Tue, Oct 14th – Straight, No Chaser returns to Vesuvio

12 10 2014

Straight, No Chaser: Writers at the Bar

In what has become a Litquake tradition, hallowed North Beach watering hole Vesuvio Café opens its doors for an edgy and hilarious evening reading. This is a rare opportunity to glimpse authors performing new work in their natural habitat. Emceed by Alia Volz.

Here’s where Litseen asks me a bunch of writerly questions for the SF Weekly…

2 09 2014

The Write Stuff: Alia Volz on Not Settling and Being Difficult to Manipulate

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.


  • Kevin Hunsanger

Alia Volz’ stories and essays are found in Tin House Magazine(forthcoming), ZYZZYVA, Defenestration and The Writing Disorder’s “Best Nonfiction of 2012” anthology. She lives on the foggiest block in her hometown of San Francisco with a bewhiskered bookseller and two rabbits. Alia has recently completed her first novel, a mean little cowboy noir in which all of your favorite characters die. Stalk her at aliavolz.com or @aliavolz on Twitter.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them… ?

I’m a Spanish interpreter by trade, so I usually start there. I might also wiggle my fingers in what I think of as the universal sign for writing. It probably looks like I’m threatening a tickle attack.

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

I’m a perfectionist. It can be positive, in that it forces me to craft sentences carefully. But it slows me down. I over-analyze and agonize over inessential details. I spent four years on a novel another writer could have done in two. I am learning to let go, but it’s hard.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Travel. Get lost. Don’t wait until you have enough money in the bank; just sell your shit and go. Buy a plane ticket and trust yourself to scrape cash together in time. It may feel like you’re living in the world, but you’re only living in one version of it, one paradigm among infinite possibilities.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Not really. That’s probably for the best. If I thought I was a big fat success, there would be no reason to write better.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

I’m supposed to link to some silly/snarky clip, right? Nein! I burn time online like everyone else, but not when I’m upset. I gripe, cuss, drink my weight in bourbon, slam doors and cry like a brat. I storm melodramatically down foggy streets with mascara streaming down my cheeks. YouTube is a fine antidote for boredom, but not for rough emotions. If I don’t allow myself to experience discomfort, I’m not living in full color. As an artist and human, I need to feel. Bring on the shit.

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

As an only child, raised by a single mom who was estranged from her family, I grew up disconnected from my ancestors. Recently, I began sorting through the writings and ephemera they left behind: 1,000 pages of memoir penned by my eccentric great-grandmother; my grandmother’s paintings; my great-aunt’s poems published in Ladies’ Home Journal. I feel intimacy with these women — but it’s grown from their art and the stories I make up to explain it. I can’t pick a favorite… though my great-great-grandmother Gertrude Arbo wore the best hats.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

I wanted to be a professional equestrian. There was nothing more thrilling to me than galloping on horseback. And that’s still basically true. I volunteer with the Mounted Patrol in the Marin Headlands, so I ride every week.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I’ll do just about anything — for the good of literature.

I would start in a dress made of forgotten paperbacks and rip the pages off one by one, while the audience is forced to read them. It might take a while, but eventually I’d get naked…

There you go, Litquake. There’s your next fundraiser.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

I just got back from France, so… uh… rien. I do still have a few lonesome Euros rolling around. Do you take Euros?

What’s wrong with society today?

Ha. I don’t know where to start. We’re doomed.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Are you ready to get bowled over by a speeding cornball? I keep falling in love with my own husband. It happens at odd moments, like when I’m writing and he’s singing along with records in the other room. We’ve been together seven years, and the little nothings still do it.

