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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Litography Project: An Interactive and Evolving Multimedia Map of Literary S.F.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 8:00 AM

mockup of the splash screen
  • mockup of the splash screen

Why can't we explore the San Francisco Bay Area's rich literary traditions through a central hub that allows stories and multimedia projects to be sorted by people, places, events, and ideas -- with local authors being commissioned to contribute their stories?

Well, we may be able to soon. (It seems like this is something that should already exist, doesn't it?)

Everyone knows the Bay Area has one of the richest concentrations of literary interests in the world, and is able, uniquely, to host a diverse constellation of literary groups (nonprofits like Small Press Traffic, RADAR Productions, and Quiet Lightning), impressive university programs (try SFSU's digital poetry archive or UC Berkeley's Holloway Series), and underground readings and open mics. But no one has been able (or inclined) to try to bring it all together until now.

Writer and radio producer Ninna Gaensler-Debs has developed a momentous something she calls The Litography Project, an interactive literary map, that just launched a Kickstarter campaign.

Gaensler-Debs was kind enough to answer a few questions about this project:

click to enlarge mockup of the home screen
  • mockup of the home screen

Tell us -- in short -- about the Litography Project.

The Litography Project is an interactive multimedia map honoring San Francisco's literary past, present, and future. We define the word "litography" as "the collaborative art of mapping the literary character of a city."

Expound on that a bit: What are some of the special features?

Well we feel like San Francisco is unique in the vibrancy and diversity of its literary scene -- pick any night of the week and you'll be able to find at least one literary event, whether it be a reading, or a writing workshop, or even a drunken game of Exquisite Corpse. We want this map to help people learn more about literary S.F. -- and then get them involved. We've got a great partnership with Litseen to help plot literary events on our map -- we're pretty excited about that special feature!

What inspired the idea behind this?

Last summer I visited Dublin, Ireland for the very first time. I was mostly excited to go and explore the city's incredible literary history. I spent days crafting my own literary tour and ended up spending a 12-hour day visiting all sorts of significant sites. I felt like I connected so much more to the city when I knew the stories wrapped up in its streets, its buildings, its rivers. And I realized, "wow, I'd love to have some sort of resource that would tell these stories back home." And so we decided to make that resource.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish with Litography?

Well there are three main goals of the project -- and all of them tie into each other:

  1. We want people to know about San Francisco's incredible literary culture -- whether you haven't picked up a book in years or you're a die hard lit fan discovering something new, we think there's something here for everyone.
  2. We want to make a space that encourages creative, multimedia storytelling. There are so many wonderful artists in the Bay Area; we want to see them continue to make great work, and work together to make things that push the boundaries of the way we tell stories.
  3. We want to support the creative community here in San Francisco! We hope that by commissioning stories from all sorts of artists here we will help nourish the rich artistic culture that's so central to San Francisco's identity. Plus, our project helps enforce a positive cycle -- the more we help people participate in the literary community, the more avenues there are for this project to grow!

What are some of the challenges?

Funding any creative project like this is never easy. We want this map to remain a free resource for anyone who wants to use it, and in order to do that we have to raise money! But more on that later. It's also always challenging to commit yourself to making interesting, original and socially responsible work -- but we think that's a good challenge. We're lucky to know a lot of wonderful creative people, many of whom are already working on some fantastic content for this map. And we've partnered with local public radio station KALW, a place that is chockablock full of great storytellers. So we've got some great support.

click to enlarge mockup of selected story screen
  • mockup of selected story screen

When do you hope to launch?

Well we can't launch until we get the funding to finish a beautiful site and commission some stories. However, we've just launched a Kickstarter to do just that, and if we're successful in that venture we aim to launch this summer.

What should people (authors, people with good stories, etc.) do if they want to be involved?

Contact us! We want to work with as many people and organizations as possible -- this is meant to be a collaborative project. You can reach us at with any questions or ideas -- we want to hear 'em all!

How can people help?

The best way to help would be to contribute to the aforementioned Kickstarter fundraiser. We've got some truly excellent literary prizes (spoiler alert: there are Mark Twain throw pillows) as a big thank you for supporting us. And even if you don't have much to spare, you can still help by spreading the word! We need the help of lit lovers everywhere to make this thing happen.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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About The Author

Evan Karp


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