It’s so easy to say San Francisco, but the literary scene here is, and long has been, far more expansive than any one city can claim. Berkeley, Oakland and SF all have rich traditions of producing (or, at the least, harboring) nationally significant writers, but there are more autonomous writing communities throughout the Bay Area than there are microclimates. Two weeks ago, many of them converged in Oakland for a literary festival called Beast Crawl (“east bay” is “beast” in pig latin): 25 venues hosted 27 events and over 125 authors in three hour-long legs, which culminated in a blowout, essentially writers-only afterparty.
The brainchild of the 9st writing group, which began in 2001, Beast Crawl invited discrete but likeminded groups to curate events, such as reading series Lyrics & Dirges and Lip Service West; publishers Kelsey Street Press and Rad Dad; variety show Tourettes Without Regrets and Small Press Distribution. More than an opportunity for local literati to discover the divers factions of its ever-expanding culture, Beast Crawl – free of cost and organized by members of 9st in collaboration with Hollie Hardy and SB Stokes and an army of volunteers – was a declaration of solidarity, and the general feeling was that participation in this culture has immediate, exponential impact; the effusive, overarching community seemed more than enough proof of that.
Members of The Beast Crawl Collective (organizers and all who participate) know their accomplishment is both indicative of a new tipping point and the result of a powerhouse predecessor.
“We would like to send a big thank you to Litquake for their example and inspiration,” said Paul Corman-Roberts, a member of 9st who originally came up with the idea. Many of the writers involved in Beast Crawl first met as a direct result of Litquake, which in its dozen years has undergone several transformations: from a single-day gathering of friends in Golden Gate Park to an annual literary festival to a year-round programming behemoth to the national enterprise it is today (hosting the legendary lit crawl now in San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Seattle).
Whatever it is that pervades Bay Area culture and compels inhabitants to speak their hearts and minds here, it is contagious and, as we have seen, has far-reaching possibilities. For information on all groups and individuals involved in the first annual Beast Crawl, and to participate in next year’s festival, go to http://beastcrawl.tumblr.com.