I used to be horribly unlucky in love — until I struck luck. So if you haven’t met your match yet, hang tough. Settling is for the rubes.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Los Angeles destroyed by a Mothra-sized horse.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

I used to worry that my writing wasn’t political enough, that by not focusing on current events, I wasn’t doing my job as an artist. But I’ve come to see all art as political. Even a simple artistic act, like drawing a daisy, is a kind of affirmation of individuality. A flexing of perspective. I think art makes us more difficult to manipulate. Especially these days, with the constant barrage of media manipulation, we need strong inner-worlds, muscular minds. It’s more necessary than ever.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

I’m into horseback riding. Did I mention that? Yeehaw.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve recently begun a novel based on my great-grandmother’s memoir of her forty-year marriage to a ghost. Ouija board courtship, invisible hands, spectral sex… Things are getting weird.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

I’d love to see people look up from their interweb gizmos. Visiting France reminded me that modern living doesn’t require being plugged-in 24-7. Parisians have personal devices, but they don’t stumble around with their noses smashed against screens, bumping into signposts. Cafes are for chatting with other humans, rather than diddling laptops. It depresses me to see MUNI filled with people lost in their gadgetry, avoiding eye-contact. It’s a sad day when Paris seems friendlier than your hometown.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Horse sweat, lemons, the skin behind my husband’s ear. Those are free. For hard-earned cash-money, I splurged on a French perfume built around blood notes (made with real blood!). I feel like such a badass.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

I’d take a dirigible to Paris with Mark Twain. Then I’d go on an absinthe binge with Oscar Wilde, talk midnight smack with Dorothy Parker, slurp oysters and white wine at dawn with James Baldwin and walk the dogs with Gertrude Stein at a civilized mid-morning hour. Somewhere in between, I might let James Joyce smell my farts.

Performing in…Less Than Zero: An Homage to ‘80s Lit, Big Hair & Distressed Denim

15 07 2014

July 24, 2014 – 8:00 PM

Verdi Club
2424 Mariposa Street
$15 advance, $20 at door
Proceeds benefit Lit Crawl 2014
Buy tickets

 The kids in Less Than Zero … are thoroughly narcissistic – they spend a truly astonishing amount of time shopping, going to the hairdresser and worrying about such pressing questions as ‘are my sunglasses crooked?’ And they, too, are willfully intent on numbing themselves to life – Valium, Thorazine, downers and heroin are their favorite drugs; soap operas, MTV, and video games, their idea of recreation. Most of the time, they are too stoned – wasted or strung out – to remember whom they slept with the night before; too out of it to even get to the right restaurant or right party on the right day.”

New York Times review of Less Than Zero, 1985

Welcome to the 1980s, when greed was good, Frankie said relax, and we all wanted our MTV. On July 24, Litquake will flash you back to the Pastel decade, complete with a full-service Dynasty/New Wave makeup bar, Sparkle Motion channeling the Solid Gold dancers, DJ Toph One on the turntables and some of our favorite Bay Area writers reading iconic literary works from the era! Proceeds to benefit the Lit Crawl 2014.

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.—Jay McInerneyBright Lights, Big City


  • Joshua Mohr reading Bret Easton Ellis
  • Alia Volz reading Tama Janowitz
  • Andrew Dugas reading Jay McInerney
  • Hollie Hardy reading from Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge
  • Michelle Tea reading from The Official Preppy Handbook
  • Eddie Muller reading Tom Wolfe
  • Litquake’s own Jack Boulware as Emcee, channeling his VeeJay superpowers

I don’t like him…he makes me feel like he’s going to throw me in a coffin and walk around on top of it.Tama JanowitzSlaves of New York


  • Sparkle Motion dance duo channeling the Solid Gold Dancers
  • 80s DJ Toph One
  • 80s fashion show with looks ranging from prep to punk
  • New Wave/Dynasty makeup bar
  • Vintage films
  • Dress-up bin replete with leg warmers, fingerless gloves, scrunchies, and other glorious items from the cutting edge of ‘80s style

Dress code: shoulder pads optional but recommended!

I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”
— Carrie FisherPostcards from the Edge

Runner-up at the MOTH’s 2014 SF GRANDslam Championship!

3 07 2014

This April, I told a story at the legendary Castro Theater – before a crowd of 1,400 people!

Despite Celtic knots in my belly and severe danger of losing my shit completely – I did just fine, thank you.070

SF Weekly’s 2014 “Best Of” Award!

