In the past, the lit crawl has taken place in Brooklyn and Manhattan. But as the Queens literary scene gains more attention, the crawl will be showcasing neighborhoods in the borough as well as some local talent. The first lit crawl will actually take place in Long Island City on April 7 with the next crawl scheduled for Forest Hills on April 28. Both events will feature the same participating writers, which works out since it is physically impossible to witness all the readings in one night.
Neighborhoods such as Astoria and Jackson Heights may have more of a literary presence due to its larger amounts of writers groups, workshops and reading series, but Forest Hills is on a constant battle to bring back literacy programs. Organizers at the Queens Book Festival, who also organized the lit crawl, took notice of the community uproar earlier this year when Barnes and Noble closed on Austin Street.
“We were involved with some of the community activism that was involved,” Johanne Civil, founder of the Queens Book Festival, said. “Since we were not able to influence the outcome, the next step at large was to find ways to substitute for the lack of such a big institution.”
The initiative of opening a new book store in the area, The Queens Bookshop, as well as the addition of the lit crawl in the neighborhood are ways to continue the area's interest in literature until a permanent resource returns to the community. Civil added that although the event has been getting bigger than organizers originally expected it to be, the need for engagement in the community is genuinely there.
The crawl will begin at 6:30 p.m. and run until 2 a.m. Attendees can listen to poetry and storytelling while participating in giveaways and games. Currently in the works are more surprises for attendees. Writers featured include Mike Dressel, Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons, Mark Pagan, Elizabeth Frank, Nelson Lugo, Edgar Cabrera and Heather Archibald. Forest Hills resident and MC, Lecresha Denise Berry, will also be doing a reading.
Even though the event is centered around literature, Civil hopes that it will be a social event that brings the community together as well as shed light on the tourism and nightlife happening around the borough. Most venues in both Long Island City and Forest Hills will offer food and drink specials to those attending the readings, which is meant to be a reflection of the culinary scene happening in both areas.
“The whole idea of the crawl is not only to bring forward the literary aspect of the festival but also get the community members and businesses involved,” Civil said. “We also want something for the parents; we want to make sure they come for a night out and they could hopefully support us.”
The crawls have also been adopted in Queens as a means to fundraise and publicize the Queens Book Festival on August 7 at Citi Field. The festival will have four stages: the main stage, the people plate series, the children’s aisle and also a young adult space. The festival serves as a way for the literary scene, which has been brewing for decades, to finally come up to the surface.
“With other boroughs, they have one identity, but when you’re in Queens, you usually say you’re from certain neighborhoods like Astoria or Jamaica Estates,” Civil said. “This community has been here but we are so into our own little neighborhoods and niches that we don’t know about each other and that’s the purpose of the festival.”
It’s for us to be in one location, as one unit, doing one thing together, so that people could understand that we are one community.”
Tickets start at $20, although you can possibly find discounted offers if you are a student. Tickets could be purchased at www.queenslitcrawl.nyc