Last year, inspired by the timely coming together of what seemed to be countless writing posses via social media, and with Litquake as an inspiration and a model, a handful of writers decided to throw a festival in Uptown Oakland that turned into 125 authors reading in 25 venues in three hours -- all for free. Appropriately, they called it Beast Crawl ("East Bay" being "beast" in pig latin). The gathering's second annual edition is right around the corner, and to raise funds and generate excitement, the organizers are throwing a hat party on Monday that will feature live music from Wreck This Place and Titan Ups, plus a raffle with prizes donated from local businesses. We thought this was a good chance to check in and see what The Beast Crawl Collective has in store for us this year.
What do you plan to change this year?
Change may not be the right word. We like to think of it as "evolving." That said, we want to have an even wider spectrum of the East Bay area's lit community represented, and by "East Bay lit community" we are talking about not just writers in the East Bay, but writers, editors, impresarios, and performers from San Francisco, and all over California and the nation, who are supportive of the ventures that are born and raised in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
What would you like to do?
Quite simply, to create common and varied spaces for beauty and the East Bay's literary identity. We'd like to point out we don't think this is something we can do in one year. It will take a while to get this established. We're in it for the long haul.
What's your goal for this year?
Good question. Just keep the momentum going for now really. Most important, have a good time where all these varied communities can tie in together and support each other, including all of our supporters from the rest of the Bay Area and across the country. And we mean for much of this to be very family accessible as well, not just some drunken frat party.
What's changed since the first meeting? In terms of organizers, morale, experience ?
What's crazy is how it's taken on such a life and growth spurts of its own. The Beast is like a teenager already, and it wants to be unruly, and the planning collective has to be a balanced parent. We thought our first event was going to be at most 12 readings, four readings an hour over three hours. Somehow we pulled off 27 readings in the same amount of time. We are the same organizers still, and we feel more confident than last year, and we've learned a lot, but we certainly haven't become the masters of this festival form either. If anything, we sense the growth of this city is something that is kind of between breaths right now, and that the next few years are going to help us make some really big leaps in the kind of presentations we can pull off.
What are some of the new venues you can disclose?
We are really happy to have the Uptown on board this year, along with some new businesses in the area such as Duende, the Hutch, and the Legionairre.
Do you anticipate having a lot of return performers? Who's new this year?
We have the Phillipine American Writers & Artists and Kundiman confirmed as curating readings for us this year, and are hoping to reach even deeper into the grassroots of the East Bay literary community, including progressive enterprises like Punk Hostage Press and the Black Futurists, with community resource spaces like Creative Space and the Humanist Hall. We hope for a few more surprises too, but don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, you know? We set our own bar pretty high last year, and it will be a win for us to meet that again.
In what ways are you looking for help/volunteers/organizers?
We'll need at least 30 if not more volunteers this year, and we have right around 13 or so signed up from the East Bay Alternative Book Fair. We'll be signing up more at our fundraiser on April Fool's day at the Telegraph Beer Garden.
The fundraiser is to raise money for a better website, and make sure our audio-visual equipment needs and publicity basics can be met. Once we have our website updated, we'll also have a page where people can sign up to volunteer. Until then, you can send us a note.
Do you have any favorite moments that stand out from last year?
Seeing and connecting with so many people we hadn't seen literally in years. People from the past seemed to crawl out of the woodwork for this festival, as if it were just the thing they, and maybe so many of us, had been waiting years for. It was seeing Michael Rothenberg standing shoulder to shoulder with Andrew Lopas, Iris Berry, Carolyn Cooke, Ben Loory, and Jezebel Delilah. It's so much rarer, and therefore more refreshing, to see a convergence of heavy-hitting writers and radical activists in the same place at the same time.
If you'd like to check out some of the authors and groups who were involved in last year's festival, many of whom will be involved this year, you can watch a video of nearly every one here, and read a more complete introduction to Beast Crawl here. What's that? Oh, yes, you can watch sets from Quiet Lightning, Small Press Distribution, and Skinless: New and Raw Writing from last year's festival in their entirety.
In the meanwhile, rustle up that favorite hat of yours or go out and find one and be prepared to mix it up with the East Bay lit community. The party starts at 5 p.m. at Telegraph Beer Garden (2318 Telegraph Ave.) and is all ages. There's a suggested donation of $5, but bring some extra cash for raffle tickets, food, and beverages.