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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Get Lit! Festival back for another year to ‘celebrate the written word’

The Get Lit! Festival kicks off Thursday.  (Courtesy)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The 26th edition of Eastern Washington University’s Get Lit! Festival kicks off this week, offering several days of writing workshops, meet the author events and panel discussions. The headliner this year is Carmen Maria Machado, best known for her short story collection titled “Her Body and Other Parties” and her memoir, “In the Dream House.”

Kate Peterson, director of the Get Lit! program, said the festival’s goal is to amplify diversity and encourage creativity while gathering together enthusiasts of reading and writing. A big part of what they do is try to inspire people to write, she said.

“We celebrate the written word,” she said.

Peterson said she has wanted to feature Machado for years, ever since she published her short story collection in 2017.

“She is a very important voice in fiction and nonfiction right now,” she said.

The events featuring dozens of authors will be held in several venues in downtown Spokane. Venues include Spokane Central Library, the Magic Lantern and the Montvale Event Center. Among the authors scheduled to attend is Spokane native Jess Walter, who has written several bestselling novels, including “The Cold Millions” and “Beautiful Ruins.” Spokane author Sharma Shields, known for her short stories and “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac,” will also be in attendance.

“This year is even more regional than usual, which we like,” Peterson said of the participating authors. “We have lots of events for people to take part in.”

A popular part of the festival is the Pie & Whiskey night at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Washington Cracker Building. The night will be hosted by authors Samuel Ligon and Kate Lebo, who published the cookbook “Pie School.” A dozen authors will read a variety of fiction and poetry inspired by a love of pie and whiskey. Admission is $5 at the door and seating is limited to those 21 and older. Doors open at 7:29 p.m.

The headline event, a reading by Carmen Maria Machado and discussion with Shields, is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Bing Crosby Theater. Tickets are $25.

The festival includes three craft classes focused on non-fiction, poetry and fiction, but they have sold out. EWU’s Writers in the Community will host a free writing workshop at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Spark Central, 1214 W. Summit Parkway. Spokane Poet Laureate Mery Smith will host a community open mic event at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Spokane Central Library, 916 W. Main Ave.

New this year is a partnership with Saranac Art Projects. Participating artists were asked to choose a writer from previous festival attendees to inspire a piece of art, which will be presented during a reception at 7 p.m. Friday at Saranac, 25 W. Main Ave. Admission is free and refreshments will be provided. A discussion with the artists will follow at 8 p.m.

The festival’s Book Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Montvale Event Center. It will feature more than two dozen local and regional booksellers, small presses and other “bookish” organizations. Doma Coffee Roasting Company will serve free coffee from 9 a.m. to noon and Skewers will sell lunch.

A Book Fair pass is $25 and must be purchased in advance. In addition to the Book Fair, the pass also gives people access to all 10 events taking place at the Montvale Event Center on Saturday. The events include a panel discussion with Machado, readings, workshops, a live D&D game, a silent reading party and open mic sessions.

Sunday’s events are all virtual and will be posted on the Get Lit! YouTube Channel. All the sessions are pre-recorded, except for one live session at 12:30 p.m.

Offering online sessions is one way to still offer a diverse group of authors while keeping the cost down, Peterson said. Get Lit! depends on grants, donations and sponsors to keep the popular festival running. “We’re having to downsize every year just because of lack of support,” she said. “Overall, it’s just been tough, especially since the pandemic. We need a presenting sponsor pretty badly.”

Tickets to all events, with the exception of the Pie & Whiskey event, can be purchased online at The web site also lists a full schedule of the free and ticketed events.