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Friday, April 8, 2011

Writers With Drinks Celebrates 10th Anniversary Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 2:00 PM

On Saturday night the monthly reading series Writers With Drinks celebrates its 10th anniversary. That's a very big deal for a number of reasons. For something to exist as just a reading series - without being attached to a venerable academic institution, for example, such as UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems - is pretty rare. Maybe that's why Writers With Drinks has marketed itself as a variety show.

Thing is, it doesn't have too many other acts outside reading. It's writers. With drinks. The series combines many different genres of writing, from the less mass-consumed science fiction and poetry to porn, literary fiction, and even stand-up comedy (as you'll see in the clip above, performed by the very hysterical Alex Koll - who pretends he's written a book). It is a celebration of diversity in the form of words and the various personalities that craft them.

Charlie Jane Anders
  • Charlie Jane Anders
Reading series have the reputation (sometimes justified) of being boring affairs. Writers With Drinks was formed to be anything but boring. The many series that now thrive in San Francisco owe a lot to founder and hostess Charlie Jane Anders; we now proudly call our events "readings" partly because Writers With Drinks has helped move that word away from "boring."

Challenging accepted social paradigms -- and perspectives in general -- has always been one of Anders' primary objectives, and the diverse crowd that gathers each month to appreciate this does as much to affirm the variety title as Anders' free-associative author introductions.

If you've been to these shows before, you know that her introductions, which she calls "sort of alternate reality press releases," are almost always the best part -- no matter who's on the mic (and that might include everyone from Armistead Maupin to the best local street poet you haven't heard of yet). In the clip below you'll see an example of a Charlie Jane Anders introduction:

We asked her a few questions about Writers With Drinks.

Q: Did you ever imagine the series making it to the 10-year mark?

A: I always assumed that by now, civilization would have collapsed and we'd all be living in a rusted school bus in a garbage crater, living off canned Spam. That was the whole assumption behind starting a literary event, really. Knowing that the entire San Francisco literary scene would soon consist of the one landfill school bus gave me a comfort zone and a defined endpoint. And any literary events we were organizing would look really good in retrospect.

Q: Have you always prepared for the shows in the same way? What has changed for you?

Actually, I prep way more carefully than I used to -- the first few years I just sort of scribbled a few ideas beforehand, or even just winged it. [We've included an example of those scribbled ideas.] I would chug a few Irish coffees and then get up on stage and go nuts. Mostly that worked out okay, but sometimes I would dig myself into a bit of a hole. And to be honest, the "fictional bio" thing has evolved a bit -- it used to be just silly and random, but the past four or five years, it's much more about trying to express why the person is cool and why I wanted them to come and read/perform. It's much more an appreciation of that person, and not so much just me riffing.

Q: What can we expect in the next 10 years?
We're going to go to WAR against Porchlight. And we're going to enlist the otterpunks on our side. A year or two from now, you can expect to see a whole army of punk rock otter-identified people launching an all-out rampage at Porchlight. Every time they try to sign up an audience member to tell a story, it'll turn out to be an otterpunk. Meanwhile, we'll be merging with the church next door to offer a steampunk baptism, with real steam.

There you have it. If you want to figure out what really happens, you'll have to see for yourself.

The Writers With Drinks 10th anniversary show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Make-Out Room. Admission is $5-$10.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF

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Evan Karp


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