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Saturday, September 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Get Lit!

Annual celebration of literary arts brings readings, workshops, plus added emphasis on collaboration

By now, we’re pretty familiar with Get Lit.

After all, the annual literary festival has for 17 years brought writers of all stripes to town for a week of events – workshops, lectures, readings – all in celebration of the art of writing.

So in preparation for the 2015 edition of Get Lit, let’s hit some of the highlights.

1. “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment – Live”

Jess Walter, the dean of Spokane writers, and National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie collaborate on a podcast called “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.” During each episode, the two chat about writing, share in-progress works, discuss basketball, complain about getting old and talk with other artists. On Wednesday night, the duo will take the stage at the Lair Auditorium to record an episode of the podcast before a live audience. In an email, Walter said the initial plans for the night include reading some new works, a visit from a surprise musical guest and calling up a student writer from the audience “to ask a question about writing, dating or finances – at least two of which we know nothing about.” 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, SCC Lair, 1810 Greene St., FREE.

2. The headliners

Benjamin Percy’s newest book, “The Dead Lands,” is new. Very new. Like, came out on Tuesday new. It reimagines the Lewis and Clark expedition as a post-apocalyptic thriller, set years after a pandemic. Already, the book is getting buzz. A starred review in Publisher’s Weekly called it a “visionary thriller.” Kirkus chimed in, writing, “In a literary world peppered with post-apocalyptic novels, Percy’s stands out.” For his Get Let reading, Percy will be teamed with first-time novelist Sharma Shields, whose “Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac” dives deep into the mythological Northwest.

Walter Kirn, meanwhile, writes fiction and nonfiction. His most recent book, “Blood Will Out,” tells the true story of Christian Gerhartsreiter, who passed himself off as Clark Rockefeller – of THE Rockefeller family – before being convicted of murder. Kirn’s fiction, meanwhile, includes the novel “Up In the Air,” which was turned into the Oscar-winning George Clooney movie. Kirn will share the stage with Shawn Vestal, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review and author of the award-winning story collection “Godforsaken Idaho.”

Percy and Shields, 7-8:45 p.m. Thursday, Kirn and Vestal, 7-8:45 p.m. April 24. Both events will be at the Riverside Place Commandery Room, 1110 W. Riverside Ave. Admission to each is $15, with tickets available through TicketsWest.

3. The collaborations

Spokane writers and artists teamed up to create a collaborative work on the theme of “Landmarks.” The works are currently on display at the Chase Gallery, located in the Spokane City Hall council chambers. On Tuesday, some of those artists will be on hand to read from the works. 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Spokane City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. FREE.

Meanwhile, the Bartlett’s monthly arts-music-literature event The Round is getting a Get Lit makeover. Guests include Cami Bradley, Portland spoken word poet Doc Luben and visual artist Nick Lewis. “It’s a really incredible event in which the musicians collaborate to play music together, the slam poet riffs off what they’re doing, and the visual artist creates a work of art live during the performance, inspired by what the other artists are doing,” said Get Lit director Melissa Huggins. 8-10 p.m. April 25, the Bartlett, 228 W. Sprague Ave. $10 advance, $12 day of show.

Meanwhile, the big new collaboration features Window Dressing, an offshoot of Terrain. Organized by Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing, who recently partnered with Alan Chatham of the Laboratory art space (301 W. Main Ave.), Window Dressing places large installations in unoccupied storefronts. Initially, Window Dressing projects were mounted in the old Music City building on West Sprague (the former Terrain home). Now, Window Dressing is facilitating large scale works inspired by Get Lit writers, specifically Shields and Percy.

It’s a “completely new thing for us, so I’m really excited,” Huggins said.

At the corner of Main Avenue and Wall Street (the future home of Urban Outfitters) artists Kate Vita and Richard Vander Wende have created a wooded setting for Shields’ “Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.” They even went so far, Ewing said, as to take a vial of ash saved from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens – which features in the novel – and have paint color matched to it for use in their installation.

Upstairs in River Park Square, in the former Whiz Kids location, near the Macy’s skywalk, Chelsea Hendrickson created large-scale paintings inspired by “The Dead Lands.” Both exhibits are up and viewable. But on Monday, they’ll add an extra dimension. Shields will step into the Vida-Vander Wende installation to read selections from “Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.” Then the crowd will be invited upstairs to hear Percy stand-in Luke Baumgarten read from “The Dead Lands.” 8-9 p.m. Monday, 808 W. Main Ave. FREE.

4. Pie & Whiskey

Now in its fourth year, Pie & Whiskey stays true to its name. There’s pie. There’s whiskey. Add in readings from co-organizers Sam Ligon and Kate Lebo, plus Jess Walter, Ben Percy, Rachel Toor, Thom Caraway and others, and you’re up for a lot of fun. Fair warning, however: This event is no longer free. But fans of words, booze and calories should have no trouble digging up the $2 cover charge. 9:30 p.m. Thursday (doors open at 9), Woman’s Club of Spokane, 1428 W. Ninth Ave. $2.

5. So much other coolness

The rest of the schedule reads like a Who’s Who of Spokane literature. S.M. Hulse and Bruce Holbert, creators of gripping Western literature, will team up for a reading at 1 p.m. April 25 at the Spokane Convention Center (334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.). Alexie will participate in a question-and-answer session at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at SCC’s Hagen Center for the Humanities (in the library). Railtown Almanac (edited by Caraway and Jeff Dodd) will host a poetry reading with Nance Van Winckel, Emily Gwinn and John Whalen at Whitworth University’s Hendrick House (5 p.m. April 25, 300 W. Hawthorne Road), while Lost Horse Press will present Maya Zeller, Sam Hamill, Carlos Reyes and others at the Davenport Hotel on April 26 (Noon, Peacock Room, 10 S. Post St.). Kris Dinnison will host a workshop on writing for young readers (1:45 p.m. April 25, Convention Center), while comic book artists Simeon Mills, Manny Tremblay and Colton Worley will discuss their works on April 24 (9:30 a.m., SFCC Building 24, Room 110, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Drive).

In short, there’s something for everyone. Which is something Get Lit seems to strive for.

“It’s such a mix,” Huggins said. “Sometimes there’s a writer we’d really love to have, but we need to wait until their new book is out. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing. Sometimes it’s a matter of schedules. So it’s kind of a puzzle.”

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