Americans feel helpless when it comes to the gun epidemic in part because we’ve been bamboozled by advertising. Haag is the author of The Gunning of America, which tells the true story of how America’s gun-crazy culture was created by marketing campaigns bought and created by the gun industry. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.
Lab Girl is a memoir about sexism in the sciences — the STEM fields are still an old boys’ club — and what it’s like to follow a lifelong love of science. To Jahren, math and analytic thinking isn’t the most important part of being a scientist; having a question is what counts most. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.
Writers of pulp, noir, and mystery fiction get together in Seattle’s classiest bar to read new work, drink a lot, and celebrate the city’s burgeoning crime fiction scene. Readers include Robert Dugoni, Tom Kelly, Skye Moody, and Jim Thomsen; your host is prolific pulp writer Will “The Thrill” Viharo.
Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., 622-6400, http://hotelsorrento.com. Free. 21 and over. 7 p.m.
A cliché can destroy a piece of writing. Case in point: if I were to follow that first sentence with a sentence claiming that “Writers should avoid clichés like the plague,” you would, rightfully, stop reading right there. Clichés are more than just over-exhausted expressions made meaningless by repetition; they’re signifiers that a writer hasn’t put enough thought into their argument. They identify a piece of writing that has not endured any editorial scrutiny. It’s fine for a writer to insert a cliché in a first draft but by the time they get around to the third draft, that cliché had better be replaced with an original thought, stated originally. Otherwise, it’s not writing, it’s just putting words on a page.
It’s interesting, then, that Hugo House, a writing center, has for the last year been celebrating cliché in its Hugo Literary Series events. The Literary Series has always employed the writing prompt, that most classic of writing-class conventions, as its primary conceit. Three writers — a mix of local and nationally celebrated authors — and one local musician create new work based on a theme. Writers like Sherman Alexie, Nicole Hardy, and Kevin Sampsell and musician Rachel Flotard responding to vague-but-intriguing phrases like “While You Were Sleeping” create a through-line for the evening, adding a sense of discovery and play that is not unlike what you’ll find in a particularly good writing class.
But the inclusion of cliché into this year’s Literary Series has added another little kick of drama to the formula. Writers understand that clichés are taboo, and so when they’re forced to incorporate them into the work, they approach them nervously and from interesting angles. The last event’s cliché — “what goes around comes around” — inspired interesting work from musician OC Notes and poet Sierra Nelson, along with a funny, alarming essay by Heidi Julavits about her fears that her son might one day grow up to be a rapist.
This week’s Literary Series event is centered around the cliché “all’s fair in love and war.” Novelist Claire Vaye Watkins, Seattle electronic music stalwart Alex Osuch, novelist Andrew Sean Greer, and Seattle poet and slam performer Roberto Ascalon will all try to embrace the cliché without covering themselves in the stench of bad writing.
These writers should do just fine with the task. Ascalon is nimble and thoughtful and fun. Greer’s writing can be off-putting — a little too polished — but he’s never at a loss for cleverness. Osuch is a founding member of Old Growth Northwest and ran their reading series, so he’s bringing a writer’s eye to the challenge. But Watkins is the one to watch. She’s having a bit of a moment right now; her dystopian novel Gold Fame Citrus devastated readers with its weird beauty last year, and for her next trick, she published an essay titled “On Pandering: How to Write Like a Man” that pretty much burned the publishing industry to the ground. This is a writer who is physically unable to think an uninteresting thought. The clichés should fall like dominoes, or a house of cards, or toy soldiers, or, you know, something else that falls down easily.
Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org. $25. All ages. 7:30 p.m.
Brown launched from the autobiographical comics scene of the late 1980s, but he’s gone on to embrace a very particular cause as his life’s work. In his memoir Paying for It, Brown advocated, through personal experience, the legalization of prostitution. His new book, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, studies the history of prostitution in the Bible.
Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Morse’s What is Punk? is a children’s book explaining punk music to kids, from the Sex Pistols to the Talking Heads. Told in rhyme and illustrated in photos of clay sculptures by Anny Yi, it’s probably the world’s first history of punk intended for an elementary school audience. Third Place Books Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave NE, 525-2347 http://thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. Noon.
Vestal is about as Spokane as they come. His short stories, collected in a book called Godforsaken Idaho, are about religion and drugs and desolation. His new book, a first novel titled Daredevils, revels even more in its essential Spokane-ness, throwing in Evel Knievel and a polygamy cult for good measure. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Last year, literary archivists discovered unpublished poems by the greatest love poet of the 20th century, Pablo Neruda. Tonight, Washington publisher Copper Canyon Press celebrates the publication of those poems in a book titled Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda. Author Forrest Gander hosts an evening of bilingual readings, a panel discussion, and more. McCaw Hall, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442,http://lectures.org . $15. All ages. 8 p.m.
The books-and-booze-and-bands reading series, founded on the revolutionary concept that readings can and should be fun, celebrates its third anniversary with a brand-new home at Chop Suey and a killer lineup: poet Michelle Peñaloza, author Anca Szilagyi, poet Anastacia Tolbert, young adult author Sean Boudoin novelist Gint Aras, and musical act The Wild. Chop Suey, 1325 Madison St, 538-0556, litfixseattle.com $5. 21+. 7 p.m. (Full disclosure: the Seattle Review of Books is a media sponsor of this edition of Lit Fix. No money was exchanged or anything like that; we're just big fans and so we gave them ad space in the Seattle Weekly to promote their reading.)
