Transforming a weeklong literary celebration with live author readings, creative workshops and panel discussions into a pandemic-proof digital event was a major undertaking.
In the end, Kate Peterson, EWU’s Get Lit! Programs director, along with Claire Walla, a graduate student assistant, and their team of seven student interns took the event online – and got it right.
This year’s Get Lit! Festival, held in mid-April, featured 60 author appearances and 30 interactive events. The quality of the digital events – and the enthusiastic participation – earned the longtime literary celebration the Inlander’s 2021 Best Virtual Arts Event award.
“It’s super exciting that we were able to win this year,” Peterson says. “It validates a lot of our hard work.”
In 2020, pandemic closures hit hard leading into the festival. Zoom wasn’t yet a household name, and there was no window for planning. Fortunately, Peterson and her team had a bigger window to get creative with the 2021 online festival. They focused on making the festival dynamic and accessible, with drop-in chats and live sessions with break-out rooms.
This year’s celebration included a mix of live events via Zoom and prerecorded offerings that attracted nearly 3,800 active participants – up about 800 over last year. Another 400 or so people dropped in post-festival to view Get Lit! videos posted to YouTube.
Peterson, who became event director in 2016, said this year’s virtual activities counted attendees from throughout the US and Canada, as well as 22 other countries, including the UK, Mexico and Indonesia.
This year’s event featured a guest appearance by Jess Walter, a critically acclaimed local author who has published nine books. His most recent, The Cold Millions, is a fictionalized account of the struggle between workers and corrupt employment agencies during Spokane’s 1909 “free-speech fight.”
In addition, participants engaged in a variety of discussions about timely topics, including the climate crisis, recidivism in the criminal justice system and the Japanese American experience during WWII.
The 2022 festival, scheduled for April 21-24, will bring some changes. Previously a weeklong event, the festival will transition to a long-weekend format, with activities running Thursday-Sunday. (For festival updates, visit www.getlit!festival.org)
“We have some exciting plans for next year that we can’t wait to announce this fall,” Peterson says.