San Francisco, California
October 19, 2012
236 days until Arctic Circle journey
On October 8, 2012 I was given the honor of performing “wrecked,” a piece from digital gothic, my book in progress, at the Quiet Lightning Litquake show inside the conservatory of flowers alongside an amazing group of readers. Please check out the video, and if you’d like to read along, here is the text.
If you don’t know about Quiet Lightning, now is my chance to tell you about a literary rennaissance that is taking place in San Francisco. Quiet Lightning is a monthly reading series with an uncommon format: submission is free, entries are always judged blind (meaning new writers and estabished writers all have equal opportunity to be accepted, because the judging is based on the merit of the work and not the name on it), and here’s the amazing part: all of the accepted work for each month’s show is published in a book, Sparkle & Blink, featuring cover art by a local artist. These books are available at the corresponding show, so the writers get published, and the audience can read along and take home a copy of the amazingness they have just experienced.
If that weren’t enough, the format of the reading is also unique: each reader gets 5 minutes. No banter and no introductions are allowed. It is a literary “mix tape” where the focus is not on the writers, but on the writing itself. Judging by the growing popularity and dedicated base of returning fans of this reading series, this format works.
Quiet Lightning is driven by volunteers, and brings new voices and new visions to the ears of new audiences. For new writers, getting your work seen and heard is nearly impossible (and expensive!). The norm in literary publishing today is contest and fee-based. Very few magazines can afford the staff to fairly evaluate submissions, so unless they are tied to a university, or are helmed by a trust-fund heir, many have resorted to only accepting submissions when they offer a contest, which usually costs $15 to $25 to enter. Most literary journals are also extremely specialized, so matching your work to their described aesthetic can feel like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling.
Getting your work heard can be equally intimidating and demoralizing: many reading series are based on a “featured” reader format with an open mic afterward. People come to see the headliner, and then either leave, or stay to chat while the open mic readers try to make themselves heard. It’s hard enough to get up there in front of everyone, but when it feels like no one gives a shit… well that’s just shitty.
Quiet Lightning’s answer to this has been a genius idea straight from the heart: offer a fair judging process, publish the writers, and give them a chance to be heard in person. And do this every month. The generosity of everyone involved is mind-blowing. And so is the work you are going to hear when you check it out for yourself.
And if you can’t come in person? Every show is recorded and shared FREE online. So if you live in Svalbard, or Oakland, or Detroit, or Amsterdam, or wherever you hail from, come hang out in San Francisco and hear what we’re writing about.