Readings by celebrated authors.
A 4-mile Bloomsday training run led by a barefoot-running evangelist. An original play about John Keats’ love life. Writing workshops. A coffee-shop poetry salon. An informed discussion about literary and other links between human culture and that of crows.
It’s no accident that there’s a lot to choose from at Get Lit!, the annual literary festival, or that many events are free, along with some refreshments. Tickets for headliner events – there are 10, including readings by Joyce Carol Oates, David Shields, Jess Walter, Kim Barnes and Major Jackson – are $15, if they’re not free. A festival pass costs $45.
Now in its 15th year – add birthday cake to the menu. The festival started in 1998 as one day packed with literary readings. The event starting Monday will span seven days and include more than 40 events at 20 venues. While it’s grown, the festival also has returned to its roots, said festival co-founder Chris Howell, a poet and professor in Eastern Washington University’s creative writing program.
The festival was conceived as a way for residents to engage with writing and working writers, he said. Spokane needed “a little more literary excitement,” and there were plenty of writers in town and in the region to provide it.
“Most of the people we invited came either for nothing or for a little gas money,” Howell said.
Within a few years of its debut in 1998, the festival and the cost to run it had grown significantly. The opera house was booked, along with popular and expensive authors such as Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry, Salman Rushdie and Kurt Vonnegut.
To help cover costs, the festival had to charge more for tickets.
“I felt all along that really that community engagement project needed to be in the forefront and not in the background,” Howell said. “And it can’t be in the forefront when you’re charging $30 and $40 a ticket for literary events. Fewer people can go, and you’re selecting, too, from a certain portion of the community instead of making yourself available to all of it.”
But, facing a major deficit along with the economic downturn, the festival shifted its aim again a few years ago, he said. Tasked with recruiting sponsors, organizers also reduced ticket prices and put the emphasis back on community engagement.
Now, along with a robust schedule of readings by writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, the festival offers plenty of chances to interact with writers. That includes authors from across the U.S. who will talk with audiences and teach their trade alongside writers working and living in Spokane and the Northwest.
And there really will be cake. Also, good news regarding the pie and the whiskey: After running out of both last year, organizers bumped up the orders for Thursday’s Pie & Whiskey Reading, at which 12 authors will gather at 9 p.m. at the Woman’s Club, 1428 W. Ninth Ave., to read original pie- and whiskey-inspired work while people in the audience eat pie made by real authors and drink whiskey.
A complete festival schedule, along with event locations, details on several poetry slams, registration information for workshops and links to TicketsWest for ticketed events, can be found at www.ewu.edu/getlit.
• A performance by EWU theater students of “Ode,” a play by poet and EWU professor Jonathan Johnson about the romance between the English poet Keats and the woman next door, Fanny Brawne. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, University Theatre in the Fine Arts complex at EWU in Cheney, on Washington Street between Sutton Park and the football field. Free.
• A joint reading by Jonathan Evison, a New York Times-bestselling author whose book “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” has been called hilarious and harrowing, and Kim Barnes, a Pulitzer Prize finalist whose latest novel takes place in 1960s Saudi Arabia. 7 p.m. Thursday, Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague Ave. Tickets: $15 through TicketsWest.
• John Marzluff, author of “Gifts of the Crow,” will talk about the “cultural co-evolution” of humans and crows (people incorporate the birds in art and language; crows share human behaviors, including grudges, funerals and delinquency). 7 p.m. Thursday, Mobius Science Center, 811 W. Main Ave. Free.
• Panel discussions that will address, along with editing and storytelling techniques, “the poetry of obsession” and intersections between philosophy and pop culture (publications by panelists for the latter include “Porn: Philosophy for Everyone” and “Star Wars and History”). Various times and locations (details: outreach.ewu.edu/getlit), next Friday and April 13. Free.
• A joint reading by young-adult novelists Patricia McCormick and Emily Danforth. McCormick’s “Never Fall Down,” a National Book Award finalist, is based on the true story of a 11-year-old who survived the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia by playing music in the Killing Fields.Without talking down to her young readers, “she tackles these topics that are really intensely serious,” said Melissa Huggins, the festival’s director. Danforth, whose book “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” has been named to numerous “best” lists, is set in rural Montana in the early 1990s. It’s about a girl sent to a religious camp to be “cured” of homosexuality. 11:30 a.m. April 13, Spokane Public Library’s downtown location, 906 W. Main Ave. Free.
• A moderated talk by novelist and National Book Award finalist novelist Jess Walter and Shawn Vestal, a Spokesman-Review columnist whose collection of stories, “Godforsaken Idaho,” debuted this week. 5 p.m. April 13, Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave. Free; $5 donation suggested.
• A joint reading by poets Major Jackson and Robert Wrigley. Jackson wrote two collections named finalists for the NAACP Image Award and serves as poetry editor of the Harvard Review. Wrigley’s new book is called “Anatomy of Melancholy & Other Poems”; Penguin called “one of his generation’s most accomplished poets, renowned for his irony, power and lucid style.” 7 p.m. April 13, Bing Crosby Theater. Tickets: $15 through TicketsWest.
• A joint reading by Jim Lynch and Joe Wilkins. Lynch’s latest novel, “Truth Like the Sun,” explores corruption in Seattle’s history, and Wilkins’ memoir “The Mountains and the Fathers,” set in northern Montana, examines masculinity and the mythos of the West. 2 p.m. April 13, Audubon/Manito Room on the lobby level at Red Lion Hotel at the Park, 303 W. North River Drive. Free.
• A slam-poetry workshop for teens. 3:30-5:30 p.m. April 13 in the Willow 1 Room at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. Free. • More workshops on topics such as art of revision, developing voice, creating believable fictional worlds, and graphic novels. One workshop is for children 8 and older. At $20 for students and $30 for others, the workshops are led by festival authors and local writers. Various times, April 13, Red Lion Hotel at the Park. Go to www.ewu.edu/getlit for descriptions and to register.
• A 4-mile run led by Christopher McDougall, who wrote “Born to Run,” the New York Times bestseller about a tribe of Indians in Mexico who run ultra distances without hurting themselves and without fancy shoes. After the run, McDougall will give a talk. Run will start at 6 p.m. at track entrance on the east side of Spokane Community College’s campus; SCC is at 1810 N. Greene St. McDougall’s talk starts at 7:30 p.m. at SCC’s Lair Auditorium. Both events free.
• A reading by children’s author and Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead, whose latest novel, “Liar & Spy,” is a New York Times bestseller. 11:30 a.m., April 14, Bing Crosby Theater. Tickets: $15 through TicketsWest.