Litquake 2009: A Book Lover’s Dream

By Tanicia Bell

Consisting of readings, discussions, and themed events held at different Bay Area venues, this year’s Litquake will be a nine-day long event featuring over 500 mostly-local authors. San Francisco’s annual literary festival opens on October 9th with Black, White and Read: Litquake’s Book Ball to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The ball, loosely based on Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball, will be a place for writerly and readerly types to connect. Attendees are encouraged to dress the part and, if inclined, bring along their own custom Mardi Gras harlequin-type stick masks inspired by favorite books or writers. The night will feature performances from the worlds of opera, jazz, classical music and… the circus. (ed. note: I attended. It was fantastic.)

In addition to the ball, Litquake will award best-selling author Amy Tam with the 2009 Barbary Coast Award for contribution to the Bay Area literary community. In a fun evening of music, mayhem, and a few surprises, Ms. Tam will be “braised” (as opposed to roasted) on Wednesday, October 14th at the Herbst Theater. Special guests include Armistead Maupin, Andrew Sean Greer, Ben Fong-Torres Roger, and Michael Krasny among others. Los Train Wreck is the house band for the evening and book sales and signing to follow.

Other highlights include a Bay Area punk history collaboration with Porchlight Storytelling Series; an evening of original short fiction in conjunction with the Evolve 2009 celebration of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday; the notorious Literary Death Match; a night of poetry at Grace Cathedral; events devoted to genre fiction, food writing, women’s literature, underground publishing, and the “Gay Menace.” The festival will also present film screenings, staged theater readings, panel discussions, workshops for writers, events for teens and children, and closing night’s Lit Crawl on October 17—a literary pub crawl through the Mission District, featuring over 50 venues in a single evening.

Litquake has grown a great deal over past ten years, from 23 writers on a single afternoon in Golden Gate Park with 200 attendees to this year’s 500-plus author event with expected attendance to break the 12,000 mark. According to cofounder Jane Ganahl, donations are down but amazingly the organization was able to increase the size of the festival without increasing their shoestring-budget. The Litquake Literary Project produces the event, while Intersection for the Arts and others provide fiscal sponsorship. 

The festival is mutually rewarding for local businesses and authors. In keeping with prior years, authors will appear at a variety of venues, including bars, galleries, theaters, coffee shops, a barbershop, a cathedral, a bee keeping supply store, along with libraries, restaurants, museums, and of course, bookstores. This strategy not only encourages each event to take on a unique personality based on the venue, but also reflects Litquake’s strong belief that writers and readers are an essential part of the San Francisco economic landscape by driving traffic through the doors of participating businesses and organizations. 

For authors, the festival is a prime opportunity for exposure. Each author appearing at Litquake gets their biography on the festival’s popular website which can include a link to the author’s own website, and the events help to get the word out about their work and sell books. 

What is the next step for Litquake? Ganahl would love to make Litquake year round, with events every month – a fantasy come to life for literature lovers.

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