"Diva Deluxe" Suzy Williams and Brad Kay at the Litquake San Francisco

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Suzy Williams
Litquake officially began with the opening party: “Night of the Living Read." I was there. I'm all shook up. In a good, good way.

A lovely topper to the evening was a performance by “Diva Deluxe" Suzy Williams

Suzy Williams
Suzy Williams

and composer/accompanist Brad Kay who performed songs based on literary works. My favorites were the Kurt Vonnegut Calypso and the little-known poem about love by Lewis Carol. Perhaps you've seen that Suzy will present her performance piece, “The 'Lit' Show: Songs by Literary Lions" tomorrow. Keep it in mind—she's something.

How did I get here? A few months ago, I hit a personal rock bottom when I lost my teaching job. Confused and disoriented, describing myself as being in “free fall," I launched into the San Francisco literary scene with a project I called “Storming Bohemia." I felt emotionally and spiritually dead (or nearly) and wanted to see if art and literature could jumpstart my moribund heart. It's working.

It wasn't long before I was swimming over my head in what I have found to be a San Francisco literary renaissance. Under the influence of this community I have become deeply involved in writing, spoken word performance, and obsessive blogging. This last role is how I happen to be writing this post.

I caught the blogging obsession from Litquake's official blogger, Mr. Evan Karp. Almost a year before I dove into the local scene, he had done so. Over a year's time, he had attended over 300 readings, caught them on videotape and blogged about them. By the time we crossed paths he needed an assistant to keep up with the locomotive of local lit events. I was ready to climb aboard and here I am. Toot! Toot!

Evan and I and countless others have discovered something extraordinary in this city: a literary community that is exploding. Times of artistic renewal don't just happen to individuals, they come to an entire community like a force of nature and wake us up. When we come together and interact, at readings, at Litquake, on street corners, in pubs, in the theatre, at the concerts— wherever—it is like a well-seasoned stew: amazing flavors emerge. For close to two hundred years now (and some of us suspect much longer, into prehistoric times), San Francisco has repeatedly exploded with periodic bursts of artistic renewal. It is happening now. It is happening here. The epicenter is LITQUAKE.

And so the tremor starts and here we all are at 111 Minna Gallery, surrounded by fine art (new and amazing works by California tattoo artists), exceptional music (more on that further on) and a collection of wonderful people ablaze with enthusiasm.

I start the evening in a corner, a bit overwhelmed. Will I remember people's names? Is there really a place for me here? I feel fragile, exposed. Will I dare to write about that? I sit and I watch.

It isn't long before I am swept up. As so often before, this artsy nerd in the company of other artsy nerds feels suddenly less nerdy. I remember what somebody said to me when I first started showing up. (Gosh, I wish I could remember now who it was.) I had confided that it was hard for me to get involved because I was one of those “alone in a crowd" types. Somebody explained, “That's what we all are. That's what it means to be a writer or an artist, mostly. We're all alone in the same crowd and, what is amazing, when it is just us with each other we transcend all that stuff. We are a people." That's it exactly. We are a people. I remember this and start to mingle.

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