Drivel – and Proud of It at Litquake

12 Jul

Fact: Everything that famous writers create is spellbinding literature.

Fact: Famous writers would rather die than expose their not-so-award-winning moments.

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Socrates would point out that both assertions cannot be true. So a writer must be blamed for Socrates’s death.

Enter the fabulous writers from The Writers’ Grotto in San Francisco, a collective of professional writers (some well known, all of them working professionals), and their idea for a fundraiser for Litquake, San Francisco’s infamous literary festival that hosts hundreds of readings during one week each fall. 

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From the description of how “Regreturature” came to be:

“We continued wracking our brains. It couldn’t just be another reading or panel discussion. It needed some real zest. And then it suddenly hit me – what if we had these respected, professional writers instead read from the worst thing they’d ever written? The most shameful, embarrassing, precocious, clunky, sappy, immature, cloyingly earnest prose that somehow may have been stashed in a long-forgotten box.” Jack Boulware (co-founder, Litquake)

Four years of sold out readings later, some of the best of the worst from Regreturature has been collected in “Drivel: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors.”

Authors include:

“Gillian Flynn, Mary Roach, Dave Eggers, Rick Moody, Chuck Palahniuk, the list goes on: they all sucked once and they all have the guts to share some of their crappiest early work in this uplifting bit of voyeurism.”

The book will release in September 2014. You can pre-order a copy now at Drivel.


20 Responses to “Drivel – and Proud of It at Litquake”

  1. Lady Fancifull July 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Washing your literary dirty linen in public so everyone feels better about their own stains, I guess. Good fun. Not to mention brave. Will they we wearing shades and facemasks as they read their gloopy bloopies, or well those red faces just shine, and the reading voices get a bit husky and tremulous with embarrassment ?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann July 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

      I’m thinking that a good amount of liquor will help assuage any embarrassment, don’t you think?

      • Lady Fancifull July 13, 2014 at 1:37 am #

        You are possibly right. PS your various posts and links about your writerly communities and events look glorious. Squaw looks fabulous and so does the literary linen washing. But……where would we be without storytellers, writing and writers. I was thinking about a little group of friends who meet four times a year and have done for nearly 20 years. 2 of us read. At some point we will pull a book from our handbags to show each other, or tell each other what we are or have been or are about to read, if the reading is on Kindle. The other two are not readers. There are no books in their houses. Only glossy magazines. When they come to mine the other bookish one does the thing all readers do and examines the groaning shelves. I know the non- readers just see clutter, disorder and offences against designer living when they see my shelves. I try to imagine a life without reading and it’s like trying to imagine being imprisoned within the limitations of self, without any influence to stretch that self beyond itself. Books, especially fiction take you inside the complex imaginations of others, and enrich your own complexity. But these are the obvious truths for those of us bookish ones, and I know my inability to be obsessed by someone else’s strange passions is as weird to them as the world of non-readers is to me. Life’s rich tapestries for example. Except that books are a myriad tapestries, not a single one.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann July 13, 2014 at 11:08 am #

          I think we should develop a book powder that we can sprinkle into non-readers’ drinks that will turn them into voracious book worms, creating job security for the writing profession. Don’t know if you saw the recent Guardian article about how difficult it is for what is called “midlist” writers to make a living without having a second or third job. Gone are the days when a midlist writer could be presented with a $50,000 advance for a book that took them at least a year to write. Many fiction and most nonfiction books take many more years than that to produce. An “average” advance is now more likely to be less than $10,000. And the climate for a collection of short stories is even more dire. The editor of Edith Pearlman’s book of short stories, Binocular Vision, told the participants here that sales of 30-35,000 copies was phenomenal for a story collection because it was a National Book Critic Award Winner. If it had been a novel, the number would have been much larger. Sigh.

        • Lady Fancifull July 13, 2014 at 11:36 am #

          Oh don’t Jilanne – it really does seem as if quantity has replaced quality, with many really BADLY written books, or books without craft and finesse being churned out with an eye on ‘filmrights, merchandising’ with the hyped up stories of bidding wars. I’ve recently read such a one (it doesn’t make the blog, its okay only, nothing to try and fervently press on other readers) yet the hype was enormous, the comparisons to other (worthy) books ridiculous and its all clearly books as soap powder, hundreds of not particularly interesting choices done in formulaic style

          I’m probably more minded to read older, better books which passed me by at the time, and seem to have gained appreciative reviews from reviewers who don’t appear to be the author’s publicist, aunt or best friend, and who write considered reviews explaining why the book appealed or didn’t

          A book worm virus would be brilliant. It surely does exist as we are so infected. How to defeat those who have resistance to it is the challenge

  2. FictionFan July 13, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    I agree with LF re the bravery of the project – wouldn’t it be just awful if people couldn’t tell the difference between the bad stuff and the author’s other stuff? *shivers*

    However, just to restore the balance of nature I disagree with LF about tapestries – I love tapestries and think the best ones tell just as good stories as books… 😉

    • Jilanne Hoffmann July 13, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      The Carol King song comes to mind: “My life had been a tapestry of rich and royal hue….” Ah, the 60s. My childhood.

      And why am I not surprised that you disagree with LF?

    • Lady Fancifull July 13, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      Oh, oh, I’ve committed the heinous sin of lack of clarity. I have nothing against tapestires, which are, indeed wonderful. What i MEANT was that someone else’s obsession with car number plates or arcade games which I find incomprehensible, is all part of life’s rich tapestries. And because each book presents in the main insight into someone’s imagination there are a myriad tapestries, as many as lives, out there to be written. I really am not a tapestryphobe. They ARE wonderful.

  3. heylookawriterfellow July 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Yowza! That is very brave.

    I don’t think I could ever possibly reveal my worst writing. I have much of it still in my possession (to keep me humble) and I add to the pile periodically — but I plan to use every last page of it as kindling for my funeral pyre. It will all die with me.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann July 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

      I think there are many writers who think their bad writing will never see the light of day–and then their heirs decide to publish something that was half-baked. But you could write a play based on your worst writing, couldn’t you? Some sort of dark, humor-filled tragedy? 😀

      • heylookawriterfellow July 14, 2014 at 11:50 am #

        Based on the bad writing, sure, but I refuse to use the actual bad writing!

  4. Laurel Leigh July 13, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    But you just know it’s going to be fun and hilarious. I’m curious to see if they admit to editing.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann July 13, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      Yes, that’s a good question. Will they edit to make the bad stuff worse? Or at least less boring. To me, that’s the real “bad,” boring your reader. 😀

  5. Lady Fancifull July 14, 2014 at 4:05 am #

    Thanks for the singalong Jilanne. It was a tapestry and other graphics filled video to,

  6. Letizia July 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    I love this idea. I agree, much bravery is needed. But will also lead to great discussions about their editing processes – and what they’ve learned about it over the years.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann July 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

      That’s a great point, Letizia. I think it helps remind us of how far we’ve come in the process. Not necessarily a bad thing. And it also helps remind us that “the sh#tty” first draft needs to happen before those 50 revisions turn it into something that a discriminating reader would want to pay for and read for pleasure.

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