24 05 2014

Best Writers Without a Book San Francisco 2014

By Evan Karp

Chances are you could make a list of more than 10 people you know right now who deserve to be on this list. In a highly unscientific Facebook poll, 124 participants answered my question: Who is your favorite Bay Area writer without a book? A total of 190 writers were nominated; unsurprisingly, “me” was the most common answer, at 14 votes. To honor that, here are 14 of our must-reads (in no particular order):

Siamak Vossoughi
Writes beautifully simple meditations on living an ethical life, with a lucid voice of reason making sense of the world around it.

Alia Volz
Funny, dark, bizarre, worldly, hyperlocal … Volz is a rare talent who will always surprise you.

Nate Waggoner
With a masterful use of voice that dances the line between sarcasm and sincerity, Waggoner may be best described as hilariously outrageous and absurd.

Graham Gremore
So comically precise in his storytelling that sentences frequently make you laugh just for the tone in which they are written.

Erika Staiti
Currently working on a prose manuscript called The Undying Present, Staiti uses multiple and shifting pronouns for unnamed characters.

Elizabeth Bernstein
The writing coach and Grotto-ite has had stories in the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine and the San Francisco Bay Guardian (she won its fiction contest), and her plays have been produced at theaters including Exit and Impact.

Kai Carlson-Wee
Recent Stegner Fellow who won the Missouri Review‘s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, Carlson-Wee writes poems that contain a calm sort of post-chaos ferocity.

Brittany Billmeyer-Finn
Wrote a manuscript called The Meshes based on the short film and techniques of filmmaker Maya Deren, focusing on the intersections of witness and spectatorship, voyeurism and viewership; when she finished, she translated the work into a play entitled The Meshes in Two Acts.

Nic Alea
Uses a stunning combination of mysticism and body-intensive imagery to address identity and belonging. Co-founded and hosts The New Shit Show, one of the best open mics in the Bay Area.

Cheena Marie Lo
Lo’s writing deals with identity and the other in different ways. From a work in progress: “i am learning how to be in my own body in relation to foreclosure and underwater mortgage rates.”

Marcus Lund
A recent Mills MFA alum who writes some of everything, Lund’s short fiction is packed with wonder and exuberance and often humor.

Mu~thoni Kiarie
Winner of the San Francisco Foundation’s Joseph Henry Jackson Award for her novel in progressThe Secret Ibis, her dissertation at Mills College, Kiarie is an alumna of the Voices of Our Nations Arts program.

Sarah Ciston
Co-author of a forthcoming Invisible City Audio Tours choose-your-own-adventure project called Make It Your Mission, Ciston is finishing a manuscript called Song of Ourselves — an anthemic exploration of the We Generation.

Carolyn Ho
Ho’s work is wry and usually very funny. She’s good at letting things unfold and tying loose threads back together, which may or may not have something to do with her origami expertise.

Performing at THE MOTH GrandSLAM Championship – April 8th!

16 03 2014


San Francisco’s Inaugural GrandSLAM Championship: Fish Out of Water

The Moth presents the GrandSLAM, a battle of wits and words – fierce, hilarious, heartbreaking and all points between. Listen as ten StorySLAM champs tell tales of being out of their element: the freak, the foreigner, dressed for the opera at the clambake, out of the loop, the only person in the loop, the voice of dissent, the lonely fool. Outsider, interloper, odd man out. The black sheep, the chatty monk, the juror with a doubt.

The Moth is dedicated to finding intriguing people to tell inspired stories. At The Moth StorySLAM, those people find us. On this night, using words as weapons, they battle to determine San Francisco’s first-everMoth GrandSLAM Story Champion.