The long-running series pairing compelling poets with $1 wine will gather one last time on Hugo House’s stage. Readers Roberto Ascalon, Sarah Galvin, Tara Hardy, and—her again!—Michelle Peñaloza will see the series off in style. Will CW&P continue? Will it move with Hugo House or find a new venue? Stay tuned. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Emerald City Comicon is this weekend, and if you haven’t already gotten tickets, you’re out of luck—the show is completely sold out. But there are a couple satellite events happening that you can attend, even if you don’t have tickets to the big show. First up, on Thursday night at 7 pm, Arcane Comics in Ballard is hosting their second annual All Star Comics party with local cartoonists alongside national comics pros like Jim Mahfood and Alex De Campi. And on Saturday night at 7 pm, Phoenix Comics on Broadway is hosting a party for the popular podcasters behind Jay & Miles X-plain the X-Men.
Even more interesting is Hometown Heroes, a new one-night comics show dedicated to showing off the best cartooning talent Seattle has to offer. Hometown Heroes was inspired in part by complaints from local cartoonists who feel abandoned outside Emerald City’s gates. The minicomics and alt-comics scene in Seattle has for some time now felt marginalized by ECCC’s increasing mass-media vibe, and this year many Seattle cartoonists were unable to even acquire tables at the show. On Facebook, local cartoonists grumble that ECCC has forgotten the local scene that helped make the convention such a big deal to begin with — though it must be noted that it’s not like the city has been locked out of its own convention entirely; Seattle cartoonists like Colleen Frakes and Peter Bagge are featured ECCC guests.
Still, the guest list for Hometown Heroes certainly does look like a who’s who in the Seattle comics underground: James The Stanton, Ben Horak, Katie Wheeler, Marc Palm, Josh Simmons, Noel Frankln, Bagge, Seth Goodkind, Gina Siciliano, and Max Clotfelter are all on the bill. The guest of honor is Stefano Gaudiano, a local inker perhaps best known for his work on The Walking Dead. Hometown Heroes is organized by 80% Studios, the local cartoonists behind the full-color local comics anthology Nemesis Enforcer, a new issue of which will be available at the event. Sponsors for the show include local comics stores Zanadu, Comics Dungeon, Fantagraphics, and Arcane Comics. It’s about as homegrown as it gets.
Hometown Heroes takes place at 1927 Events, an event space about ten minutes’ walk from the Washington State Convention Center. Attendance is free, and everyone who shows up gets a free comic. It’s another testament to Seattle’s cartooning community that our comics convention has become so successful that it needs a supplementary comics show just to showcase all the awesome stuff being created in Seattle right now. This is shaping up to be the hot-ticket Emerald City Comicon afterparty, a more relaxed space where the people who are more serious about comics and less interested in, say, meeting Nathan Fillion in person can gather to talk about the craft, gossip about the personalities, and check out the latest work from Seattle’s alt-comics scene. This is what community looks like.
1927 Events, 1927 3rd Ave, 979-7467, 80percentstudios.tumblr.com. Free. All ages. 6:30 p.m.
This is a party to celebrate the launch of a book about Greenwood written by students and professional writers (including, full disclosure, me). Come and raise a glass of milk to toast the publication of the book, and the unbreakable spirit of the neighborhood that book celebrates. We'll have more about the book and the party later on today, right here on the Seattle Review of Books.
Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N. 85th St., 297-0875, fearlessideas.org. Free. All ages. 2 p.m.
All of Mary Roach’s books, about death and space travel and sex and eating, begin with a simple question: what happens next? She’s wildly curious and unashamedly willing to ask the most indelicate questions to track down answers. (Most people would call asking astronauts about their sex lives “rude.” Roach calls it “research.”) Because of this, Roach’s readings are absolute delights; the only thing she loves more than learning is sharing her findings with an audience. Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., 425-257-0875, Free. All ages. 7:30 p.m.
How do you invite a reader into your story without over-setting the table, telegraphing the ending, or otherwise losing the audience? Donna Miscolta—author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced and the upcoming story collection Hola and Goodbye—hosts this free writing class focused intently on beginnings. Seattle Public Library, Beacon Hill Branch, 2821 Beacon Ave. S, 684-4711, spl.org. Free. All ages. 2 p.m.
Singapore-based cartoonist Liew debuts his dazzling new book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a meta-biography of an influential elderly Singaporean cartoonist who happens to have never existed. Liew will discuss comics history, Singapore, and more onstage tonight with Seattle Review of Books co-founder Martin McClellan. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
The Seattle Public Library continues their monthlong celebration of Shakespeare’s First Folio with the Bard in a Bar series. Tonight, Hamlet is presented via drunken crowdsourcing. Many of the world’s best ideas — Wikipedia, the Constitution — are a result of drunken crowdsourcing, so this should end well. Solo Bar, 200 Roy St., 213-0800, spl.org. Free. 21+. 8 p.m..
