Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pilcrow Lit Fest: Finale

To cap off the week-long Pilcrow Lit Fest, Amy and Leah organized an entire day, 9am to whenever the last person went home after midnight, of literary revelry. It's going to be hard to sum up all of the cool stuff that I got to see and do, so I'll save my impressions of specific cool people and things I saw for the next post and focus on the finale itself.

We kicked things off at 10:00 at Trader Todd's with the panel titled: "Social and Political writing". I was on this panel along with political blogger and Gaper's Block contributor Ramsin Canon, conservative humor writer Conor McCarthy, and dystopian fiction author Savannah Guz. The panel was moderated by author and political writer Tim Hall.

I remained at Trader Todd's for the panel on graphic novels, which turned out unexpectedly to be one of the better panels of the whole day, and included some very hip writer/artists of a genre I had never had a chance to interact with before. After that I went to the book design panel at Matilda's, moderated by the co-publisher and creative director of Featherproof Books, Zach Dodson. I made it back to Trader Todd's in time to eat lunch with local newcomers author Gwendolyn Glover and graphic artist David De Rosa. Gwen was part of the rowdy, lively Young Adult panel, where some hilarious conversation about the eye-rolling popularity of the Twilight Series and "vampire fucking books" was had. I also remained for the Queer As Words panel, moderated by Stacy Jill Jacobs.

Finally, to wrap up the discussions I participated in the panel about writing sexuality called "Stain the sheets", moderated by Deb R. Lewis and including Lenny Kleinfeld, Gina Frangello, Drew Ferguson, Joanna Beth Tweedy, Bobby Biedrzycki, and Lindsay Hunter. This was a very fun panel that drew from a large variety of writing types and backgrounds and covered a lot of the territory that I thought the audience came to see.

As if this weren't enough, the night finished off with a four-hour closing bash at the Viaduct Theater for the second installment of Literary Deathmatch Chicago and the Rebuilt Books auction to benefit Young Chicago Authors. The Viaduct was just exactly the sort of place you'd only find in the imaginations of trendy young authors and artists, and it was a terrific venue for the finale. Literary Deathmatch (again, if you've never seen it) is a sort of bracketed competition between four readers from different reading series. The readers are chosen at random and face off against one another. The winners are chosen by a panel of guest judges (all of whom were hysterically funny), but really the judging itself was rather moot. All four performances were top-of-their-game people doing pieces that were very, very entertaining, intense, and evocative. So secondary was the competition to the fun of it all that the winner of the night was chosen by a competition to see who could be the first to complete a simple long-division problem.

If it ever becomes available on YouTube, I would highly recommend looking up Jill Summers reading her piece about a student of hers handing in a term paper titled "How to be a Pimp."

Some of the best and funniest material of the night, however, came from the judges themselves who often went on riotous, random digressions, and the hosts, Amy, Leah and Todd Zuniga, who after a few drinks roared through the Rebuilt Books auction promising things like free copies of Opium magazine, $1.71 of his own cash, and phone messages from Amy Guth where she would call and cry on your answering machine if people would buy the rebuilt books for charity. At one point, they even climbed atop the bar in the lobby and hawked the auctioned items at the tops of their lungs. My rebuilt book went for $45, and I was so happy I gave the winning bidder a signed copy of the book so she could actually read one that wasn't shot and bleeding.

At the end of the day, a fifteen-hour non-stop literary tour-de-force, I finally came home and sorted through the stack of awesome cards, marketing materials, names, and notes I had collected.

Next Up: The Aftermath


Tim Hall said...

Great account of a great fest, Mark. Thanks for that. Your rebuilt book looks amazing, what a cool idea.

Amy Guth said...

So glad you were there with us, Mark. Many great photos of you on your Pilcrow Lit Fest group flickr pool, too.