Sometimes someone has a great idea and as much as you love it, you are also sort of consumed by jealousy, since you didn't think of it first.
That is how I feel about The Bay Citizen's Guide to San Francisco Literary Events created by Susie Cagle and Evan Karp (who also writes for KQED). It's a game/listing of all kinds of events throughout the Bay. It's fun, funny and it serves a legitimate purpose: help the over-whelmed literary-curious people of the Bay Area wade through the seemingly endless number of possible readings they could/should be attending.
The app, which has been in the works since June of 2010 but was just unveiled in March, couldn't have come to my attention at a better time, because as spring comes to San Francisco, the number of readings explodes (like flowers would, I imagine, in one of those "season-based" climates).
Because I am an intrepid lover of readings, I decided to dig deep into the app and see if I could point myself (and you, of course) in the direction of some of the most interesting events coming up in the next few weeks.
First: the game. This is the most interactive part of the app, a Cosmo-style quiz that leads you through a series of questions and then divines your perfect list of readings. I attempted the quiz as myself, for easiness.
First question: what do you want to drink? I'm 28 and from Oregon, so I went with PBR.
Next question: what energy level? I like a more high-energy reading because when things get quiet, I'm liable fall asleep into my PBR. I clicked "high-energy."
The next question, what do you want to hear, was easy. Stories or poetry? I choose stories, almost always. I'm fiction-centric in that way -- a flaw and I'm working on it.
The choices for place, East Bay, Other Bay Area or San Francisco, which came next, were a little limiting but reflective of the disproportionate amount of readings that happen in the city, I suppose, as opposed to in the "Other Bay Area." Anyway, I don't have a car so I picked SF.
The final question is: what is your preferred form of literary communication? The options are Blackberry, notebook or Tumblr and I tried to be honest (I'm too much of an egomaniac to keep my thoughts secret in a notebook), so I picked Tumblr and boom! There you go! My ideal list of readings appeared on the screen! My perfect match was the Rumpus, which has no readings coming up but as I scrolled down further, I discover a reading with a long list of entertaining readers and a great venue that was "pretty close" to an ideal match for me: InsideStoryTime. This month's reading, at Café Royale on April 21 at 6:30pm, is based on the theme "Birth and Death," which is full of potential, especially since one of the readers, Tim Kay, is the SF zombie expert for The Examiner. I'm going to the reading just to hear what he has to say from the zombie perspective on the fraught issues brought up by the theme.
Besides the game, the Bay Citizen's app has other ways to scan the scene. You can also click on "Pick Your Prose" to see all the choices under various categories. I clicked on "Free!! (or pay-what-you-can)" and landed on one of my favorites, Bang Out, another SF series that accepts submissions based on a theme and then picks a handful of readers to perform their short pieces (all created for the event) on stage at Amnesia. This month's reading is on April 16 at 7pm, and the theme is "The Social Network." What Bang Out lacks in zombies, it makes up for in sangria and local superstars (last month Stephen Elliot was there, this month Kathryn Pringle, author of Right New Biology, is just one of the many, talented readers).
If you can't bother with quizzes and only have one date of the month set aside to go get your culture fix, the Bay Citizen will not let you down. Click on their "Calendar of Literary Events" and you will get a listing by day of everything from storytellings at The Asian Art Museum to celebrities doing City Arts & Lectures. This is where I discovered what I nominate for event of the month (and next month): the 15th Annual Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam. If you are a poet between the ages of 13 and 19 living in the Bay, you should enter this contest immediately, because registration is still open until April 28. If you are over 19 and interested in seeing some of the most emotional, entertaining and important art being made today, you should check out the preliminaries, April 29 and 30, at the Oakland Main Library and 826 Valencia in San Francisco, and then stay tuned for the semi-finals and finals in May.
I know earlier I said I was fiction-centric but I completely reverse my position for kids expressing themselves honestly at the top of their lungs through spoken word. I don't even call that poetry; it's just another awesome thing to consume me with both jealousy and love.
Check out the app at baycitizen.org to find out about these and a ton more events happening all over the Bay this month.