Seattle Arts & Lectures lives up to their mission statement of bringing big-name authors to town with Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award-winning author of exquisite young adult novels like Brown Girl Dreaming, Beneath a Meth Moon, and Hush. Expect a conversation about the reality in her semi-autobiographical book. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $15-60. All ages. 7:30 p.m.
Novelist Naja Marie Aidt is from Greenland and Denmark. Short story author Andrés Neuman is from Buenos Aires. Tonight, Aidt reads from her novel about a broken toaster and Neuman shares some of the stories that reportedly made Roberto Bolaño want to weep, in an international celebration of kickass literature. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Joyce Maynard’s new novel, Under the Influence, is about an alcoholic mother whose irresponsibility caused her to lose custody of her child. She becomes friends with a wealthy couple who promise to help her regain control of her life and get her child back. Can she trust them, or herself? Folio: The Seattle Athenaem, 324 Marion St., 402-4612, folioseattle.org. $5. 7 p.m.
Poetry slams aren’t for everyone, but the Youth Speaks Grand Slam is the most accessible example of the form. The enthusiasm young people bring to poetry is palpable, and these are the best young slam poets in the region. Host Hollis Wong-Wear will be joined by musical guest Mary Lambert to make things extra-special. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $10-20. All ages. 7 p.m.
Every spring, Seattle’s edition of the international Edible Book Festival brings amateur and semi-professional chefs together to make plates of food that center around puns. (Past examples: The Silence of the Lamb Chops, A Game of Scones, and Ham of Green Gables.) Why? Who cares? At the end, you get to eat all the books. Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 11 a.m.
The kids of Seattle Historical Arts present stories of Galileo’s life through musical interludes, storytelling, and reenactment. A trio of classical musicians will perform music by Galileo’s father, composer Vincenzo Galilei, as kids reenact moments in the seminal astronomer’s life while dressed in period costume. This one one ought to be entirely adorable. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $6-12. All ages. 1 p.m.
Tin House editor Rob Spillman is one of the best-respected figures in the literary scene. But thankfully his new book, All Tomorrow’s Parties, isn’t a bookish tell-all—book gossip is not juicy gossip. Instead, it’s a memoir of growing up in West Berlin and returning home as an adult after the Berlin Wall fell. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. $10. All ages. 7 p.m.
Lesley Hazleton, delightfully, does not put up with anyone’s bullshit. If you’ve seen her read, you’ve probably seen her dismantle some lazy idea or another using just her smoky voice and easy laugh. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ve seen her talk proudly about her abortion, and against the tyranny of the zealots who somehow seized the moral high ground by claiming the name “pro-life” for themselves. (Hazleton has been involved with Amelia Bonow’s #ShoutYour Abortion movement from the very beginning.) At a reading for the whitewashed Seattle: City of Literature anthology last year, Hazleton discussed Seattle’s unspoken racist tendencies with a tenacious inquisitiveness that made some of the more delicate panelists and members of the audience turn even whiter out of mortification. She is, to put it simply, the kind of truth-teller we need more of in this town.
She’s just as cheerfully boisterous on the page, too. Hazleton writes books about the one subject that most authors would be afraid to touch — religion. Her trilogy of historical religious biographies — Jezebel, Mary, and, yes, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad —recontextualize some of the most controversial figures in history through a blend of scholarship, first-person reportage, and literary criticism. Another book, After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam,investigates a topic that most Americans would rather ignore, or at least stereotype beyond recognition.
So after years of writing about religion and the Middle East and abortion, what’s left for Hazleton to tackle? Well, she’s staking a spot directly in some of the most contentious territory imaginable, smack in the middle between religion and atheism. Hazleton’s newest book is titled Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a full-throated defense of a stance, as she puts it in the title of the book’s first chapter, “Beyond Either/Or.” She’s celebrating Agnostic’s release with a big launch party at Town Hall this week, and attendance is mandatory, whether or not you’re religious or an atheist
Agnostic is, like all of Hazleton’s work, meticulously researched — she spends so much time at the UW’s Suzzallo Library that they really ought to name a reading chair after her — and unafraid to take a stance, even if that stance is not taking a stance between belief and disbelief. She calls it “an exploration of the agnostic perspective, or the zones of thought that open up once you break free of deceptively neat categorizations, and that then feed back into each other in fresh and unexpected ways.”
Agnosticism has always gotten a bad rap; nobody likes a fence-sitter. But when someone as hugely intelligent, curious, and fearless as Hazleton embraces agnosticism, it should encourage even the most ardent atheists to take notice. In 2015, most people form opinions in whatever amount of time it takes to craft a tweet; Hazleton is demonstrating an inordinate amount of guts by embracing “I don’t know” as a cause. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.
