The Twin Cities is in the midst of a literary renaissance. Not only does Minnesota boast at least ten independent bookstores, more than a dozen literary magazines and journals and two literary-geared organizations – Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Loft Literary Center — it also has seen an upswing in events and readings geared toward an edgier, younger crowd of writers and readers. It was only a matter of time before the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) would bring its annual conference and bookfair to Minneapolis.
With an expected 12,000-plus attendees, it’s the largest literary conference in North America. This year’s conference features more than 2,000 presenters and 550 readings, panels and craft lectures from more than 700 presses, journals and literary organizations from around the world. Tons of off-site events will also take place this weekend, hosted by Bust magazine, Revolver, Paper Darts and Rain Taxi. (Wed.-Sat. $60–$285 for conference and bookfair, off-site events range from free to $95. Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Av. S., Mpls. awpwriter.org)
Here are our top picks for off-site events at this year’s AWP:
Literary Death Match: AWP Spectacular
After a year hiatus, Literary Death Match is back in fighting form. The nationally syndicated competition challenges four writers to read their most humorous and heart-wrenching works in front of a live audience, to be judged by three all-star judges. It returns to Minneapolis on the first night of the national writer’s conference hosted by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), and accordingly, the lineup packs a punch — it features nationally acclaimed “Bad Feminist” writer Roxane Gay and award-winning authors Claire Vaye Watkins, Jeffery Renard Allen and Mark Doten, plus judges P.O.S., award-winning author Benjamin Percy and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. (6:30 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show. Wed. $7-$10. Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Av., Mpls. literarydeathmatch.com)
Bust Magazine Presents Roxane Gay & Others
Feminist-studies majors are sure to flock to this AWP event hosted by feminist-leaning Bust magazine. It includes readings from five nationally renowned women writers, including Roxane Gay, four-time Poetry National Slam champ Patricia Smith, Korean American writer/performer Franny Choi, actress/poet Amber Tamblyn and writer xTx. Hosted by New York Times–bestselling writer/poet Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, this event is guaranteed to hit capacity, so get there early. (7–8:30 p.m. Fri. $5 suggested donation. The Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.)
Riot Act Reading Series & Punk Hostage Press Present “A Cavalcade of Stars!”
St. Paul’s punk-rock poet Paul Dickinson and his long-running Riot Act Reading Series teamed up with Hollywood’s Punk Hostage Press for the ironically named reading event “A Cavalcade of Stars.” It features a lineup of 11 writers gathered from the ranks of both groups, including the infamous co-founder of Punk Hostage Press, A. Razor, and Steven Church, a founding editor of the nationally recognized literary magazine, The Normal School. (7–10 p.m. Thu. Black Forest Inn, 1 E. 26th St., Mpls.)
Rain Taxi Presents: A Literary Tribute to Grant Hart & Hüsker Dü
This evening of readings, conversation and live music pays tribute to St. Paul indie-rock pioneer Grant Hart and his legendary band Hüsker Dü. Following readings by a dozen or so local and national writers including Laurie Lindeen (of ’90s alt-pop band Zuzu’s Petals) and punk rock anthologist Michael Fournier, Hart will talk about his latest album, “The Argument” — fittingly, a concept album based on William S. Burrough’s treatment of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — and play a short set of music. (9–11 p.m. Fri. $10. Patrick's Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls. www.raintaxi.com)
FSG Originals & Paper Darts present Lit + Art Party
Leave it to Minneapolis’ own Paper Darts, known for their lively events and art-filled publications, to throw what looks to be the hottest party of AWP weekend. Co-presented by FSG Originals — the hip paperback arm of New York publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux — and hosted at Northeast gallery Public Functionary, the party includes micro readings by nine writers including acclaimed L.A.-based writer Amelia Gray and local luminaries Dessa and John Jodzio. It also doubles as a release party for Gray’s new story collection “Gutshot” — complete with dancing and drinks, of course. (8 p.m.–late. Sat. $5. Public Functionary, 400 12th Av. N.E., Mpls. RSVP at goo.gl/Y9a1GP)
Find a complete list of off-site events at awpwriter.org.