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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

RiverLit magazine creates outlet for area writers, artists

Keely Honeywell is pitching Anthology, a fundraising event for the Spokane literary magazine RiverLit at a new all-ages venue downtown, as a literary variety show.

“We’ve got fiction readers. One or two people are doing an essay. We’ve got poetry,” said Honeywell, the magazine’s editor. “And then we’ve got music from the Rustics, and then bad poetry, comedy …”

Wait. Bad poetry? On purpose?

It’ll be improvised at the event, Honeywell said. Poets on the program will be assigned a topic and get 10 minutes to write words wrongly before reading the results aloud.

“It should be quite interesting,” Honeywell said.

And, she hopes, a draw for people up for an evening of entertainment along literary lines in support of RiverLit. The Spokane-based magazine aims to provide an outlet for local writers and artists and, for readers, an assorted collection of visual art and writing – “pretty much anything well-crafted, well-written, that’s worth seeing and reading,” Honeywell said.

Honeywell, 31, founded the magazine in 2010, publishing the print magazine four times a year along with digital editions and extra content on RiverLit’s website.

The magazine is sold online and at Boo Radley’s downtown. Ad-free, it relies on sales and fundraisers to cover costs.

So far, those costs haven’t included payments to writers and artists. That’s where Anthology comes in. Money raised Saturday will go toward paying the magazine’s contributors, Honeywell said.

A dozen writers will read from their work, including Spokane’s first poet laureate, Thom Caraway; Sharma Shields, who wrote the short story collection “Favorite Monster”; and Shawn Vestal, author of the short story collection “Godforsaken Idaho” and a Spokesman-Review columnist. Luke Baumgarten, co-founder of the nonprofit arts organization Terrain, will serve as master of ceremonies. “Comedy guys” Nick Gast and Justin McNiff will do improv and standup, Honeywell said.

While the show is open to people of all ages, “it’s all ages at your own discretion,” she said. Performers won’t be censored.

A dozen issues in, RiverLit accepts submissions from all over the world, but Honeywell said she’s especially interested in publishing work by Spokane-area residents. They represent about half the contributors now.

Honeywell hopes to attract more local writers and artists through events such as Anthology and through the magazine’s residency program, starting in 2014. A RiverLit writer-in-residence, a poet-in-residence and an artist-in-residence – all Spokane people deemed to be “really awesome in the arts and literary community” – will contribute at least one piece per issue for a year.

Honeywell has built a community around the magazine, said Brooke Matson, 31, a teacher at M.E.A.D. Alternative High School and the magazine’s first resident poet.

“What happens in Spokane typically is an art project or an art magazine or something will start, and then it will quickly go under for lack of interest,” said Matson, who’ll also read at Anthology. “What she has done is really kept with it, even when … there was really not a lot of interest in the beginning. As she’s continued to persevere with it, more people have noticed it.”

Shields said she picked up RiverLit for the first time recently and thought it was “beautiful.”

Thanks partly to Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities, Shields said, she thinks the region is home to plenty of good writers for a magazine with a local focus.

“The literary world of Spokane is kind of small, but it’s very accessible because it’s small, and it’s very passionate from what I’ve seen,” Shields said. “I think RiverLit’s doing a great job focusing on that.”

For readers, the magazine contains “new content that they’re not going to see anywhere else,” Honeywell said. “I think we’re starting to develop a style, I suppose, that’s a little eclectic.”

In the past year, she said, she’s been proud to publish pieces including a short story by Spokane writer Kevin Taylor about a jogger who punches a coyote (“kind of funny, a little different”); a collection of brands and logos created by local artists for Spokane neighborhoods; and a comic by Brooklyn, N.Y., artist Justin Winslow. The next few issues will feature the first chapter of a book to be released soon by Hayden comic book creator Joshua Covey.

“I just keep plugging ahead, getting the best stuff we can find,” Honeywell said.