Sawyer’s science fiction novels are about what happens when you introduce one high-concept sci-fi element to an otherwise ordinary world. He then spends the rest of the book examining the ramifications of that collision. His newest, Quantum Night, uses experimental psychology and quantum physics to explore human nature. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Haunted House: A Reading Halloween is a long way off, but you never really need an excuse for a good scary story. Seattle writers Adrian Ryan, Sarah Galvin, Jack Bennett, and Paul Rinn tell their most frightening tales, with (presumably creepy) music by Must I Mind and hosting by the indomitable Jackie Hell. Eastern Cafe, 510 Maynard Ave S., 623-1776, fashionhotdog225.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Hollow Earth Radio’s glorious Magma Festival is adding a few literary events to the mix this year, including this beauty of a night, pairing “experimental, spatial sound ensemble” Fhtagn and electronic trio Netcat with readings by Seattle stalwarts Kreg Hasegawa and Lauren Ireland, along with NYC-based author Sue Landers. Hollow Earth Radio, 2018 E. Union St., 617-1683, hollowearthradio.org. Free. All ages. 8 p.m.
The Seattle-by-way-of-Egypt poet reads from his new book The Consequences of My Body. Read my review here.
Open Books, 2414 N. 45th St., 633-0811, openpoetrybooks.com. Free. All ages. 4:30 p.m.
Norwescon is our largest and longest-running science fiction and fantasy convention. Every year a small army of cosplayers, LARP-friendly sword dealers, novelists, and comics luminaries pack into a SeaTac hotel for a happy (and surprisingly horny) weekend of unabashed fandom. It’s a supportive, friendly environment to geek out about whatever you love. DoubleTree by Hilton, 18740 International Blvd., (425) 243-4692, norwescon.org. $30. All ages. 9 a.m.
You don’t read enough work in translation. Translated poetry is a great way to learn about another culture without taking on crippling airfare costs. Tonight, Vietnamese poet and translator Nguyen Phan Que Mai reads from her first book to be translated to English, The Secret of Hoa Sen. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Greenwell’s debut novel, What Belongs to You, has soaked up accolades from just about every review outlet imaginable. Tonight’s reading gives you a chance to take the hype out for a test drive before investing in the book. Greenwell will be joined onstage by novelist Idra Novey and Shelf Awareness reporter Davie Wheeler. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Readers at this fun, laid-back reading series in the heart of Beacon Hill include Seattle poets Aaron Counts and Matt Gano, as well as Leija Farr, the city’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate. At just 17, Farr’s a scary-good poet; she’s already won no less a vocal fan than Sherman Alexie. The Station Coffee Shop, 2533 16th Ave S, 453-4892, beacon-arts.org. Free. All ages. 7 pm
Susan Orlean is either best known as the author of The Orchid Thief or for being played by Meryl Streep in the movie Adaptation. But she’s not just some celebrity: Orlean is one of the top reporters in the goddamned country, and an opportunity to hear her talk about her craft is a privilege. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. $5-10 adv. 21 All ages. 7 pm
Sometimes you’ve just gotta take a chance on a premise. I haven’t read Seattle author Carol Poole’s memoir, Grits, Green Beans and the Holy Ghost: Memoirs of a Girl Monk, but it’s the true story of how Poole’s family came to join a cult. A premise like that is tough to screw up. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 pm
Nobody can really argue that Dan Clowes is underrated—the man’s name is synonymous with high-quality literary comics—but Clowes is a rare talent in that he keeps getting better as he ages. For those reasons and more, his newest book, a time-traveling comic titled Patience, is one of the most-anticipated books (not “comics”; books) of 2016. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 925 E Pike St, 658-0110, fantagraphics.com/flog/bookstore. Free. All ages. 6 pm.
Seattle poet Hannah Notess’s latest collection, The Multitude, has been a long time coming. Her excellent video-game-obsessed chapbook Ghost House won Floating Bridge Press’s 2013 Chapbook Award, and she’s kept a relatively low profile in the intervening years. We could use more fun, energetic, clear-headed poets; hopefully after this reading Notess won't disappear for another three years. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 3 pm
When celebrated local playwright Paul Mullin announced his retirement from theater, everybody hoped it was more of a Jay-Z kind of retirement, as opposed to the Sean Connery variety. Thankfully, this debut party for his raucous memoir, The Starting Gate, indicates he’s not out of the writing game yet. St. Andrews Bar & Grill, 7406 Aurora Ave N, 523-1193. Free. 21 and over. 7 p.m. PAUL CONSTANT
If it’s March, that means it must be time for APRIL, the annual small-press literary festival that smashes drag queens, fancy clothes, and booze together into an orgasmic explosion of books and art. This year’s APRIL—the name stands for Authors, Publishers, and Readers of Independent Literature—is the fifth annual festival, and it demonstrates a few signs of maturity. For one thing, the early evening happy hour readings that used to be an integral part of the APRIL experience have disappeared this year, leaving a leaner and more focused schedule in its place.
But don’t expect a subdued affair. This is the same festival, after all, that once concluded an event with Ed Skoog reading poetry in a parking garage while the audience circled him like some sort of literary Fight Club. They ended one dark, death-obsessed reading with a joyous surprise Ezell’s fried-chicken feast. Last year, they produced a literary séance hosted by Rebecca Brown that delivered the spirits of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas to the Sorrento Hotel’s Fireside Room in a goofy, romantic celebration of literary love. APRIL is all about putting writing into uncomfortable places and seeing what happens.
