In 1998, Eastern Washington University’s Press and the Creative Writing Department sponsored a literary festival that would become Get Lit! At the time, I was a graduate student, and couldn’t afford to pay $10 for the events, so we worked the box office instead. That year Denis Johnson read from Jesus’ Son. It was one of the most extraordinary readings I’ve ever experienced. I was 23, thinking about stories and poetry as radical acts, and here’s this dude reading wild, comical, gruesome pieces of revelation and redemption with a main character named Fuckhead.
The year Kurt Vonnegut headlined at Get Lit! I couldn’t go because I’d been scheduled for surgery. After years of inexplicable illness, the doctors had found masses and were going to remove them. During prep, my doctor told me he had tickets to see Vonnegut that weekend. He said literature is how he thought about the body. We were all stories. I feel like both of them saved me. The doctor and Vonnegut.
When I worked at Auntie’s Bookstore, we covered the Get Lit! events, and I got to meet Jonathan Lethem at a midnight reading that Jess Walter called the subversive headlining event of the year. Lethem’s gorgeous essay about using pop culture to survive the death of his mother is still a piece I can’t think about without feeling kicked in the belly.
This year, I get to talk about Young Adult Literature with a panel of writers at Get Lit! 2014 on Saturday, April 12th. Later that same afternoon, I’ll be reading from Giraffe People. Stories and poetry as radical acts: Get Lit! Join me, Spokane.