Get Lit! Festival hits Cheney and Spokane

Authors Lois Lowry, Susan Orlean, Colson Whitehead headline literary festival

“Eastern Washington University’s 14th Annual Get Lit! Festival” moves into the Spokane area April 9-15, bringing a variety of authors, poets, screenwriters and musicians together to spread their love of literature to the EWU and Spokane communities.

“Pretty much any member of the community that is interested in literature has the opportunity to interact with the festival,” said Kristina McDonald, assistant program coordinator for Get Lit! and a second year graduate student at EWU. “I think there are a lot of people in Spokane and the surrounding areas who keep coming back to have the chance to interact with these famous authors. I think this is a great opportunity for the Spokane community.”

Get Lit! began in 1998 as a one-day marathon of readings sponsored by EWU Press and EWU’s creative writing department. Get Lit! has now grown to a week-long festival with over 50 events for literary lovers of all kinds.

It is mainly centered at EWU in terms of planning. However, collaboration with other universities in the area is essential to making the festival possible. Some of the events will be held at the different area colleges as well.

EWU Get Lit! Programs Coordinator Melissa Huggins, and a small staff of interns, has put together this year’s festival, bringing in 30-40 local, regional and national authors. They work to make the festival as interactive as possible for the community. Workshops, audience Q-and-As, panel discussions, book signings and readings are just a few of the interactive components.

“One of the things that we think is really amazing about the festival is that there is a lot of opportunities to interact with the authors one-on-one. … We try to create as many interactive components as we can,” Huggins said.

Students with a school ID get into most of the events for free. Signing up for workshops cost $20 for students with ID and $30 without.

Students can go to the bookstore on the Cheney or Riverpoint campus and show their ID to get up to two tickets for any number of events the student wants to attend.

“Students can get into 95 percent of the events completely free with their ID,” Huggins said.

The majority of the events are held Thursday through Sunday. The College and Teen Poetry Slams will be held Thursday evening in the Kress Gallery in River Park Square. The first-place winners of these two slams will have the opportunity to open for Ted Kooser on Sunday, one of the main headlining events.

“[The college poetry slam] is a great one for students whether you want to perform or whether you want to go see other students,” Huggins said.

Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver” and over 30 different children’s books, will be at the festival for a Saturday night headlining event. Lowry will be doing a reading combined with the American Place Theatre doing a presentation of “The Giver.”

“[The Giver] is kind of a huge deal and has been a huge deal for a really long time,” said Huggins. “We read that book in school. … It is still taught in a lot of the middle schools today. So we have a ton of people that are really, really excited about this event.”

McDonald said, “I have talked to a lot of teachers and principals and even students in the area who are excited about meeting [Lowry].”

The evening events in downtown Spokane are the biggest crowd drawers. Also headlining will be Susan Orlean and Steve Almond on Thursday and Jess Walter and Colson Whitehead on Friday.

“Everyone wants to go see Jess Walter. He’s funny and his books are fantastic and he’s an EWU [graduate]. So people are really drawn to those events and those are always fun,” Huggins said.

Students looking for an opportunity to interact with the festival on campus will get the chance on Friday.

The “Comedy as Commentary” panel with Steve Almond, author of ten collections of mostly humorous fiction and non-fiction, will take place for students on campus. Joining Almond will be Jess Walter and Sharma Shields, both authors who also “turn comedy into commentary.”

The documentary “Miss Representation” will be screened specially for EWU students on Monday, April 9, at 1 p.m. in the JFK Auditorium. This documentary explores the way women can change the subtle and powerful messages they get from the media every day.

There are a handful of events on the Cheney campus, but most of the events are spread throughout the Spokane area.

“When I think about how the festival is related to students, … most importantly almost all of these events are free, and also that it is a really unique opportunity to be able to interact with authors of this caliber in Spokane,” Huggins said.

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