Tuesday, April 8th

Hosted by:
Corey Rosen

Stories By:
Josh Cereghino
Case Conover
Neshama Franklin
Ben Pote
Scott Sanders
Anna Seregina
Maida Taylor
Alia Volz
Brianna Wolfson
and more…

Producer: Jenifer Hixson
Associate Producer: Robin Wachsberger
San Francisco StorySLAM Producers: Anna MacKinnon & Andrew Slusser 

at The Castro Theatre
429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114 

7:00pm Doors Open
8:00pm Stories Begin

$20 tickets available here
Our Host:
Corey Rosen is an actor, director, writer and visual effects artist who lives in San Francisco. Corey began his career writing for Jim Henson Productions and Comedy Central in New York City. He spent 11 years at Industrial Light & Magic as both a computer graphics artist and staff writer for animated feature films. His film credits include The Phantom MenaceTerminator 3The Day After Tomorrow, and War of the Worlds. As an actor, Corey works on screen and stage, including a 10 year run as a main stage company player at BATS Improv, where he improvises feature length plays. Corey is the creator of The A**hole Monologues: A Comedy For Anyone Who Has One, Knows One, or Is Onewww.mrbagel.com @coreyrosen

Our Storytellers:

At age five, Josh Cereghino was sent home from kindergarten, for allegedly biting Mikey Duda. When Mom asked for an explanation, he told his first story, with spaceships, dragons, jetpacks and Kung Fu, explaining that he bit in self-defense when Mike Duda attacked him with nunchuks. Josh learned the value of a good story that day, and he’s been telling stories from his life ever since. Josh is a writer who lives in Berkeley and holds a BA degree in Rhetoric from the University of California. This explains his penchant for storytelling and talking a lot.

Case Conover grew up on the coast of Maine, where his passion for stories, art and circus was born. As a youngster he juggled, unicycled, and clowned his way into the international youth troupe Circus Smirkus. He went on to study visual art at Oberlin College in Ohio before moving to the Bay Area. Case is now the Producer of West Coast Live, a weekly national radio variety program featuring authors, musicians and other cultural figures.

Neshama Franklin lives in Bolinas, works at the Fairfax Library, and has been telling stories since she came to language. She is an omnivorous, eclectic reader and plays this out through a weekly blog, a local TV show hosting Marin poets (both on the Marin County Free Library website), and a local radio show in which she reads what she loves. She’s performed frequently for libraries, camps, and at Tell It On Tuesday in Berkeley. She’s thrilled to be part of The Moth.

Ben Pote hails from Nashville, TN. He made his way to San Francisco three years ago by way of working in restaurants in Baltimore, New York, and Denver, and is now a research and development chef at a culinary consulting firm here in the city. He lives with his fiancee Pilar and two Boston terriers Sadie and Max, and enjoys eating his way through the city, playing the drums, a well-placed pun, and all three extended editions of Lord of the Rings.

Scott Sanders Ex actor, ex new yorker moved to the left coast about 15 years ago and still wrestling with cross cultural challenges. I’ve mustered pocket change as a gonzo international entrepreneur in Asia. I introduced graffiti / urban tagging to the Inner Mongolian territories. I’ve been kidnapped in China and hit by lightning in Brooklyn. I have told tales with The Moth, Snap Judgement, Fireside Storytelling, Porchlight Storytelling and LitQuake.

Anna Seregina is a stand-up comic and performer, described as having the “worst aura.” She was named a “Comic to Watch in 2013″ by the SF Weekly, and is a regular member of the San Francisco-based show the Business. She starred in Joey Izzo’s Stepsister, which screened at the San Francisco International and the Cannes Film festivals in 2013. Most facts about her are true. Most truths about her are facts..

Maida Taylor practiced medicine in the Bay Area for 23 years, before going to work for the dark side of the force, the pharmaceutical industry. She is now a consultant. Born in Brooklyn, she moved to the Bay Area for graduate school and never looked back. Her husband and her kids are native Californians. Though she loves San Francisco, and her east coast accent is long gone, she still cannot shake off her New York edge (aka bitch). When not traveling for work, she can be found scuba diving, gardening, watching obscure foreign films, or walking with a Dandie Dinmont dog named King Arthur.