On Tuesday, APRIL hosts an opening night party at the Pine Box, and as always, they’ve assembled a killer lineup to kick off the festival: Olympia poet and translator Alejandro de Acosta; Sarah Jaffe, whose coming-of-age novel Dryland was ecstatically blurbed by no less a titan than Argonauts author Maggie Nelson; APRIL writer-in-residence Jenny Zhang; and Short Run co-founder and cartoonist Kelly Froh. So right there, you have a translator who publishes essays in anarchist journals, a subversive young adult author, one of the city’s finest cartoonists, and the New York-based Zhang, whose precise essays, fiction, and poetry marks her as one of the hottest up-and-coming young names in NYC literary circles. What happens when you pack them all in a bar and get some booze in them? Who knows? You have to show up and see; that’s part of the fun.
But there’s sure to be more than just a few impressive names at this party; in five years APRIL has proven itself to be genetically incapable of putting on a boring event. Their opening parties have involved mind-bending drag performances, shiny mylar balloons, music from fun bands like Pony Time, pizza, and the occasional giddy burst of hair metal. “Expect the unexpected” is more than a shitty bumper sticker—it’s the one rule in the APRIL Festival guidebook.
The opening night party kicks off what looks to be a gratifying week of festivities including a fifth anniversary party bringing back some of APRIL’s greatest hits including Skoog, Galvin, Maged Zaher, Robert Lashley, and many more; a visual art show inspired by Zhang’s poetry; a talk by David Schmader about the depiction of writers in movies; and the climactic APRIL Book Expo at Hugo House, which, for one day, becomes the largest non-corporate bookstore in the entire state of Washington. The cherry trees are blooming, the days are getting longer, and APRIL is arriving in March. It’s time to get excited. The Pine Box, 1600 Melrose Ave, 588-0375, aprilfestival.com. Free. 21 and over. 7:30 pm.
Your Week in Readings, our weekly column highlighting one amazing event per day, is moving to Wednesdays. But we don't want to leave you without events for two days, so here's a special supplementary listing for today:
Once you get the practice down, most writers will tell you, writing is easy. It's the revising that's tough. When you understand that fact, it's really kind of surprising that aspiring authors spend so much money on how-to-write classes, when it's the revision classes that ought to be their focus.
Tonight, the Hugo House is hosting a rare revision-focused event titled Marginalia. Seattle author Adrianne Harun and Seattle screenwriter and author Ramon Isao will join novelist Dana Spiotta to discuss the act of revision — what works, what doesn't, and why it's so damned important.
These are three writers at very different places in their careers — Spiotta publishes regularly and teaches writing at Syracuse; Harun is just getting started as a novelist but has also published a short story collection; and Isao has been published in literary journals including Hobart and the Iowa Review. They presumably each have very different revising techniques and philosophies, so between the three of them, you're very likely to find someone whose idea of revision speaks to you.
It's free! Go learn.
Your Week in Readings, our weekly column highlighting one amazing event per day, is moving to Wednesdays. But we don't want to leave you without events for two days, so here's a special supplementary listing for today:
Really, who doesn't stare out at Mount Rainier every once in a while with a sense of foreboding? After all, the eruption of Mount St. Helens is recent enough — in geological terms, it's barely been a matter of seconds — that we all understand what happens when a mountain decides to blow its metaphorical and literal top.
Seattle writer Steve Olson's brand-new book, Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens is a historical account of the biggest volcanic eruption we've seen in decades. Olson discusses the geology of the eruption, of course, but he also looks deeply at the people affected by Mount St. Helens: the 57 people who died, the economic reasons why certain people were affected more than others, the choices businesses made before and after the eruption, the history of humanity's relationship with the area.
Tonight, Olson will be in discussion with Steve Scher at Town Hall. Tickets are $5. You should go.
MONDAY Your week starts at Town Hall with science journalist Sonia Shah. Her new book Pandemic examines the possibility of infectious disease destroying human civilization by examining the many times cholera has broken out over the last two centuries. Cholera has killed hundreds of millions of human beings. Which, you know, is depressing. But important!
TUESDAY We’re starting this day off by pointing out that Timothy Egan debuts his new book, Meagher, From Irish Immigrant to Hero, at Town Hall. Egan is one of Seattle’s heavyweights, and this is sure to be a huge reading. But we also like the smaller events, and Hugo House’s second Ask the Oracle reading at the Sorrento Hotel sounds like a very fun time. Three authors read works in response to audience questions, and the whole event is disguised as a fortune-telling experience. Today’s readers are New York poet Roberto Ascalon, Seattle novelist Megan Kruse (author of the excellent Call Me Home), and Seattle poet Imani Sims. Honestly, you could go to either of these events and have a lot of fun.
WEDNESDAY Up in Third Place Books Lake Forest Park Kathryn Aalto reads from her book The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, which examines the story behind A.A. Milne’s childrens’ books through drawings, photographs, and biographical details. If you’re into behind-the-scenes material, you’ll love this one.
THURSDAY Elliott Bay Book Company hosts Sri Lankan author Nayomi Munaweera, whose new novel What Lies Between Us explores “the bonds between women, the lifelong impact of trauma, and feminism's last taboo.”
