing letter Bernadette wrote to a friend about all of Seattle’s quirks. The Town Hall crowd laughed, but it was an anxious laughter, like when your friend tells people about your snoring. It may be true, but it still hurts a little to hear it. And it’s not really that bad. Is it?

Those who stood in line to get their books signed by Semple got an added bonus: Smiley faces and the signature of Semple’s third-grade daughter, Poppy. Who goes to Meridian. Which is a private school. Like in the book. Where the parents are not so much helicopter parents as Blackhawks.

Just sayin’.

Comedy central

In other show-business news, local sketch-comedy show “The [206]” will return to KING 5 airwaves April 27.

Word is that John Keister, Pat Cashman and his equally sonorously toned son Chris will be directed by Steve Wilson, who was a member of the “Almost Live!” cast back in the day, and now directs “New Day Northwest.” The plan — if you can use that word when dealing with these guys — is to shoot 12 shows, or two shows every other week.

We’ve waited this long for their comeback, I guess we can wait a little longer.

Kennedy tidbits

A few things we learned while Caroline Kennedy was in town last week to promote her book, “Poems to Learn by Heart”:

Her uncle, the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, used to show up at her book signings and recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (scene-stealer).

Her childhood horse was named “Macaroni.” It wasn’t her idea. He came named, she said.

She was utterly cagey about her possible appointment as ambassador to Japan when speaking with “New Day Northwest” host Margaret Larson.

“Well, would it make you happy if it happened? Larson asked, a little exasperated.

“Sure,” Kennedy said, not budging. (Privacy is paramount, I guess.)

And, when Larson asked Kennedy her most embarrassing moment? “Coming on this show,” Kennedy said.

Not sure how I would have taken that, but Larson — along with knowing when someone won’t talk — also knows when to say nothing, and just smile.

Remember when

In preparation for its 40th anniversary celebration June 29, the very wonderful Elliott Bay Book Co. is looking for stories from its reading customers. Anything from meeting your spouse in the stacks, to attending a memorable reading by authors like Raymond Carver, W.G. Sebald and Jacob Lawrence — who all did their last book talks at Elliott Bay.

Amy Tan did her first reading there, calling chief bookseller Rick Simonson on her agent’s recommendation and driving to Seattle herself to read from “The Joy Luck Club.”

Were you there for something special, or does the store have a role in your own book of memories? They want to know.

Stories can be sent to

I might just write an ode to the squeaky floors in both the old and new place.

Knit and purl

This is like heaven, one woman said to another as they walked through last weekend’s Vogue Knitting LIVE! at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

The event perhaps rivaled Comicon for its level of dream realization and sensory overload. Skeins of yarn hung from the ceilings and booth walls like stalactites and craft stars like Vickie Howell of the HGTV show “Knitty Gritty” gave on-the-spot lessons.

It was also where Seattle-based Skacel Collection sponsored a duel for the title of Fastest Needles in the Northwest. Working with yarn and circular needles, contestants were asked to cast on 60 stitches, and work a garter stitch for three minutes.

The winner: Galina Fedtchencko of Bellevue, who completed 192 stitches.

Fedtchencko clinched the lead during the individual, daytime heats in the Skacel booth, but came up short that night in front of the audience at the Vogue gala.

“Her nerves just got to her,” said Skacel spokesman Rob Delmont.

How bad does knitting competition get? “There was no blood spilled,” Delmont said. “This time.”

But there might have been a few tears, as Fedtchencko was heretofore banned from competing in local events.

“She’s already won three times,” Delmont explained. “I had to retire her.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

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