Fifteen years ago, Litquake was just a twinkle in the eye of local writers Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware. But what once was a single-day reading series in Golden Gate Park with just 22 authors has blossomed into a sprawling festival of writing, drinking, and drunken writers. Litquake has come of age, and like many a native San Franciscan, it's planning to celebrate with a quinceañera party. With tiaras, poofy dresses (one hopes!), a mariachi band, and free tequila, the opening night party — Oct. 10 at Z Space — will kick off nine days of readings and events featuring more than 800 writers.
The festival wraps on Saturday, Oct. 18, with the Lit Crawl — a three-and-a-half hour mad dash through the Mission. This year, organizers have crammed 101 literary events into every nook and cranny of the Valencia Street corridor. Events are timed to start at 6 p.m., 7:15 p.m., and 8:30 p.m., so plan accordingly. Established lit mags like The Rumpus (8:30 p.m. at The Make-Out Room), ZYZZYVA (6 p.m. at Casanova), and Threepenny Review (7:15 p.m. at Betabrand) will all be putting on shows, but the Crawl is also a great chance to check out new voices from San Francisco's diverse communities. Lit Crawl is teeming with fresh voices and points of view, offered by the likes of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network and San Francisco's first feminist hacker space, Double Union. Just don't drink too much too early — 10,000 people are expected to attend and you won't want to waste time waiting in line for the bathroom.
Between the opening birthday party and the closing bacchanal are dozens of can't-miss events. We recommend the following, but make sure to check the full schedule at litquake.org.
The journey from Africa to America is a point of origin for works by the acclaimed new writers Chinelo Okparanta and NoViolet Bulawayo. In her debut story collection, Happiness, Like Water, Okparanta tells stories of Nigeria (where she grew up) and the U.S. (where she immigrated at 10) in what The New York Times described as “the manner of a stifled shriek.” Bulawayo — who grew up in Zimbabwe and now teaches at Stanford — became the first black African woman nominated for the Man Booker Prize for her novel We Need New Names, which follows 10-year-old Darling from Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe to the States. Co-hosted by the Museum of the African Diaspora, Stories from Home: NoViolet Bulawayo and Chinelo Okparanta in Conversation brings the two young writers together Oct. 12 at Z Space to discuss “the meaning of home and writing across continents.” Sarah Ladipo Manyika moderates the event, which looks to be the highlight of the whole festival. Other headlining author events include Attempting Normal: Marc Maron In Conversation (Oct. 12 at Z Space), From Austen to Room to Frog Music: Emma Donoghue's Literary Life (Oct. 13 at Z Space), and The Paul Chowder Chronicles: An Evening with Nicholson Baker (Oct. 15 at Z Space).
The Hotel Rex, off Union Square, is the site of a mini-conference within the festival the weekend of Oct. 11-12. The nine free talks, dubbed “Off the Richter Scale,” include a discussion of American Muslim male sexuality and a panel on the Bay Area's favorite topic: tech (and how it is affecting publishing). Don't miss The State of the (Dis)Union: Culture, Education, and Politics, a discussion between Lewis Buzbee, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rebecca Solnit, and Astra Taylor that promises to be fascinating and disconcerting.
Literature may be an art form, but publishing is a blood sport. Three events at Litquake provide a more productive outlet for writers' competitive edge than the usual sniping about the size of book advances. First up is the Literary Death Match (Oct. 14 at Public Works S.F.), where Estonian poet Kristiina Ehin, journalist Jeremy Adam Smith, and poets Danez Smith and April Joseph will square off before a panel of three all-star judges. The following evening, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) hosts the 2014 Poetry World Series (Oct. 15 at The Make-Out Room). Featuring poets Mark Bibbins, Victoria Chang, Gillian Conoley, Cate Marvin, Tomas Morin, and Indigo Moor, “batting at topics pitched to them by the audience,” the event is sure to be as fun as it is nonsensical. And for those not content sitting on the sidelines, the Goodreads LitQuiz (Oct. 15 at McTeague's Saloon) will finally give you a chance to put your English literature degree to use.