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Re-energized by Litquake!

Litquake: San Francisco's Literary Festival, October 5-13, 2012

You may have heard about the crazy flow of people into San Francisco this weekend for a number of events, including the Giants game, the Niners game, the Strictly Bluegrass festival, the new UNIQLO opening, and the Blue Angels for Fleet Week. (I had quite a time people-watching on the crowded J-Church yesterday, trying to figure out who was a tourist or new to the city and who was just high as balls. In some cases the outward signs are amazingly similar; I’m still scratching my head over one average-looking guy who got on at Dolores Park and was just REALLY EXCITED to take the train and hang on to the hand rails.) And me? I was headed to the best event of them all: Litquake!

So yesterday I volunteered at Day One of Off The Richter Scale, a two-day series of hour-long themed readings featuring a variety of authors. A bit of background on my week: I suddenly got really sick on Tuesday and had to leave my internship early. (I thought it was a fever, but I didn’t have a temperature or anything… I’ve never had a cold that’s knocked me flat on my back like that, but I guess that’s what it was?) I stayed at my boyfriend’s for the next few days because SF was in the middle of a heat wave and my apartment is on the 4th floor with no air conditioning, and I honestly think the whole thing was my body’s way of telling me “If you won’t stop working for one day, damn it, then I will FORCE you to lie in bed for SEVERAL days and you will use this time to RETHINK YOUR PRIORITIES.” So I rested and got re-energized and ready to give 100% again at my two internships and one job, which I haven’t really been doing lately because I’ve been so run-down and exhausted. Yesterday’s Litquake event was more or less my first time out in public in several days. And of course they had me work the front door, and of course I was weird and awkward, but it was still a lot of fun signing in authors and chatting with my fellow volunteers.

You may recall that I had a slight bout of anxiety at a lit event recently when faced with a Zyzzyva editor rattling off a list of names that meant nothing to me. Turns out I was being silly, because as soon as I picked up the fall issues and actually started reading the stories, it didn’t matter if I recognized the authors’ names because they were all wonderful and engaging and totally accessible, and really, that’s the whole point. Something similar happened at Off The Richter Scale–I didn’t know what to expect really, only picked this particular reading because it was the only one I was able to volunteer at with my current schedule (thanks, part-time retail slave job), and was a little nervous because I had never heard of the authors listed (what if someone asked me about them? what if one showed up and demanded “Don’t you know who I am?!” when I tried to sign them in?), but I fell in love with the stories being told. The first series of readings featured flash fiction, and I was blown away by stories about shoes, about love, about looking for God in the fluorescent aisles of a minimum-wage retail environment. The second series, First Fiction, was devoted to debut authors, and had me adding all their books to my reading list.

This is a lot of wordage, but the upshot is this: Litquake got me excited about words again. I’ve been spending an embarrassing amount of time lately stressing about between one and all of the following: whether I’ll ever find a job in publishing, whether I look like an idiot for not knowing x author or y hip publication, poetry (not the joy and art of it, just whether I should read it to be more “with it”), whether the guy from McSweeney’s thinks I’m stalking him at events, whether everyone else is better than me. I’ve read books from my internships and I’ve read books for edification, but I haven’t read a book for sheer joy and escape in at least a month, and lately I’ve all but given up and taken to listening to my iPod on BART. This is ridiculous. And, amazingly, I forgot about all of it while listening to those authors read. Instead I thought about life. I thought about stories. I even thought about writing. And I feel completely renewed and ready to rock.

Anyway, I took a festival program and browsed through it (it’s all online, but for some reason I found the print version much easier to absorb) and found tons of events I want to attend, and even some which I will actually be able to attend (miracle of miracles!). Here’s a small selection of events that are more than just readings. (Readings are wonderful, readings are great, and you should attend them, but I’m a huge fan of events that take a more imaginative approach to literature, and if you can’t find it in yourself to get excited about a reading where you don’t know any of the authors, you’ll surely find something to tempt you below.)

Pitchapalooza (Sunday 10/7, 5pm): Twenty randomly selected writers get one minute to pitch their books, and receive an editorial critique and a chance to win an introduction to a publisher.

Quiet Lightning (Monday 10/8, 8pm): Okay, this is kind of just a reading, but it’s presented as a “literary mixtape” moving  from piece to piece without introduction, and best of all, it’s held at the wonderful Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park!

West Coast Review (Tuesday 10/9, 7pm): A panel discussion on book reviews in the digital age, featuring representatives from big names like The Rumpus and The Believer.

Goodreads Litquiz (Thursday 10/11, 7-10pm): A literary pub quiz at the Make-Out Room, hosted by everyone’s favorite online reading community, Goodreads!

And, of course, LIT CRAWL (Saturday, 10/13, 6-9:30pm), the original and ultimate literary pub crawl across the Mission District, which I can’t bear to even look at the program for because I have to work until 10 that night, but I guarantee you it will be unforgettable. Before I averted my eyes I caught glimpses of a haiku battle and a reading at Good Vibrations. How could you lose?

Happy Litquake!

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