After five years of curating boozy literary events that connected Seattle readers to small-press writers from all over the country, the folks running APRIL Festival are calling it quits. They're throwing their last-ever literary fest at Hugo House on Saturday, April 1 (no joke!). Unlike previous iterations of the festival, this one will actually be held in the month of April, and the organizers are condensing what is normally a week's worth of programming into a one-day-only flurry of readings and performances you won't want to miss.
If the end of APRIL really bums you out, as it really bums me out, then start your own thing! That's what APRIL's acting director Frances Chiem and codirector Sarah Baker say you should do, anyway: "We hope our absence will provide some space for other talented arts organizers to arise," Chiem said.
To help that process along, APRIL's website will morph into a resources page that will include a list of their "best practices for arts organizers" who are looking to start something similar. The goal is to "make institutional knowledge common knowledge."
In the meantime, here's how best to enjoy yourself at APRIL's last go-round.
Independent Publishing Expo and Performances, noon–4 p.m.
The festival kicks off with a book fair featuring 25 mostly local independent presses. Say hi to Colleen Louise Barry at Mount Analogue Press and buy Halie Theoharides's Final Rose, a thoughtful and humorous collage of screenshots from The Bachelor. Pick up Ted Powers's funny and poignant book of poems, Manners, while you're at it.
If you like the art in those Mount Analogue books, find more stuff like it at Cold Cube Press, which publishes reams of gorgeous risograph-printed literary comics. Also be sure to scoop up Sarah Galvin's new book, Ugly Time, at the Gramma Press table.
Browse the latest local literary journals at the Pacifica Literary Review, Poetry Northwest, Spartan, and Moss tables, and consider subscribing to at least one or more of those mags. If all this reading inspires you to write, talk to the folks at Till about their upcoming summer residency at Smoke Farm, as well as their weekly writing meetings.
Once you've made your selections, check out a few of the eight Seattle authors who will be reading in the cabaret every hour on the hour.
In a nod to their "something old, something new" theme, APRIL is pairing one author who has read for the festival before with one who hasn't read yet. APRIL regulars will hear new stuff from fiction writer Matthew Simmons (The In-Betweens), essayist Elissa Washuta (Starvation Mode), novelist Peter Mountford (The Dismal Science, plus a new novel about the Sri Lankan civil war), and poet Jane Wong (Overpour).
It's hard to believe that fiction writers Chelsea Werner-Jatzke and Anca Szilagyi, both very active literary organizers who also publish their work all over, haven't read for APRIL before, but they will at this event. You'll definitely want to hear Werner-Jatzke read from her new chapbook, Adventures in Property Management, which is stuffed with bizarre, humorous, and kinda dark stories from the perspective of an apartment manger. The other new face is spoken-word poet Naa Akua, a recent transplant from the Bronx who's already booking theater and literary gigs around town. Oh, and this is like your fifth chance this year to see Quenton Baker read from his strong debut book of poems, This Glittering Republic. If you haven't seen him read yet, do yourself a favor and check him out now.
Happy Hour, 5 p.m.
Dr. Ink (Sierra Nelson) and Dr. Owning (Rachel Kessler) of the Vis-à-Vis Society will delight your tipsy ass with some sort of poetic scientific experiment. Not sure what they have planned for this performance, but in the past they have mapped a poem's emotional spectrum using hot dogs and they have also created unexpectedly good crowd-generated poetry.
Reading and Dinner, 6 p.m.
Free food! The first 50 people who show up to this event will get a free dinner from My Sweet Lil' Cakes. They sell chicken and waffles on a stick. I'm told there will be a veggie option and hors d'oeuvres for those who have doomed themselves to a life of side dishes.
Of all the readings, I'm most excited about this one, and not just because it fills me with memories of past APRIL food-based events. I mean, remember when they turned Hugo House into a pizza parlor and we all got to draw all over the tables? I'm a child.
Anyway, Brooklyn poet Tommy Pico returns to Seattle with a new book of poems from Tin House called Nature Poem, which is about how deeply his speaker—a gay, Native urbanite—hates the idea of writing a nature poem. Jayinee Basu travels up from San Francisco to read from her book Asuras. I've never heard her read before, but after watching 10 minutes of a YouTube video featuring Basu, I can tell you that she is quietly funny with a gross/pretty lyric sensibility (think dew on poo) and that "Asuras" refers to Hindu spirits that were transformed into demons because of their "unchecked knowledge-seeking." Finally, Seattle's own Anastacia Renee Tolbert will read from one of three books due out this year. I hope she reads the one about the pigeon.
A Poet, a Playwright, a Novelist, and a Drag Queen, 8 p.m.
Poet and regular Stranger contributor Sarah Galvin, playwright Samie Spring Detzer, novelist Peter Mountford, and a youthful drag queen named RainBowGore Cake face off in this very popular and always surprising literary showdown. Who will win?!? Technically, this year, Chiem says, everybody will get a trophy of one kind or another. But you know in your heart there can be only one winner.
This last hurrah acknowledges a few writers who have been with the festival since the early days. Detzer picked all the playwrights for the previous PPNDQ events, and Galvin popped out of a suitcase the last time she participated in this competition. I don't know how she can top that entrance, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did.
Closing Party, 10:30 p.m.
Drinking, karaoke, and crying under two giant tents. We'll miss you, APRIL. XO