A band of hardy souls gathered last Saturday for the third annual Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl. Why hardy? Well, springtime in northern Nevada is schizophrenic: hot and sunny one day, snow and hail the next. Saturday was bitterly cold for late May and I regretted that I’d left my hat and gloves in the car.
The Lit Crawl is an evening of live readings by local writers and poets in public venues scattered around downtown Reno. We have a vibrant writing community and many writers participate each year. This year’s theme was A River of Words and the line-up of twenty-two writers included authors Ellen Hopkins and Terri Farley, and poets Gailmarie Pahmeier and June Saraceno. We braved the cold at outdoor venues for some readings as we wrapped our hands around steaming cups of coffee. Then we raced to the indoor readings, anxious to warm up before the evening’s final outdoor event.
The chilly weather wasn’t the only challenge for Saturday’s Lit Crawl. By a peculiar twist of the calendar, the monthly River Wine Walk overlapped the start of the festival. The wine lovers had a two hour head-start and their celebratory mood was quite evident. At several venues, the noise level from the revelers drowned out the readings, but occasionally some of the wine lovers would join the audience to listen.
By the time the evening’s epilogue started, many participants had wandered off in search of warmth and hot beverages. But for those of us who stayed, we experienced a magical moment in the growing darkness. As we stood, shivering, on the front lawn of the beloved indie bookstore, Sundance Books, we were enthralled by Kay Ryan, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner. She read her short, witty poems, weaving in their backstories, explaining some of her word choices and making us laugh. I was glad that I’d stayed. I just wish I’d worn a heavier jacket.