video by LoonarCity
The primary objective of Quiet Lightning is to foster community based on literary expression and to provide a safe and supportive arena for said expression.
Quiet Lightning incorporated as a nonprofit on June 1st, 2011 and received tax exemption on January 1, 2012. We remain a submission-based series with a completely blind selection process entirely open to the public. Should you be interested (!), there are in fact many easy ways to get involved.
Quiet Lightning began as a monthly, submission-based reading series on December 14, 2009, featuring all forms of writing without introductions or author banter. The series moved around to a different venue every month, appearing in bars, art galleries, a music hall and a bookstore in our first year. Since, we’ve been to night clubs, a greenhouse, a ballroom, a theater, a mansion, a sporting goods store, a pirate store, a print shop, a museum, a hotel, and a cave. We’ve produced 146 shows, and since the 3rd have published a corresponding issue of sparkle + blink… featuring, now, 1,796 individual performances from 934 different authors, 118 visual artists, and 72 curators! Our books have been read many times all over the world.
In 2013 we orchestrated a Tour Through Town—an initiative to collaborate with a different literary organization every month, creating special hybrid shows with 826 Valencia, SOMArts Cultural Center, Porchlight storytelling, Studio One Reading Series, Beast Crawl, City Lights, Litquake, the Center for the Art of Translation, and Pints and Prose.
In 2014 we launched Quiet Lightning Books via an annual chapbook contest, publishing Tupelo Hassman’s Breast Milk and Zack Haber’s if you want to be one of them playing in the streets….We also launched Quiet Lightning Films, adapting Amy Glasenapp’s story Combustion, selected through a blind submission process, into a screenplay, casted through Craigslist, shot, produced, and then debuted at The New Parkway Theater.
In 2015 we launched a collaboration with Name Drop Swamp Records and The Emerald Tablet called Chemical Wedding—bimonthly shows featuring music and literature—with a corresponding annual print magazine, vitriol. We initiated a collaboration with the California State Parks System to produce the first Poetry in Parks, held at Samuel P. Taylor State Park over Labor Day, and started a partnership with the Bay Area Video Coalition to produce weekly episodes of Quiet Lightning Television.
2016 was an important year for us. We partnered with longtime inspiration Radar Productions for a queer literary mixtape, part of their Queering the Castro series. We took on Litseen, a project created and developed by QL’s founding director Evan Karp shortly before the start of QL, now providing the resources necessary to maintain a near-comprehensive calendar of Bay Area literary events, and to post a weekly interview profile of local authors called The Write Stuff. We published our third chapbook, The Sacred Text of Rosa Who is Great, and produced and premiered our first feature-length film, the experimental documentary of San Francisco Water Under the Bridge. Thanks to a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, all of this year’s shows were free, and everyone who read or contributed art to Quiet Lightning was paid! We partnered with the Chinatown Community Development Center; revived the Call and Response series w/presentations by Kim Anno and Pamela Z; and teamed up with ArtSpan again to present the 3rd annual Art, Readings, & Reactions event. In partnership with the CA State Parks and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, we celebrated our 100th show with a day-long arts festival in the historic Cushing Memorial-Mountain Amphitheater. At the end of the year, in response to the presidential election, we helped form Bay Area Writers Resist, part of an international network of literary artists and orgs committed to using writing to encourage and inspire resistance against injustices threatening us all in this country—the kickoff event led to the formation of Artists for Sustained and United Resistance.
We decided to start 2017 with a hyperpublic reading, so we held a show outside the Montgomery BART station; visited landmark queer SoMa bar The Stud and the legendary Tenderloin bar Edinburgh Castle. We released the third issue of vitriol 3 at the Elbo Room, returned to the beloved Galeria de la Raza and Adobe Books, with an unforgettable show at the newly renovated Chinatown gem Clarion Music Center. By the time we got to Clarion it was clear that Turk & Divis, a musical duo by Karp and his brother Miles, were making a Quiet Lightning album scoring soundboard audio clips of the live readings with original music. We started kicking off each reading by playing a rough cut of the new track, which was composed out of excerpts from the previous month’s show — kind of like a ‘last time on Quiet Lightning’ thing. We had maybe our best yet Art, Readings, and reactions event with ArtSpan; teamed up with Booksmith for their Booksmith Resists series to present a panel on Radical Hope; produced a day-long Poetry in Parks festival at Candlestick Point, with live-painters, a full set of youth performances curated by SF Poet Laureate Kim Shuck and the Mission-based, youth-led nonprofit Vasileia; had an unforgettable night at the Peacock Lounge; and hosted a special 8-yr anniversary show at The Bindery, featuring performances by some of the QL board and staff … which was, weirdly, a first for us! So we ended the year by starting a new tradition.
The BART station show was such a great way to kick off 2017 that we decided to spend Jan 1, 2018 outside again, but went to The Wave Organ. We got incredibly lucky to catch the rising full moon over the Bay Bridge and a breathtaking sunset over the Golden Gate – it was a magical way to start off the year, and the next two shows, at Dogeared Castro and Studiotobe, both felt special. In June Turk & Divis released the Quiet Lightning album, which features 50 writers performing live at QL shows between October 2016 and November 2017, with parties at The Bindery in SF and EM Wolfman in Oakland. Each show featured about a dozen contributors to the album, and the Bindery show also featured a live performance by T&D, an improv jam with an open mic. At both shows, we screened a video score made to accompany the album. After another amazing Art, Readings, & Reactions event we had our first show at Fort Mason, at the Readers Bookstore, and for the 4th Poetry in Parks returned to the Samuel P. Taylor State Park, home of the first event, and had another lovely day in the redwood grove despite the recent nearby fires. We ended the year with a show in Rincon Park, by Cupid’s Span, taking in the show with The Bay Lights as a backdrop.
In 2019, as we start off our 10th year, we have just initiated our QL Disruptors program, a limited-term board membership application process open to the public. Check it out! Join our board? Produce one of these shows?