“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
by Kris Parfitt
- The Capitol Hill Times -
What do you get when you cross writers and alcohol in Seattle? The second Seattle Lit Crawl – an annual parade of literary miscreants drunk on words and creative debauchery. Today, Capitol Hill will be alive with readers, writers and poets traipsing between the Central Library to Century Ballroom, Babeland to the Richard Hugo House, and many places in-between and beyond.
Lit Crawl is the out-of-wedlock child of writers Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware, born 14 years ago in the shady grey corners of the Edinburgh Castle Pub in San Francisco. Now known as the week-long “Lit Quake,” the San Francisco Lit Crawl is only one night of the seven day festival.
“The Lit Crawl has a good influence on Seattle’s literary community because different subcultures can gather, meet and connect,” said Jane Hodges, one of the five people who organized this year’s Seattle Lit Crawl. “Instead of the 24-hour news cycle in media where we see a story yet it’s not fulfilling, we can go to an event, listen to a story, meet the writer and get something out of it because we had an interaction.
“It’s like speed dating of the literary world,” joked Hodges. “Attendees get to hear and meet six to 10 well-known or up-and-coming authors in one night.”
If you want to get even more up-close and personal, you’re invited to attend the after-party at the Richard Hugo House, where you can shake hands, rub elbows and buy a drink for your favorite writers.
The 2012 Seattle Lit Crawl saw 45 readers in 15 venues, with roughly 400 attendees. This year, the line-up includes over 60 readers in 19 venues with an estimate of over 1,000 attendees.
“The ripple effect throughout the Seattle literary community could be felt for a while after last year’s event”, said Michelle Goodman, another of the five organizers for this year’s event. “Now, with the new line up, there is a common ‘wow’ when people see it. I even heard rumor that Elliot Bay Books’ employees are fighting over who gets that night off!”
Lit Crawl is now international, with this year witnessing the first one in London. After San Francisco, it quickly spread to Austin, Iowa City, Los Angelus, and Seattle, plus New York, which boasts two – one in Manhattan and another in Brooklyn.
“Book lovers are hungry to meet writers. They get a free night of entertainment; there is no pressure to buy tickets or make reservations to attend,” Goodman said. “And writers want to get out of the book tour isolation and meet their readers. They get to see that they’re not alone in their field. They get together with their supporters and the people who appreciate them. It’s also a win for the businesses on First Hill and Capitol Hill, our sponsors and the Seattle literary community.”
“The Seattle literary community is huge with many esthetics.” Hodges confirmed. “You have everyone from punky young poets, academics, nationally-known authors and first-time writers. What’s great about the Seattle literary community is that it’s diverse in age, ethnicity, genre and culture.”
Diane Mapes, author of “How to Date in a Post-Dating World,” as well as several other books, mused, “When you’re a ham at heart, and a writer, Lit Crawl is the perfect outlet for reading your work.” She likened reading for the Lit Crawl last year to playing a piano. “Reading out loud is similar to having an ear for rhythm. You know where to emphasize the highlights and create dramatic pauses, but you cannot always predict when and where the audience will respond to your work. It’s always better to hear the audience’s laughter than imagine it.”
Last year Mapes took a risk when reading aloud at Town Hall droll insights of breast reconstructive surgery and cancer for the first Seattle Lit Crawl. “It’s not a traditionally humorous topic, but the audience really received it for what it was meant to be: a more palatable insight to what women go through with this kind of surgery. And, while I didn’t get a book deal out of the reading, it was a creative payoff. It was rewarding to know that I could write about a risky subject and have it be well received.”
This year’s risky topic also belongs to Mapes and co-writer Gene Ambaum (who write together under the pen name “B.F. Dealeo”), a zombie parody of “50 Shades of Grey” called “50 Shades of Brains.”
“Bad vapid writing deserves mockery,” joked Mapes. “Those who show up at our reading at Babeland on Thursday in zombie costumes will get a free electronic copy of the book. I’ll even attempt to sign a dead zombie limb on the winner’s costume.”
The experience of reading one’s own work to a receptive audience is the creative payoff for all of the writers at Lit Crawl. The event is free to attend, and is sourced entirely from volunteers and venues who donate their space for the event. But bring along your dollars; pubs will charge for drinks and food, and you might need to pay for parking.
For more information and to see a schedule of events, visit litcrawl.org/seattle.