Alia Volz recently completed her first novel, HOOF, a mean little cowboy noir story in which all of your favorite characters die. The spawn of dope-crazed California hippies, Alia has crossed Spain on foot, seen Fidel Castro speak in a downpour, and made love at the feet of Easter Island’s Moai—but she keeps rolling home to good old San Francisco. Stalk her at www.aliavolz.com.

Brianna Wolfson is a New York native living in San Francisco, California. She spends her days with charts, graphs, colored pencils and ice cream. She buys a lottery ticket every Friday.

Get lit – Get Lucky! Date a Hot Writer!

9 09 2013

Friday September 20, 2013

Tickets available here: http://www.litquake.org/calendar-of-events/get-lit-get-lucky

Come to Get Lit – Get Lucky! and Date a Hot Writer

Crushing on Lisbeth Salander? Aching for Mr. Darcy? Obsessing over Katniss Everdeen? Fantasizing about Jay Gatsby?

Join Litquake for our first-ever literary singles night! Yes, this is a rare night to meet your fellow word nerds. Bring your buddy (for a $5 discount) and make a new friend— we guarantee you’ll go home with a fun prize, a date, or at least a good story!

Featuring a line up of bookish guests including Alia Volz, former host/producer of Literary Death Match, Litquake brings together the sexiest dorks in the Bay Area for your opportunities to meet a brainy girl in a wool cardigan or a cute boy in horn-rimmed glasses. We’ll provide excellent icebreakers, specialty cocktails, and most importantly, other unmarried folks who share your love of the written word.

The highlight of the evening will be our own spin on the Dating Game (let’s call it the Literary Dating Game), in which lucky contestants vie for a date with one of six hot authors of various ages and preferences. See our list of hotties below, and if you’d like to be a contestant (whether you’re straight, gay, or lesbian), email us at  getlit@litquake.org.

Meet the Hot Writers

Cole, ChrisChris Cole is a novelist (Such Great Heights) and board member of Quiet Lightning, and has been published in several anthologies, magazines, journals, websites and bathroom walls. He runs the West Coast office for a killer User Experience Agency called EffectiveUI and he coaches West Marin Little League games like nobody’s business. And, he is nice to animals. Chris is also co-founder of Pints and Prose, the Fairfax-based reading series founded by the Tuesday Night Writers. He writes daily verse and prose under the name Disembodied Poetics.

Karp, EvanEvan Karp’s first hero and alter-ego was He-Man. During recess he and his friends played make-believe on the playground and he never let anyone else be He-Man. Eventually he realized this was wrong and tried to give everyone a proper turn. Playing sidekick made him feel better than being a tyrant and he started to collaborate with others. Since then he’s been kind of a people person. He enjoys bike rides through Marin County, the monthly miracle that is Quiet Lightning, and the conversations he has as a result of Litseen.com. He knows it’s sappy, but he never imagined living the dream would be half this righteous.

Merrill, WendyWendy Merrill was the tall scrawny late bloomer on the sidelines of the seventh grade dance who turned into the sweet-sixteen-never- been-kissed good girl yearning to be bad. Ph.D.s were the norm in her family, yet she aspired to be comfortable on any barstool in the world. In college, she took a class called “Dating and Marriage” — and got an F. Wendy has spent a lifetime conducting undercover operations in the arena of dating and mating, earning her a rich body of data. As a recovering perfectionist, alcoholic and dater, Wendy explores the contradictions of being a woman, and writes about her imperfections with honesty, humor and style, in her memoir, Falling Into Manholes.

Orloff. AlvinAlvin Orloff is the author of three novels: I Married an Earthling, Gutter Boys, and Why Aren’t You Smiling? and is currently working on a memoir that will utterly disgrace his reputation forever.

Thornton, MeghanMeghan Thornton is a poet, short-story author, and aspiring novelist. She serves on the board of Quiet Lightning and volunteers for many other Bay Area literary organizations (including Litquake!). She ticks multiple geek boxes, smiles at dogs, and once convinced a woman on a bus in Cannes to swap shoes with her using only pantomime.


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