Quiet Lightning started as a submission-based reading series featuring all forms of writing, selected through a blind process by two different curators each month and composed into a literary mixtape: each author reads without introduction or banter, so that their words take meaning from the context of the previous readings, and together form a composite work of art. The writing is published as a book featuring cover art by a local artist, and the books are handed out to the first 100 people at each show.
We’ve now presented 1,100 readings by 700 authors, selected by 50 curators, published in 80 books and performed in 70 venues—from dive bars and art galleries to state parks and national landmarks.
This year we received city funding to pay all of the artists and make the shows free. Now that people are being paid, we want to see if we can make this magic sustainable. To do that, we need to pay one person a living wage. An angel investor will match our goal if we make it!
If we do, we'll soon be hiring.
Here we are in a cave, in the darkness listening: the ocean slamming against the cave, the words : the ocean as we : the cave, passing the flashlight,
on our knees in a bookstore, in all of the aisles, the entrance, the gallery, we the museums,
in the basements to listen, we’ve been to the patio and into the theaters, in the alley throwing books from bar windows, in the conservatory of flowers, a dinosaur roaring across the greenhouse, the crickets are real,
we’ve presented 6-18 year-olds reading to their families, we got their autographs, we paired readings and chef-cooked meals to a theme, we put people on stage with their heroes, as equals—
we followed student with teacher not because we knew but because their work made sense together, one followed the other, we’ve rented a bus and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge together, unforgettable times, on the bus because two people we didn't know made a composite work of art from our art, that’s how we met each other.
The shows are free and all of the authors are paid, the visual artists are paid, the book designer and art directors are paid, and the curators are paid. The shows are filmed, put online, and rebroadcast on public access television.
Anyone can participate. Authors are selected anonymously, by different people every month. And they get paid to do it! We’re encouraging people to express themselves and supporting them for doing so. And we’re giving them an audience. And we’re giving the audience, the public, this expression for free—not only live, but to take home with them.
175 artists will be paid; 15 small businesses will have a large gathering of people fill their storefronts with bodies; 25 people who have never been published before will be published; 15 people who have never shared their work in public will read to a large attentive group of strangers—every year!
Our authors have won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction; the Pushcart Prize, all of the San Francisco Foundation awards; the Pulitzer; the American Book Award; MacArthur genius grants; you name it, people who have been reading to crowds for a living leave Quiet Lightning amazed:
“It’s exciting and refreshing to see such a variety of writers, from those just starting out to the well-published and well-awarded, share the same stage and perform for a large and enthusiastic audience,” says Guggenheim inspiration Kim Addonizio. “Anyone who thinks poetry, books and literature are endangered in the digital age should attend a Quiet Lightning reading. But “reading” doesn’t do justice to what this organization is making happen: it creates literary events that people want to come to, in order to experience writing that is variously hip, intelligent, moving, funny, devastating—and a hell of a lot of fun.”
“No overly trumped up stuff just ‘here we all are together and isn’t that a great thing.’” — Toni Mirosevich
“Amazing. Not an event. A moment.” — Isaac Fitzgerald
“The sort of thing you remember forever.” — Kevin Killian
“A reading we'll never forget.” — SF Weekly
“This is one of my favorite reading series.” — Stephen Elliott, The Daily Rumpus
“Undoubtedly the city’s flagship literary event…” — Jonathan Hirsch, Asterisk Magazine
“Quiet Lightning’s monthly readings are unlike any other in the Bay Area.” — KQED
"It is difficult to attend any reading without running into writers who have been impacted by Quiet Lightning…. Collective alchemy… some ingenious formula…. Maybe what matters most about Quiet Lightning is this paradox: that the anonymous nature of its form ultimately facilitates community.” — LA Review of Books
“Better than church for writer-folk.” — Sarah Bugden
Each book is available for free online, w/videos of the live performances linked into the text:
"Quiet Lightning is the best thing that's happened to the San Francisco literary scene in a long time." — Michael David Lukas
“I’ve never had more fun at a reading.” — Laura E. Davis
"Seriously—such an amazing event. I feel so lucky to have been able to participate! Absolutely beautiful event." — Miquila Alejandre
“Quiet Lightning is simply the most fascinating reading series you’re bound to see this decade.” — Daniel Yaryan
“I’m happy to see Quiet Lightning continue to grow. There’s hope in this world.” — Michael Palmer
“Some pieces were intimate and serious, others outspoken and absurd. But I came away knowing I loved Quiet Lightning, for its inclusiveness, enthusiasm, and most importantly for its lack of cultish unspoken rules.” — Chris Peck the Town Crier
“It wasn’t the fleeting thing I’d had at other readings; the fix. This connection lasted.… I've often wondered: Where would I be without Quiet Lightning? It’s not so hard to imagine. I’d be exactly where I was before: standing in the corner of a dark, crowded bar, longing for the light.” — Meghan Thornton
“Truly magic, what QL puts together. Every time.” — Doug Cordell
“An immersive personal experience of literary community. Real, accepting, friendly, interested, sincere, and honest community. And all you have to do is show up.” — SB Stokes
“A kind of town hall of the Bay Area literary scene.” — Neha Talreja, SF Weekly
"The readings at Quiet Lightning encourage the notion of community in collective listening with an uncommon sincerity. When I have read stories at Quiet Lightning events, I have wanted to live up to that sincerity. I have wanted to do my best reading because I’ve seen people doing their best listening. And that naturally means that I’ve gone back to my desk the next day with an even greater desire to do my best writing." — Siamak Vossoughi
“If I were any more proud, beams of sunlight would be bursting through my body and blinding you…” — Evan's mom
We've been named “One of San Francisco’s Favorite 49 Charities” by 7×7 Magazine and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this year included us in the #YBCA100, “asking the questions and making the provocations that will shape the future of culture.” With little time to write grants we've received support from the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Leslie Scalapino O Books Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
We need this money to continue to do this work. We've built a solid foundation, but we need at least one full-time, paid staff position to maintain it. We hope to be hiring soon!
We make art the currency that brings us together. We pay for art, we invest in its making, because art is the currency that brings us together.
We have an angel investor who is willing to donate $15,000 to our build-a-staff fund… but only if we can make our Kickstarter goal; if we don't make it, we don't get the donation.
With $30,000 we can not only make an ongoing investment in the larger community of Bay Area artists, but also shape a new job and begin to build a staff that's paid a living wage, so that this roving, egalitarian platform for expression of all kinds, and the community it builds and inspires, will continue long after we're gone.
- Our comprehensive calendar of Bay Area literary events
- Our weekly series of interview profiles of Bay Area writers
Each donation to this campaign is tax deductible, minus the cost of your reward.
Risks and challenges
We have produced at least one show every month for the past 70 months, and published a corresponding issue of sPARKLE & bLINK for every show except our special events, which have yielded two separate multimedia magazines, a short film and a feature-length film, three chapbooks, and a visual art exhibition. So the challenge we're tackling is actually scaling back our production to focus on 12 shows/year while we consolidate our operations into actual jobs, invest in the infrastructure of the organization, and focus on the future in addition to the present. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions—firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)