FRIDAY It’s back to Elliott Bay Book Company with you for professor emeritus at the University of Washington Colleen J. McElroy, who will read from her newest book of poems, Blood Memory. McElroy really ought to get more credit as a towering figure in Seattle poetry; she’s been an involved member of the community for decades, and her poetry might just knock your (metaphorical) socks off.
SATURDAY The third Rainier Valley Lit Crawl happens tonight, rain or shine. Tonight’s Crawl runs from Spinnaker Bay Brewing to Big Chickie to The Collaboratory to Union Bar, and it features writers including Paul E. LaPier, Kathryn Burgomaster, EJ Koh, Philip Randolph, Faiza Sultan, Becca HallJed Myers, and Mary Crane. I bet you’ve never attended a poetry reading in a Peruvian-style chicken restaurant, have you? Tonight’s your big chance. It’s free. What do yo uhave to lose?
SUNDAY As with most of our weeks recently, our week ends tonight at The Monorail Reading Series at Fred Wildlife Refuge. Tonight’s poets are all reportedly pioneers in one way or another, including new-to-Seattle poet Michael Harper, Portland author and Octopus Books assistant editor Hajara Quinn, and Copper Canyon poet Natalie Shapero. Pioneering or not, this seems like a stellar lineup of local and visiting poets. Plus: booze! What’s not to love?
MONDAY Kick your week off right, with the very first “Ask the Oracle” event at the Sorrento Hotel. This is a new fortune-telling themed reading series from the Hugo House, and it’s got a great gimmick: audience members anonymously ask questions about their futures. The authors find answers to those questions in their books. Hugo House supplied a sample Q&A in the promotional materials:
Question: Should I move to a new city soon?
Answer (found by opening Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town to a random page ): “The 1944 Italy I remembered brown and gray and lifeless. Every city, every small town reeked.”
The readers/fortune tellers at this one are novelist Rebecca Makkai, screenwriter and novelist Ramon Isao, and local treasure/short story author Stacey Levine. Levine practically does divination in her readings on a regular basis anyway, so she’s an especially good choice to kick off the new format.
TUESDAY Hugo House hosts an event titled “Passing the Laurel.” It’s a reading that passes the symbolic baton from former Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen to current Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall, with former Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken hosting. That’s a lot of damn laureates.
WEDNESDAY At The Book Larder in Fremont, Jesse and Kit Schumann of fancy Seattle bakery Sea Wolf Bakers teach how to make their rye bread, which is reportedly life-changingly good. According to the Larder, class size “is limited to 10 students and [the $65 entry fee] includes a light snack, bread samples, and bread and sourdough starter to take home.”
THURSDAY Tonight, author Yann Martel reads at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library downtown. I am not a fan of Martel’s Man Booker Prizewinning novel The Life of Pi; I think it’s a book that tries way too hard to prove its cleverness to its readers. But it is beloved by many people, and if you are one of those people, you should consider coming to this reading from The High Mountains of Portugal, which is a novel told in three novellas.
FRIDAY It’s time for the Hugo Literary Series at the Hugo House. As with all the Literary Series events this year, three authors and a musician write new work in response to a cliché. Tonight’s cliché is “What goes around comes around.” Your readers are poet D. A. Powell, excellent novelist/Believer magazine co-founder Heidi Julavits, and fantastic poet Sierra Nelson. Your musician tonight — and this is very exciting — is OCnotes. Here’s a video of Notes at work:
SATURDAY Here’s a neat-sounding event for women only: Read and Bleed at Twilight Gallery in West Seattle. It’s a period-themed reading event for women. The poster promises that this event is for ““Different vagendas, one cliterati.” In the organizers’ own words, here’s what’s going on:
Who: WOMEN ONLY (Women-Identified ok)
Breastfeeding moms are welcome too.
What: A Space Devoted To Self-Care (Read and be Read To)
When: The Day Before Valentine's
Where: Twilight Gallery in West Seattle
Bring your favorite book, pillow, and blankie
Dress-code: Super Casual, as in PJs, sweats, yoga pants, fuzzy socks ... the kind of attire you wear when bleeding.
FREE WINE & CHOCOLATE.
SUNDAY Spend your Valentine’s Day with UW professor of wildlife science John Marzluff, who reads at the Everett Public Library. His book Suburdia is about why suburbia has become home to diverse animal species, and how humans are supposed to share space with wildlife in the years ahead.
MONDAY Let’s start our week off with one of the last Works in Progress open mic nights at the Hugo House in its current location. Works in Progress has been going on for years now, and it will undoubtedly stick with Hugo House in their temporary location on First Hill, but there is a certain kind of magic to the Hugo House cabaret space right now, as awkward as it can be when there’s a full house. There have been a lot of readers on this stage, and this is one of your last chances to get up there and give it a shot. Why not?
TUESDAY It’s time for Salon of Shame at the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center. The Salon, in case you didn’t know, is an ongoing reading series where people read their awkward teenage writing aloud. It’s cringe-y and funny and kind of empowering, in that it reminds you that you have evolved beyond your teenage self, even if you essentially feel the same inside.
WEDNESDAY This is the big event of the week: Eli Sanders and Jennifer Hopper appear in conversation with with Marcie Sillman at Town Hall. Sanders’s long-awaited book about the South Park home invasion case, While the City Slept, is finally published on Tuesday of this week, and this is an event to commemorate the book’s release. We’ll have more to say about this book in the next few days, but you should absolutely read it. It’s beautiful and sad and a brilliant piece of journalism.
