That literary glow is tinged with blue

If today’s column seems littered with superlatives and exclamation marks, you’ll have to pardon my excess. I’m still coming off a literary high.

No, I haven’t been sniffing bookbinding glue, but I am basking in the bookish brilliance of Get Lit! 2016.

April 11-17, Spokane was awash in literary events. Poetry, panels, pie and whiskey, and plenty more were served up at venues across the city.

What began in 1998 as a one-day event filled with literary readings is now a weeklong festival. Conceived as a way for residents to engage with writing and working writers, Get Lit! offers aspiring authors, poets and folks who love reading a variety of ways to learn from, and engage with, published authors.

Best of all, most events are free. However, the festival is like a luscious chocolate cake, you’d like to consume it all, but frankly it’s just not possible. So it’s important to grab a guide and map out the “must-dos” on your literary list.

This year’s festival featured everything from “Sexy Beasts” to “My Worst Job” and included dozens of local writers as well as visiting scribes.

One of the highlights for me was the Shawn Vestal/Sam Ligon book launch at the Washington Cracker Building. Vestal read from his debut novel “Daredevils”; Ligon read from his short story collection, “Wonderland,” as well as from his novel, “Among the Dead and Dreaming.”

Jess Walter served as emcee and quipped, “One middle-aged white guy introducing two other middle-aged white guys. Guess that’s why they call this the Cracker Building.”

I had to miss one of the most popular Get Lit! attractions: Pie and Whiskey, which is just what it sounds like – an evening of pie and whiskey featuring short readings by authors whose stories feature, you’ve got it – pie and whiskey.

Fortunately, I got to hear one of those stories when I served on a panel with author Elissa Washuta. Her summary of the Tinder dating site was witty, poignant and razor sharp.

The panel “The Nuts and Bolts of Creative Nonfiction” was at Spokane Community College and also featured author Julie Riddle. Both sessions were filled with a mix of students, faculty and community members.

The audience was engaged, attentive and asked great questions that prompted interesting discussions.

The Convention Center served as the Get Lit! hub. I accidentally wandered into the wrong area where some kind of business conference was concluding. I asked an usher for directions to the Get Lit! panel I was looking for and one of the conference leaders overheard. He said, “Get Lit? That sounds a lot more fun than what we did today.”

“It is!” I said, and promptly invited him and his friends.

Kris Dinnison, Stephanie Oakes, Sharma Shields and I had fun serving on the “Queens of the Page: Debut Authors Tell All” panel. I’m not sure if we really told all, but we told quite a bit.

A scheduling conflict meant I had to miss Garth Stein’s reading at the Fox. This was a disappointment, but in some ways a relief. I really wanted him to autograph my copy of his best-selling book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” but I didn’t relish explaining why the edges of my copy are bright blue.

I’d borrowed the book from the library awhile ago. It absolutely captivated me, so when I traveled to my writing retreat, I tucked it in my bag. Some cleaning supplies were also in the bag. Somewhere en route, the toilet bowl cleaner tipped over and splashed “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Did you know toilet bowl cleaner may clean stains off toilets, but leaves stains on books? Neither did I. Neither did the librarian who took the cash I offered as I purchased the now-bluish book.

Thankfully, only the edges were blued and I got to weep my way to the finish of this beautiful novel. I think Stein would have been happy to sign my copy, but unless he returns to next year’s Get Lit!, I’ll never know.

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