By Brynn McNab
Steffanie Ling is a Vancouver-based writer, curator at CSA Space, and co-editor of The Bartleby Review. Emma Metcalfe Hurst and Steffanie Ling started the reading event, LIT LIT LIT LIT in April of 2014.
PS: Ok, can we start with LIT LIT LIT … LIT? I can never remember, are there 3 or 4 LITs?
SL: LIT LIT LIT LIT is a bi-monthly literary event in Vancouver that simply invites FOUR writers and/or artists at a time to read their work to interested parties. Select readings are published as chapbooks under the Somewhat Urgent Series. Emma (Metcalfe Hurst) and I have been organizing LIT LIT LIT LIT since April 2014.
A lot of people ask about the name: it’s after ASAP Rocky’s “Get Lit” where in the chorus he repeats “lit” over and over, and with the way his voice fluctuates, I just hear them four at a time. The song is obviously about smoking weed and getting high, so there could be a very nerdy allusion drawn with the kind of elation one experiences with a good piece of writing or reading.
PS: What was the impetus to start a reading series?
SL: LIT LIT LIT LIT is a hugely selfish project that only serves to illuminate my impatience!!! It started because I wanted to go to more readings and I couldn’t wait for other people to organize the readings that I wanted to see. I saw that many people in our visual arts peer group had pretty interesting writing practices but no casual opportunities to present, experiment, or have a chance to garner a reaction unless they happened in tandem with an opening of an exhibition, or as public programming later down that road—and even then, it is usually more established writers who deliver for those types of events. I’m interested to see the relationship between visual art and literary practices bridges in the present. It’s part of Vancouver’s art history, and I feel a certain amount of romanticism for this aspect, since the relationship now doesn’t seem as epic or urgent, but it could also be how the history is framed to me—Though, Peter Culley wrote a really compelling essay that is for me a sort of a portrait of Vancouver’s literary tenacity in relation to the Western Front (in “Whispered Art History: Twenty Years at the Western Front” edt. Keith Wallace).
Emma and I approach it, and support each other, organizing it with different motivations. For me, I want to see a very direct kind of readings that really focuses on the writing. Of course, reading demands a certain amount of performing, embodiment of the text, but the reading itself is not a performance. Emma, I believe, is more interested in exploring the performative aspects of readings that involve visuals, sounds and external elements. I think this makes sense because between the two of us, she is the artist, and I am the writer. Together, LIT LIT LIT LIT has more of an open mind than if it were just me alone, I am more skeptical of how far the definition of a “reading” can be stretched, but I am keen to see it done well!
It seems also incredibly important to identify and have a culture of readers and writers who are consistently presenting and have the opportunity to critique and learn from each other, although LIT LIT LIT LIT is not a forum for critique or workshopping. It’s not that serious, and if people are serious, they will always find a way to do that on their own. This just gives them something to talk about, and a place to present their ideas.
PS: What does a typical event look like?
SL: This is hard. I’ll start with the basics. Readers always read their own writing. Readings can run from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Usually two readers go, a “15-minute” break, then the two more readings. Depending on who is reading, and who is in the crowd, especially if they are friends, some dialogue between the reader and the audience may occur.
Emma always fashions a cocktail from this list of favourite cocktails of literary figures list. The first reading was Gin Rickey a la Scott Fitzgerald, the second was Faulkner, but I can’t remember the drink.
The last two readings have been held at Publication Studio, but the first one was at Avenue, and we also organized a series of shorter readings during KIOSK, the independent zine fair that happened earlier this summer at Avenue. LIT LIT LIT LIT is doing another group of readings in their space for the VA/BF.
PS: What are you looking for in your readers?
SL: I wrote our submission guidelines, link below, and it’s pretty much all there, though it’s a lazy way to answer your questions…I think the manner that it is written reflects the spirit of the project.
Also, you can see our website (almost no one knows it exists) where I post chapbooks I like, and documentation of the readings and newly released chapbooks under the Somewhat Urgent Series. Emma is currently working on getting a podcast going, since we used up all our soundcloud bandwidth or something already.
PS: Alright, onwards! What about the Bartleby Review, are you putting together another anthology this year?
SL: Yes, it’s almost done. It will be ready for VA/BF, possibly even NYABF if all bodes well!!
PS: Was it way too much work? The collating of the anthology last year looked pretty labour intensive…
SL: I think I need to come up with a better way to organize my files on my computer so that when we make the anthology it’s less of a scramble to cull all the material together. There are certain things about the last anthology I would change that is creating a lot of work right now while working on the upcoming anthology.
PS: So, I heard that you are doing a redesign for the pamphlet, what is it that you’re wanting to change?
SL: Maybe I want it to grow up a little. I ask myself questions like: is it important? It is to me? I wrote about that in the afterword of the first anthology and those questions are still with me. At the time, I concluded with the fact that it’s more important to just do it because it seemed like something my peers and I needed, and we would consider the consequences when the time comes. Has that time come? Do we have different needs now? Pamphlets have a very political history, and sometimes I feel what I’m publishing is not living up to the potential of its format. But then you also have to answer to art criticism and history. And then again, how much does a piece of paper bear on art history. Pamphlets have had an amazing impact and commentary role in other histories, such as civil rights, but does the content reflect that? That’s where the anthology comes into play I guess, as a culmination of errant and occasional activities, so we can reflect on it. It’s also a celebration.
PS: Publishing can often be a thankless task. I know I’ve struggled with it at some points. Do you ever hate it sometimes?
SL: The answer to occasionally hating it is a resounding YES! Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about how I could improve it, whether it’s fine the way it is, if I am contemplating messing with a good thing, but all the while knowing I won’t be able to keep making pamphlets until the end of time… And then I’m like, what am I doing with my life? Shouldn’t I be writing my own shit? It becomes existential all too quickly… Hahaha
Images courtesy of LIT LIT LIT LIT and The Bartleby Review.