Get Lit!

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.

5 thoughts on “Get Lit!”

    1. And I’ve been nervous about it for days! I love this part — the sick with anticipation part. It’s as close as I get to a child on Christmas morning.

  1. Jesus. Only you would have a doctor who talked to you about literature. That shit is extraordinary.

    So, I don’t know about this Get Lit! thing for you, but the other day, I went out for drinks and found myself on the board of something called “Keep St. Pete Lit,” redoing the website, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t end up at at an event, reading something I’d just written (after over two years of just research) all because I finally had a deadline.

    And then there were all the people. Writing and speaking. And some were as pretentious as I remembered (all the reasons I had decided long ago that I never wanted to do this very thing), but most were awesome. And people actually liked what I wrote; I liked what they wrote, mostly. And I remembered that I really like this business of making art with words. And that it can be a communal thing.

    So, the crazy thing is that I had a dream last night where I was in your house. I know, it’s totally weird. But you and Mary were gone, and you had this great hot tub. And I just thought, ‘They have this great hot tub. I’ll just hang out here and they won’t mind and they won’t even notice.” And sooner or later, you guys came home. And I had meant to be gone, but I wasn’t. And you both looked at me with all this lenience and you were all, “You can do whatever you want as long as you watch the dogs.”

    I’m not much for analyzing dreams. This one came sandwiched in a night of dream flights and European cities — the shit I always dream about. But still, that’s straight-up weird.

    1. I’d be much more likely to say, “You can stay whenever you want, as long as you watch the dogs.” And it would be true.

      I love Get Lit! It’s so hard to be a single reader traveling around trying to drum up a crowd for a reading. Literary Festivals have embedded audiences, often composed of other writers who show up to appreciate the hard work of making language sound effortless. It’s one of the rare times where literature feels entirely communal. You’re not alone writing, or alone reading, or alone speaking. There’s a group of you joined together to celebrate.

      It’s freaking thrilling that you read. The deadline is vital, but so is the opportunity to share.

  2. I admit I haven’t been so excited about writing, or just the thought of supporting writing, in a long time.

    How did it go for you? And, more importantly, have you gotten a hot tub yet?

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