March 13, 2017

An Interview with Parnassus Events and Marketing Director Niki Coffman

It's no secret that I'm an avid reader. There are many a Instagram Story of me going to and fro the library. But what you may not know is that I go to a lot of author events. It was at these events that I became aware of today's bitch. Niki has been there as long as I can remember, complimenting my outfit and taking (amazing) pictures of me with the authors. One day I walked into Parnassus and she was there with Mary Todd Lincoln, who was wearing a party hat, because it was her birthday. Of course. While gushing over Mary Todd, I thanked Niki for A) being good at her job, and B) being patient, kind and a good iPhone photographer.

Since then, I've been chatting with Niki every time I run into her, which is often. If you've never been to a Parnassus author event, please go and meet these incredible authors they are bringing to Nashville, but also go to watch Niki take a huge crowd of excited, eager fans and organize them into a line that moves fast despite the fact that she's taking approximately 17 pictures of you with the author. I'm not kidding, I have 17 pictures with Andy Cohen. I have so enjoyed getting to know Niki and I think you will too. Meet today's bitch, Niki Coffman!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m the Director of Events and Marketing at Parnassus Books.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

I was an English major who didn’t want to be a teacher and didn’t want to live in my tiny town and work at a bank my whole life. I ended up at the Columbia Publishing Course, which is a 6 week intensive course about book and magazine publishing offered through Columbia University’s Journalism School. And after 4 years at a literary agency in NYC, I moved down to Nashville. Once Parnassus was announced, it seemed like a natural use of the skills and relationships I’d built during my time in publishing.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be upset about starting at the bottom - use that time to make yourself invaluable to the organization.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Probably that forming positive personal relationships with anyone with whom you work begets positive professional relationships. So much of what I do relies on my ability to get along with just about anyone.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Is it so lame to say SLEEP? I’m constantly staying up too late, and if I had a spare two hours, I’d probably use it for a nap.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

My greatest success is in seeing how happy Nashvillians are to meet the authors I help bring to Nashville. It’s a really meaningful thing to be able to introduce people to the writer they most admire, especially when you consider how books can change lives.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I like to read or browse the internet while some kind of sporting event plays on the TV in the background and my pups cuddle around me.

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night? 

Honestly? Fears of inadequacy. In all areas of my life. I know it’s irrational, but I’m always worried I’m not doing enough, not being enough at work, at home, or with my friends. My heart drops into my stomach just thinking about it.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

That I’ve read the books of all of the authors that come to Parnassus. We do over 250 author events a year -- there’s no way I could read all of them!

What does self care look like in your life?

It’s so important to my mental health to make time to see my friends. And to travel. Travel keeps me curious about the world.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you? 

I like to talk through my problems with trusted friends or coworkers. Usually, if I’m stuck, it’s just because I’m not looking at a situation from all angles. Getting someone else’s perspective almost always unsticks me.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

Oh, without a doubt. I think every success I’ve ever had has been because of another woman paving the way. Specifically, Ann Patchett is the most obvious way-paver for me - she’s been an amazing mentor, not to mention a dear friend. But I’m really, really lucky to work at a woman-owned business, in a woman-dominated industry, with truly amazing female coworkers.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I don’t watch a ton of current TV, but when I want to watch a show, I’m inevitably constantly drawn to The West Wing. I think it’s the smartest show ever written. Give me the Bartlett Administration and a cheese plate, and I’m the happiest person on earth.

All photos courtesy of Niki Coffman

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Jewelry Designer, Jenny Luckett!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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