Uptown Oakland was a different place when, in 2012, Beast Crawl put on its first annual daylong literary festival. The free event brought an estimated 1,500 people to experience various combinations of 125 writers and performers, spread out over four hours and 25 of the neighborhood’s bars, cafes, galleries and stores. The festival, which has grown each year, boasts its biggest and most diverse lineup Saturday, despite having had to find 13 new venues since last year.
“The changing city means that as venue coordinator, I have to make sure we have enough venues for all the different readings,” said Beast Crawl co-founder and core producer Hollie Hardy, who has lived in Uptown Oakland for 18 years. “We sort of capped it at 35 this year, which meant, because a lot of places had closed, that I had to find 13 new venues. What’s cool to me is that it wasn’t that hard.”
New venues this year range from Starline Social Club and Octopus Literary Salon to Taiwan Bento and Bergeron’s Books, and those passing through the neighborhood for any reason will likely notice festivalgoers carrying maps; each of the day’s three “legs” is an hour long, with a half-hour break in between, and features an average of a dozen concurrent events, so the guide, provided at the information table and at all venues (as well as fully searchable and customizable online), is all but necessary.
“Our goal is to represent a diverse cross section of the Bay Area, to have something for everyone: different age groups and ethnicities, cultures and genres of writing being represented,” Hardy said. Beast Crawl has always been produced by an application process, open to the public, and though some groups have participated every year — like Tourettes Without Regrets and Saturday Night Special — this year’s festival presents 10 new curators, including Manic D Press, Brown People Don’t Read? and Lit Camp. Each leg also includes an open-mike portion and a youth program, and even the after-party is split into two locations to be accessible to all: one, the Legionnaire Saloon, is for those 21 and over, and the other, Telegraph Beer Garden, is for all ages.
“The cool thing about these events is you can see a lot of different things all in one night, and everyone’s there,” Hardy said. “But the downside is that you have to choose, and there’s always going to be something you can’t see, because you can’t see all 35.” She said she hopes people “will feel that sense of wow, Oakland really has this literary heart, and I’m included in it.”
IF YOU GO
Beast Crawl 5-9 p.m. Saturday, July 11. Free. Various Uptown Oakland locations. (415) 706-9128.
Photo by Jonathan Fong
Other book events
The fourth annual Punk Hostage Press Pre-Beast Word Salon features a stout mix of writers participating in Beast Crawl reading in an informal succession, along with food trucks (3 p.m. Friday, July 10, Ale Industries, 3096 10th St., Oakland, free).
Lidia Yuknavitch is in town from Portland, Ore., to read from her new novel, “The Small Backs of Children” (7:30 p.m. Friday, July 10, Green Apple Books on the Park, 1231 Ninth Ave., free).
Amy Berkowitz celebrates the publication of “Tender Points,” her first full-length book, with a reading and performances by Maisha Z. Johnson and the Third Thing (7 p.m. Friday, July 10, Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th St., free).
The Bay Area Writing Project presents a reading by poets of the Women’s Poetry Potluck and Salon as part of the reading series Writing Teachers Write. Featured writers include Tobey Kaplan, Andrena Zawinski, Kathleen McClung and Judy Juanita (3 p.m. Sunday, July 13, Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, free).
Patrick O’Neil is up from Los Angeles to read from his new memoir, “Gun, Needle, Spoon” (7 p.m. Sunday, July 13, Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, free).