Get Lit! Festival - 2011

Over the course of five brimming days, Spokane was a hub for 40 well-respected authors at more than 50 events. Over 3,000 people participated in the Get Lit! Festival’s author readings, community events, workshops, panel discussions, poetry slams, and more. (Plus, over 4,500 participated in the 2011 Big Read events throughout March and April.) As always, it was a wonderful time for authors to meet each other and their readers, as well as for the community to interact with authors, discover new favorites, get ideas for their own writing, and express their love for reading. And once again, responses were enthusiastic all around. One attendee said, “This is such a wonderful gift for the community—we look forward to this every year.” Another exclaimed, “I’m so delighted that Spokane has a festival of this magnitude. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

The 2011 festival was centered on the theme of “Telling the American Story.” Writers shared a myriad of captivating perspectives as they celebrated the diverse voices that make up the American story.

At the event with Tim O’Brien and Brian Turner, two of our headliners, the audience of 450—including more than 250 high school and college students—was engaged with the authors’ rapport and poignant honesty as they discussed their experiences with war. One audience member said the best part of the event was “Tim O’Brien’s authenticity, descriptions of his own journey, and especially his emphasis on being a whole man with emotions and doubts.” The audience was so involved in the discussion that people wanted to stay and keep the conversation going beyond the time allotted for questions.

Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon, was another festival favorite. Audiences were excited by the unique focus on science and enchanted by his humor and stage presence. Poet Matthew Dickman was “insightful, genuine, hilarious and provided fascinating insight into the world of poetry” as he shared his “All-American” poetry and personal experiences in a charming, forthcoming manner. Heather Gold’s performance piece, “Cookie,” was very popular, and some remarked that it was the best performance they had seen in Spokane (and it was free!). Unsurprisingly, the audience loved Ani DiFranco’s concert, and reacted with particular enthusiasm when she read a couple poems. Maude Barlow gave audiences “practical ideas for us to help—hope amidst the bad news” when she spoke about the grim state of water in our world and encouraged people to fight for water rights. Sena Jeter Naslund and Nancy Rawles voiced often unacknowledged feminine viewpoints of history in their reimagining of two classic American novels with Ahab’s Wife and My Jim.

Part of what makes the American story is honesty, and two festival writers in particular spoke with daring sincerity about stories pushed aside or forgotten. Jack Hamann presented an overlooked part of history that he has fought to bring to light—the unjust murder allegations brought against 43 African American soldiers—and Julie Otsuka spoke about her novel, based on her family’s experience of being imprisoned and alienated for being Japanese immigrants during the 1940’s.

Young people had the opportunity to express their love for literature through readings, workshops, and other events. Authors Louise Borden and Kelly Milner Halls enthralled children with true stories about ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things. Youth author Suzanne Morgan Williams told adventurous tales of bull-riding. Young adult author Michael Harmon brought his lively, nonconformist characters to life at his reading.

As usual, the poetry slams were a great hit. The winner of the college slam, Kurt Olson, performed his piece at the Ani DiFranco concert, as did Harley Bates, who won the teen slam. Bates had never won or performed anything before, but in front of over 650 people at the concert, she excelled. Ben Read, who took first place in the youth slam, greatly impressed author Louise Borden, at whose reading Read presented his winning piece. She later asked for a copy of his poems so she could share them with students on her school visits across the nation.

The 25 festival workshops and panels brought a diversity of topics and perspectives from numerous writers and editors. Participants found they left with fresh ideas for their writing, techniques to bring back to their classrooms, or simply new information and thoughts to ponder.
As one participant noted, I appreciated being able to get “ideas from teachers and fellow attendees in a comfortable (non-threatening) setting.”

Eastern Washington University’s College of Arts, Letters, and Education would like to thank all of the authors who participated in this year’s festival as well as those of you who attended. We would also like to acknowledge the sponsors and individual donors who made all of it possible. Their continued support is crucial to the success of this annual festival. Thank you again.

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Aunties Bookstore
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Barrister Winery
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Bing Crosby Theater
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Gonzaga University
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Hagan Foundation Center
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