Across town, I’ll be at the taping of Civic Cocktail, which is a local-interest TV show hosted by Joni Balter. Steve Scher and I will be interviewing local treasure Nancy Pearl. Four of Seattle’s city councilmembers will be there, too, to discuss the new woman-majority council. You can register for that here.
THURSDAY Head back to Town Hall tonight for Ted Rall, who is reading from his cartoon biography of Bernie Sanders. I interviewed Rall last year when he came to town with his biography of Edward Snowden, and he’s a passionate, knowledgeable interviewee. If you have questions about Senator Sanders, this might be the place to get ‘em answered.
FRIDAY Elliott Bay Book Company hosts Anastacia Tolbert, who will be reading with Storme Webber and a touring program of Cave Canem fellows including Kamilah Aishah Moon and Librecht Baker. Cave Canem, if you didn’t know, is an organization that promotes and cultivates the work and careers of African-American poets. Every time they come to town, they blow audiences away.
SATURDAY Write Here Write Now happens at Fremont Abbey today. This one is for the authors: press materials promise a “one-day writing intensive like any other,” with an array of “mini-lessons, 1-on-1 author consultations, and lots of writing time with fellow writers.” This year’s keynote will be delivered by novelist Nancy Horan.
SUNDAY Seattle historian Paul Dorpat will discuss the life and legacy of Seattle restaurateur and personality Ivar Haglund at the West Seattle branch of Seattle Public Library. Dorpat has some rare photographs of Haglund and will talk about the clam guy’s West Seattle roots.
MONDAY What better way to kick off your week than a brainy talk about aspirational science? Head to Town Hall Seattle for Oliver Morton, reading from his new book, The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World. It’s about how “an increasing number of climate scientists are advocating for more proactive human intervention in the biosphere,” which can mean anything “from cultivating photosynthetic plankton to seeding clouds with fleets of unmanned ships.” Sounds like this could be a rare hopeful climate-related event.
TUESDAY Tonight, you’ll want to head to Elliott Bay Book Company, where Seattle-by-way-of-West-Virginia novelist Ann Pancake will celebrate the paperback release of her excellent short story collection Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley with author Valerie Trueblood, who will herself be debuting a new collection of stories titled Criminals: Love Stories. Pancake is one of the top five best short-story writers in town, and she works pretty slowly, so you might not have another chance to celebrate a publication date with her for a while. Get out there and enjoy the moment while it lasts.
So that’s your Tuesday sorted, except there’s just one thing: Chop Suey is hosting an event called “A Loose Leaf Reading: An Evening Of Story Telling and Music” that looks really good, too. So I’m going to call this one a tie. This reading, like the Elliott Bay event, is free, and it features musician Nora Hughes with writers Patty Belsick, Casandra Lopez, Jenny Hayes, Kristen Millares Young, and featured reader Michelle Peñaloza. Good stuff.
WEDNESDAY This will be big fun: Seattle science fiction writers Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn will be reading at Cafe Racer as part of a science fiction and fantasy-themed open mic night called Two Hour Transport. I have to be honest, here. I’ve never heard of Two Hour Transport before, but it sounds like a fun time: featured readers share the stage with readers who sign up to read their sci-fi stories of five minutes’ duration or less. Gunn has won or been shortlisted for a boatload of awards. Shawl writes short fiction, publishes book reviews, and she has a novel coming out this September that we at the Seattle Review of Books are just dying to read. Maybe you’ll get a sneak preview of that book tonight.
THURSDAY Maggie Nelson reads at Hugo House. Chances are good that if you know a local writer, they have waxed rhapsodic about the idea of attending this reading. Maggie Nelson is an incredible writer (you should absolutely read Bluets and The Argonauts) and a world-class thinker. Tonight, she’ll be discussing “our different writing bodies and what they mean." There will also be a Q&A. This is the highest-profile reading of the week, and the hottest ticket in town.
FRIDAY Musician Korby Lenker reads at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. He’s got a short story collection titled Medium Hero, which is full of all sorts of great opening lines:
If you’re into short stories, you know the opening lines are half the battle. Not every story in this collection is a jaw-dropper, but they’re all energetic and exciting and eager to be read.
SATURDAY If you’re into the Seattle comics scene, your heart probably broke a little bit when you heard that Intruder, the invitation-only free local comics anthology newspaper, was going to end with issue #20. It’s so good! It’s been going for so long! We all thought Intruder would be around forever! But we still have a few issues left to appreciate, and the Intruder #18 release party is tonight at music shop Spin Cycle on Broadway, so you should go and share some of that love. This party features free comics, live DJs, and, reportedly, “a bag of kettle chips.” Does their generosity know any bounds? Apparently not.
SUNDAY The downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library is hosting something called “The Star Trek Geek Out” all weekend long. Costumes are encouraged. Today’s events include live action interpretations of classic Star Trek scenes, a screening of 2009’s Star Trek reboot movie, and a panel discussion “on Kirk, Spock and gender.” This is not strictly book-related, but come on. Us nerds gotta stick together, you know.
