Lit Crawl Seattle turns the shushed book reading on its head.
"I’m a writer and even I get bored at readings,” says Rebekah Anderson in an embarrassed whisper from across a table at Porchlight Coffee and Records on Capitol Hill. “If anyone is going to be tolerant, it’s going to be other writers, right? But sometimes it’s just really dreary.”
Yes, it is. Fortunately, that’s not the kind of reading we’re talking about.
On Oct. 18 Porchlight and 16 other venues will host readings for Lit Crawl Seattle, a literary pub-crawl that starts downtown and proceeds up Capitol Hill as part of Heineken City Arts Fest. The Lit Crawl is designed to turn the archetypal shushed literary reading on its head in favor of a boisterous, socially engaged experience that doesn’t leave audience members pawing for a pillow. The event is a collaboration between Anderson, Bay Area non-profit Litquake and Seattle indie-lit org APRIL.
“[A lit crawl] makes the writing community tactile—a beating, heaving mass, rather than a term,” says writer Corinne Manning, who will read as part of the Dark Coast Press showcase. “At one moment someone is reading. [At] the next venue they’re an audience member like everyone else.”
Emerald City literati have a strong appetite for unconventional readings, which have recently drawn substantial crowds. APRIL—Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature—hosted its own rowdy crawl in March, which culminated in an underground parking garage reading by area poet Ed Skoog. In July, the quarterly Greenwood Lit Crawl kicked off its series, drawing a surprising crowd of more than a hundred audience members down ten blocks of Greenwood Avenue.
Large-scale lit events are relatively new in Seattle, but San Francisco’s Litquake has been holding a weeklong literary festival every October for 10 years. In 2007, the festival added an evening of readings that sprawled across dozens of traditional and untraditional venues like a beekeeping supply store and a laundromat. Hundreds of attendees shuffled around SF’s Mission District for Litquake’s inaugural crawl. The model has since spawned similar Litquake-sponsored events in Brooklyn, Austin, Manhattan and, now, Seattle.
A couple of years ago, Anderson got the idea of bringing Lit Crawl to the Northwest when her Seattle-based website and reading series Debut Lit hosted a reading at the crawl in SF.
“They were literally turning people away at the door, which is something I’d never seen at a reading before,” Anderson says. The audience chose between lists of readings for each phase of the night, giving the event a game-like quality. Listeners, not authors, had the power.
Like the SF model, this month’s Lit Crawl will unfold in three hour-long phases, each with four or more readings to choose from. The lineup features a mix of fiction, memoir, spoken-word and poetry from big-press, small-press and yet-to-be-published authors alike. Highlights include three indie-lit readings assembled by APRIL including Portland powerhouse poet Zachary Schomburg at the Comet Tavern, Anderson’s Debut Lit reading at Pine Box and “Funny Ladies” at Town Hall.
Lit Crawl challenges the idea that seriousness has to be stuffy. It creates a platform for the diverse, sometimes insular factions of the Seattle literary community to interact—not only with each other, but with the outside world as well.
“People seem much more excited about arts events that involve walking from place to place,” says APRIL co-founder and managing director Tara Atkinson. “Maybe ‘people these days’ aren’t so sit-in-front-of-the-boob-tube as they’ve been made out to be.”
Who doesn’t want to hear some poetry at Babeland on a Thursday night? Or listen to the Four Hoarse Men huff and puff their way through a language-based performance at the Hideout? In the second-most literate city in the nation, Lit Crawl Seattle proves that curling up alone with a book isn’t the only way to enjoy the written word. And it certainly isn’t the most fun.