Comically Terrible Writing

In 2011, Litquake co-founder Jack Boulware kicked off the first Regreturature by saying “Every writer has to start somewhere,” and then, in the interest of fairness — “I volunteer to also fall on the sword this evening” — he read a paper he wrote in fourth grade, circa 1971, entitled “Hippies.” The beginning: “Hippies are people. Usually collage students.” (The spelling there is faithful to the original.) The evening, a collaboration with the San Francisco Writers Grotto, was such a success that the event has become an annual affair, and this September it will even become Litquake's first book: Drivel: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors (Penguin Perigree). Edited by Julia Scott, who had the idea after participating in the 2012 event, the book will include writings by the likes of Mary Roach, Dave Eggers, and Chuck Palahniuk. Like the events, the book's humor is encouraging; young writers might be inspired to keep working through what might not yet seem to them such deliciously bad writing. Here's an excerpt from Drivel to give you an idea; the following is the first two paragraphs from Ethel Rohan's “Out of the Mouth of Virgins”:

Inside the dim, smoky pub, Molly's vagina throbbed. Tirlee, her mother had called the body part. Girls had tirlees and boys had willies. Jaysus. Why was she thinking tirlees and willies? She wasn't a girl anymore. She was seventeen and about to be deflowered. A flash of herself ripping white petals from a daisy crossed her mind and she threw up her imagined pale arm and tossed the soft, severed pieces into the air like confetti.

She looked at Barry standing at the bar, so tall and broad and his eyes as black as his hair, and her vagina started up again like a thumping heartbeat. She loved Barry and she was going to give herself to him tonight. Fully. She recalled the shower of daisy petals she'd imagined raining down on her just minutes earlier and believed she and Barry would marry some day, a warm feeling spreading over her like hot water on a teabag.

Needless to say, these moments can be pretty embarrassing for professional writers, and sharing them onstage is an act of courage not unlike writing itself. To witness this is not only hilarious but also somewhat magical. This year's Regreturature features 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson, New York Times bestsellers Sylvie Simmons (I'm Your Man) and Tamim Ansary (West of Kabul, East of New York), founding member of the Rock Bottom Remainders Sam Barry (Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All), Jenny Bitner, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Todd Oppenheimer, and Zarina Zabrisky.

Thu., March 27, 8 p.m., 2014

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