MONDAY Your week in readings begins at Seattle Center's Artists at Play Playground at 9 pm tonight. Seattle poet Arlo Smith reads as part of the Inumbrating Pinnacle reading series, which continues all week long, culminating on Saturday night. If you haven’t been to this playground, you should most definitely go just for the spectacle of it; it’s unbelievably cool.
TUESDAY Wage Slaves, the work-themed reading series featuring free donuts, happens tonight at the Hugo House. Tonight’s event is focused on women in the workplace, and readers include Sonya Lea, Storme Webber, Michelle Peñaloza, Tele Aadsen, and Jean Burnet. I bet there'll be a lot of jaw-dropping stories at this reading.
WEDNESDAY It’s back to the Hugo House with you to celebrate Seattle Arts and Lecture’s incredible Writers in the Schools program, which helps young people learn how to communicate through writing. Tonight, Seattle writing instructors with WitS will read new work. Readers include Samar Abulhassan, Daemond Arrindell, Emily Bedard, Aaron Counts, Laura Gamache, Clare Meeker, Peter Mountford, Sierra Nelson, Imani Sims and Greg Stump.
THURSDAY Good lord, it’s a three-night stand at the Hugo House this week! Washington publisher Two Sylvias Press presents authors reading from their new collections. Cecilia Woloch presents her chapbook Earth, which won the 2014 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize, and Martha Silano reads the second, expanded version of her collection What The Truth Tastes Like.
FRIDAY The penultimate Inumbrating Pinnacle event happens at the Armory Monorail station at Seattle Center at 9 pm. Your readers are Seattle poetry stalwarts Jeremy Springsteed and Jeanne Morel. Why not take the Monorail from downtown to this one? You can pretend to be a resident of Seattle’s future, circa 1963.
SATURDAY Head to he central branch of the Seattle Public Library downtown for the first in an exciting new series put on by SPL called Page to Screen: Hear the Story, See the Film. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a reading of a short story, followed by a showing of the film adapted from that story. Today’s feature is Tod Browning’s incredibly creepy 1932 film Freaks — of “one of us! One of us!” fame —and a reading of Tod Robbins’s story “Spurs,” which inspired the film. It’s a neat idea, isn’t it? I’m excited to see how this works.
SUNDAY End your week with the excellent Monorail Reading Series at Fred Wildlife Refuge. Poets Raul Alvarez, Julie Carr, and Diana Khoi Nguyen read. With plenty of booze! I can't imagine a livelier way to close out the week.
MONDAY Your week of civic activism, Black Lives Matter, and a heavy dose of poetry begins at the Fremont branch of the Seattle Public Library with Floating Bridge Press's quarterly reading series An Evening of Poetry. This is Elizabeth Austen’s last Seattle-area appearance in her capacity as Washington’s poet laureate. (Read about our new poet laureate here.) Go and show her some love for all the hard work she’s put in as the public face of poetry. Other readers include Angela Belcaster and Von Thompson.
TUESDAY We have a real rarity tonight: I can’t decide between the two top readings, so I’m going to tell you about them both. First up, Sara Brickman features at the Round at Fremont Abbey. Brickman, a Seattle poet who headed east for graduate school, is making a rare local appearance with other poets, a cellist, and “live painters.” Brickman is a lively reader, and it’ll be good to catch up with her recent work.
Also tonight, Nick Licata debuts his new book Becoming a Citizen Activist at Couth Buzzard Books. I reviewed this one last week. Licata just left Seattle’s city council last week, and now he’s re-entering life as a private citizen. Be gentle with him.
WEDNESDAY Elliott Bay Book Company hosts a launch party for Seattle poet Emily Johnston’s debut collection, Her Animals. She’ll be joined by Drew Dillhunt, the associate editor at Her Animals’s publisher, Hummingbird Press. Seems like a good way to introduce yourself to a Seattle-area small publisher and support Seattle poetry in one evening.
THURSDAY It’s time again for Margin Shift, the Seattle poetry collective's reading series. Tonight’s readers are Eddie Kim from Seoul, Seattle poet Samar Abulhassan, and, up from LA, Cathy Linh Che. You won’t find a more geographically diverse bill in Seattle this week, and Margin Shift always puts on a good show.
FRIDAY Tonight’s best event is a talk titled “Black Lives Matter in Hip-Hop” at Town Hall Seattle. A panel of local musicians, including Wyking Garrett, Jace Ecaj, Nikkita Oliver, Suntonio Bandanaz, and Renaissance the Poet, will talk about gentrification in hip-hop and the local Black Lives Matter movement. This one is important.
SATURDAY Elliott Bay Book Company teams with Copper Canyon Press to bring Washington poet Red Pine to Seattle. His newest book, Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past, is a photo-filled travelogue from Pine’s monthlong trip to China, during which he tried to learn more about the history of Chinese poetry.
SUNDAY University Book Store closes out our week with “Cindy Safronoff's comparative biography of late 19th century feminist activists Mary Baker Eddy and Victoria Claflin Woodhull." Eddy believed in marriage as an institution. Woodhull was a proponent of free love. They often disagreed. Passionately. The book is titled Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claflin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage, and it sounds totally fascinating.