Litquake's Magnitude

Don't miss our picks for this year's best Litquake events

Clockwise from top left: Armistead Maupin, Amy Tan, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, Rachel Kushner and Jessica Powell.
Clockwise from top left: Armistead Maupin, Amy Tan, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, Rachel Kushner and Jessica Powell.

It’s perhaps only natural that a literature festival with a name inspired by earthquakes would grow in magnitude. Now in its 19th year, San Francisco’s Litquake is bigger than ever before and growing in its founders never envisioned — with new events like a “Tom of Finland” lookalike contest at a gay biker bar and a spoken word pub crawl taking place at over 100 venues in one San Francisco neighborhood..

“We never really intended for it to get bigger,” says Jane Ganahl, Litquake’s co-founder. “We put out a lot of feelers — or people put them out to us — and we see what we end up with,” Ganahl says.

Ganahl and Jack Boulware co-founded the festival in 1999 as a one-day event with 22 authors. Today’s Litquake is a 10-day literary extravaganza that will take place at more than 160 venues and feature hundreds of big-name authors. This year, Litquake will highlight non-fiction and political literature, offer expanded film discussions and screenings and produce the biggest Lit Crawl spoken-word night in Litquake history.

“We felt like given the current political and sociological climate we should have some serious topics, so we created a track called #FactsMatter,” Ganahl says, noting that this year’s Litquake poster was inspired by the vintage vibe of North Korean propaganda posters.

The #FactsMatter series of events will offer author talks on gun control, virtual reality and emerging tech trends, and discussions with journalists like Michael Scott Moore, “The Desert and the Sea” author who was kidnapped by Somali pirates and held in captivity for two years.

Litquake’s also has expanded its relationship with the Mission District’s Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater and bar that will play host to select Litquake headliner events. For example, Paul Myers (“Saturday Night Live” star Mike Myers’ brother) will discuss his new book, an oral history of the comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, followed by a screening of the group’s movie “Brain Candy,” with a guest appearance by Kids in the Hall performer Dave Foley. And Arwen Curry will screen her documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin (in its San Francisco premiere) and discuss the film with author Michael Chabon.

This year’s Lit Crawl, a spoken-word pub crawl that takes place throughout much of the Mission District, is the festival’s largest ever, encompassing 107 different venues. Lit Crawl will run on closing night and follow the festival’s first ever pop-up market, which will feature about 20 vendors selling or promoting everything from small-batch notebooks to writing groups.

“We were pleasantly surprised that all of the tables we offered sold out pretty quickly,” Ganahl says. “We’ll see if people show up. It’s a free event.”

According to Ganahl, there’s no magic formula for reimagining Litquake every October. “We want to see how many ways we can turn a book into an event in ways that nobody could ever imagine,” she says.

Check out our top picks for Litquake 2018 events (all are in San Francisco):

  • Saturday, October 13: The Big Disruption: Jessica Powell and Her Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story

    New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac will sit down with former Google executive and author Jessica Powell to discuss her new book, “The Big Disruption: A Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story.” The book, the first ever published by blog platform Medium, has been described by the Times as “a zany satire set inside a tech giant that bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain internet search company.” 

    6 p.m., The Laundry, 3359 26th Street, $10

    • Monday, October 15: Advice: A Night of Stories with Porchlight

      Porchlight, San Francisco’s longtime storytelling series, hosts this night of advice-themed tales from storytellers Steve Almond, Dickson Lam, Sands Hall, Sisonke Msimang, Maggie Rowe and Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest park ranger.

      8 p.m., Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St, 20-$25

        Daniel Handler — Lemony Snicket himself — will emcee a fast-paced, no-holds-barred poetry slam between two teams of award-winning poets, including Tongo Eisen-Martin, Brittany Perham, Brynn Saito, sam sax, Melissa Stein and David Tomas Martinez.

        7 p.m., Make-Out Room, 3225 22ndStreet, $5-$10

          Dave Eggers’ latest book is the story of Yemeni-San Franciscan Mokhtar Alkhanshali and his mission to bring the world’s best cup of coffee from Yemen to San Francisco. (Read our report on Eggers’ and Alkhanshali appearance at Book Passage here.) The pair will discuss Alkhanshali’s coffee quest and their efforts to bring that quest to life in the book.

          7 p.m., Mechanics’ Institute Library, 57 Post Street, $10-$15

          • Thursday, October 18: Rachel Kushner: Voice of Witness

            San Francisco Chronicle reporter Caille Millner will sit down with author Rachel Kushner to talk about Kushner’s latest novel, “The Mars Room,” the story of a woman’s experience as she serves two consecutive life sentences in prison. (Read Alta’s review.) This special event will includeappearances from the Voice of Witness collection “Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary” editor Mateo Hoke and contributor Mohammed Ali.

            7:30 p.m., Make-Out Room, 3225 22ndStreet, $5-$10

            • Friday, October 19: SF Legends: Amy Tan and Armistead Maupin

              Two icons of San Francisco literature, Amy Tan and Armistead Maupin, will spill the beans on their work, the city they love and whatever else they feel like talking about in this intimate discussion.

              7 p.m, Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St, $15-$20

              • Saturday, October 20: Lit Crawl

                You don’t want to miss 2018 San Francisco’s Lit Crawl, a one-night literary pub crawl throughout the city’s Mission District. This year, Lit Crawl SF brings together over authors 500 and approximately 10,000 fans for the world’s largest free pop-up literary event — held in bars, laundromats, police stations, tattoo parlors and other unexpected venues throughout the neighborhood.

                5 p.m., Mission District venues (map here), free

                The Journal of Alta California is a Litquake 2018 sponsor. See the entire Litquake 2018 schedule here.

                Beth Spotswood is Alta's digital editor, events manager, and a contributing writer.
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