Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte (left to right) introduce the Litquake’s event, ‘Porchlight Storytelling: Out of the Fog’ on Oct. 15, 2021. For 19 years, Litquake has strived for the same goal of providing a literary community in a unique and entertaining way, according to its website. (Morgan Ellis / Golden Gate Xpress) (Morgan Ellis)
Literature festival, Litquake, makes a return
The two week long literature festival returns with half of it’s 80 plus events still online
After being bound to the confines of computer screens for the past year, the annual literature festival, Litquake, made it’s return to the Golden City’s streets on October 7.
Litquake’s first festival began as a day-long event at Golden Gate Park in 1999 that snowballed into the now two-week-long series of talks, readings and panels in the month of October. Due to the pandemic, the festival was held online last year, stripping it of the interconnectedness that made Litquake so popular with fans and authors alike.
Although half of its events remained online, the sentiment for its return was felt wholly by attendees.
“I’m incredibly happy we are getting back to in-person events…no matter how hard we tried to overcome the isolation and mundanity of the day-to-day of the pandemic with online readings,” Litquake’s operations manager and SF State alum Hunter Thomas, said. “Now, there’s a palpable sense of joy and relief each time we hold a live event.”
Thomas, who was hired just before the pandemic, worked entirely online for most of his first year.
“You get to see people smile, see old friends and literary heroes, witness the crowd support the authors in the rare occasion that they stumble or get self conscious. I get to see all the work we’ve done pay off in real time,” Thomas said.
The transition did not come without difficulty, for the Liquake team, according to co-founder Jack Boulware.
On many occasions Boulware said computer screens froze during events and these had to be delayed and very few members of the Litquake team were familiar with conferencing platforms.
After much trial and error they were able to iron out the technical kinks for this year’s event.
This year, as COVID-19 restrictions lessened, authors were back on stage and eager to share their work beyond the pages of their books.
“It’s great to see so many writers considering that we can potentially live such an isolating life,” author and SF State alum Miah Jeffra said.
Boulware, who was a journalist at SF Weekly at the time of Litquake’s birth, took it upon himself, along with founder Jane Ganahl, another journalist then at the SF Examiner, to fulfill the need they saw for an expansive literary event.
“There was a very loose knit group of people that would do readings once a month at this Scottish bar in the Tenderloin and we would all congregate around this bar … at some point that’s where the festivals sort of came out of,” Boulware said.
After seeing lingering hesitation amongst their audience and the demand for online events by some of the authors, according to Boulware, half of its 80 plus events remained online.
Boulware added that more than three-quarters of the 300 authors in the lineup are bay area locals in this year’s festival. A local himself, Jeffra stated that because the Bay Area is such a literary center, that he saw no need to look anywhere else for talented writers.
Jeffra also co-founded Foglifter Press, a queer and trans literary collaborative, along with another SF State alum, Chad Cooke.
Some of the venues have imposed capacity limitations leading, according to Boulware, to take at least three of the festival’s day-long events outdoors with live music in-between readings. In doing so, the festival will commemorate the very way it began 22 years ago with an outdoor stage.
While Litquake has had smaller outdoor events before, they haven’t taken on any of the size and magnitude like the ones this year, Boulware said. He said he was most excited to give individuals a day to enjoy free poetry out in comfort of a park’s open space with some music to accompany the indulgence.
Longtime Litquake follower Matt Morris was happy to find out that events were back in-person when he searched up the festival online.
“I feel like there’s a real thread of authorship and some sort of writer’s culture here in San Francisco that’s a little bit in the shadows,” Morris said. “Litquake is a kind of time when writers come out to be celebrated and to celebrate each other.”
He joined more than 80 audience members last Friday for the “Porchlight Storytelling: Out of the Fog?” event held at the Verdi Club on Mariposa St.
Yet, the event was much more than just something to do on a Friday night for Morris and his partner, Rebecca Rossi. It was the opportunity to see and feel what had kept them coming back for more.
“I love the vulnerability and relatability,” Rossi said. “People tell a story and no matter what it’s about you can always relate so that keeps it real.”
Amid the dim light of the ballroom’s chandeliers, the audience listened intently as Jeffra took the stage at Verdi Club that night and spoke about his treacherous journey to enlightenment.
“Live events will always make me happier because writers are in the business of empathy and human connection and for that we need our bodies as present as our minds,” Jefrra said.
Although he’d been nervous ahead of the event, he was ready for a night of storytelling because for him the ability to tell a story well, such as that of your own life, was at the core of what it meant to be a writer.
As the night came to a close, the ballroom filled with loud cheers and clapping hands to accompany listeners’ smiling faces.