by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & mong the fine arts, there are team sports (ballet, musical comedy, the massed choirs of Carmina Burana) and then there are individual sports (like writing a poem or a novel). The attraction of literary festivals like Get Lit! (now in its ninth year and blossoming) is that they transform literature and word-smithing into something even beyond spectator sports: participatory adventures.
When writing changes from being the province of some guy up onstage in a coat and tie to being something you yourself can create and share with others -- well, that's when lives get changed.
Kids delighting over the reactions that words they wrote themselves have on the faces of listeners; students experiencing firsthand that there are real people behind a book cover's impressive byline; neophyte poets observing how an accomplished poet revises his own poems; award-winning writers joking around as they interview one another onstage; poets and painters turning books into visual and verbal artifacts; readers posing questions to authors whose works they've read for years -- in effect, literary gatherings like Get Lit! make one of the fine arts' individual sports into an interactive experience.
When Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress) comes to town and tells people about the writer's lifestyle and about how they too can write a novel by next spring, he's not merely passing on his craft to other writers. Carrying on the tradition like that transforms writing from solitary to social, causing the realization that writing can be anybody's game. And when writing becomes a participatory sport like that, a lot of people will be able to say that now, at long last, they're really starting to get lit. -- MICHAEL BOWEN
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "W & lt;/span & e'd never officially met," says Jess Walter. "I mean, we've worked on tons of stories together -- we exchanged flurries of e-mails, you know how it is -- but it wasn't until we were standing next to each other in New York, waiting to hear if we had won a National Book Award, that we actually met."
So how will it work exactly, Jess, this two-writers-interviewing-each-other event at the Bing next Thursday night?
"Well, I was just reading about the great literary spat between Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez that ended in a fistfight. So I'm hoping for something like that."
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Bing Crosby Theater for tonight's main event. In the far corner, wearing the white trunks splattered with spaghetti sauce -- author of Ruby Ridge (about Randy Weaver), Citizen Vince (a set-in-Spokane tale that won the Edgar Award for Best Crime/Mystery Novel of 2005), and the 9/11 novel The Zero; formerly a reporter at Spokane's daily newspaper - Mr. Jess... WALTER!!
And in the other corner, wearing the red trunks monogrammed with "Terrible Timmy" -- author of Breaking Blue and The Winemaker's Daughter; winner of a National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time, about survivors of the 1930s Dust Bowl; Northwest correspondent for some daily newspaper or other in New York City; the pride of Seattle and an alumnus of Gonzaga Preparatory School -- Mr. Timothy... EGAN!!
Tim Egan: "Bring it on. When he rolls out of the trailer park at midday, maybe we can get this fight started."
Jess Walter: "You know, he's 30 or 40 years older than me."
TE: "Yeah, but I look 10 years younger. And I can kick your ass in any footrace, from the mile to Bloomsday."
JW: "I'm better at hoops."
TE: "Yeah, well, somewhere in your past, you have a secret like Josh Heytvelt's."
Egan lands some quick jabs... Walter counters with a roundhouse right. Judges have scored the first four rounds evenly...
JW: "We worked on a lot of stories together, like on the Church Universal and Triumphant in Wyoming, a kind of New Age-y cult. I remember Tim parachuting in on stories the way those guys from The New York Times do -- staying in nicer hotels, I'm sure."
TE: "Of course we stayed in nicer hotels. Compared to camping under a blue tarp from the General Store -- which was Jess's preferred habitat after spending so much time with Randy Weaver -- anything is nicer. By the way, Jess, they have both hot and cold running water in Montana. And flush toilets."
JW: "OK, fine. Is there anything you don't want me to touch on ... so I can make up a few questions along those lines?"
TE: "My four earlier marriages to women who dated your hero -- the disgraced, soon-to-be-indicted former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik -- are off-limits."
JW: "Have you even read any of my books, Mr. National Book Award winner?"
TE: "I'm doing a cram course now. And I'll admit -- The Zero just flat-out blew me away. You can write -- I'll grant you that, even if you are slower and more dimwitted than I am. But really, it's so sad how you continue to dodge your connection to disgraced, soon-to-be-indicted former New York City police chief Bernie Kerik."
Ding! There's the bell signaling the end of Stanza 9. For the 10th and final round in this literary heavyweight championship bout, join us at the Bing on Thursday, April 19, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $16; $20, ringside. Fans sitting in the first three rows are advised to wear washable clothing.
GET LIT! SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, APRIL 12
Noon, downtown street corners,
EWU creative writing students read from festival authors' works
5:30 pm, Kress Gallery, River Park Square, Youth Poetry Slam (age 12 and younger); $2 plus can of food for entrants
SATURDAY, APRIL 14
1 pm, the Bing, Kids' Concert: "Creating Ella the Elephant" (see Inlander Pick, page 47)
MONDAY, APRIL 16
7:30 pm, Empyrean, Readings by MFA candidates from EWU
TUESDAY, APRIL 17
7:30 pm, Spokane Club, Readings by seven faculty members from the EWU creative writing program in honor of distinguished alumnus Tod Marshall
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18
6:30 pm, Empyrean, Teen Poetry Slam; $2 plus can of food for entrants
7:30 pm, SCC Lair, Bldg. 6, Donald Worster, "On John Muir's Trail"
THURSDAY, APRIL 19
7:30 pm, the Bing, Tim Egan and Jess Walter, "Off the Record: A Conversation" (opening: Ann Joslin Williams); $16-$20
FRIDAY, APRIL 20
Throughout the day, writers appear at area schools and colleges
2:30 pm, Spokane Club, Readings by seven EWU Press authors
7:30 pm, Showalter Hall, EWU, Cheney
Walter Mosley, "A Writer's Life, Easy Rawlins Style" (opening: M.L. Smoker); $16-$20
SATURDAY, APRIL 21
9-11:30 am, Spokane Club, Writing workshops on fiction, young adult fiction and nonfiction; $50; call 623-4284
9:30 am, Spokane Club, Walter Mosley, "This Year, You Write Your Novel"; $10 tickets available at Auntie's Bookstore
Noon, Spokane Club, Panels on "The Editor's Craft" and on Elizabeth Bishop
1 pm, Spokane Club, Lost Horse Press readings by six regional poets
1:30-4 pm, Spokane Club, Workshops on revising poems (Alberto Rios) and designing books (Ed Marquand)
1:30 pm, Spokane Club, Celebrating the Voices of Youth: readings by writers in grades 2-12
2-3:30 pm, Lorinda Knight Gallery
Distant Rain book signing with Tess Gallagher and Keiko Hara
2:30 pm, Spokane Club, Celebrating Festival Authors: readings by five writers and poets
3-5 pm, Spokane Club, Workshop for teen writers
4:15 pm, Spokane Club, Reading by fiction writer Charles D'Ambrosio
7:30 pm, the Bing, An Evening of Poetry, Tess Gallagher and Alberto Rios (opening: Jim Daniels); $12-$15
10 pm, CenterStage, Novelist Jonathan Lethem
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
2 pm, the Bing, Sherman Alexie; free tickets available at Auntie's
7 pm, Area 58, Open mic (with music at 6 pm)
Visit www.ewu/edu/get lit or
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or
call 623-4262. Pick up next week's Inlander for more Get