By Ryan Rivas, Publisher of Burrow Press
SPONSORED – The last time Literary Death Match came to Orlando, four years ago, it ended with frosting-tipped Nerf darts flying at a huge portrait of Jack Kerouac. Which is why it makes sense that LDM, now in 57 cities worldwide, has been called “the most entertaining reading series ever” (LA Times), is said to be “helping to revitalize the coolitude of the printed word” (Interview Magazine), and is generally receiving all kinds of gushing praise.
Here’s how it works: the live show brings together four writers to read their most electric work for seven minutes or less before a panel of three all-star judges. After each pair of readers, the judges take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary, then select their favorite to advance to the finals. The two finalists compete in a vaguely literary competition (think: Nerf darts) to determine who takes home the LDM crown.
Burrow Press is thrilled to bring LDM back to Orlando as part of our 5-year anniversary celebration this October. It’s always been part of our mission (in addition to publishing books) to foster literary community in Orlando, as well as showcase our city’s amazing talent to the rest of the world. We are serious about literature, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and so this is the perfect event for not just writers, but readers, book-lovers and lit-nerds of all kinds to come out and see what the Orlando lit community is all about.
Plus you’ll get to see four of the area’s most exciting writers: Erica Dawson (award-winning poet, author of The Small Blades Hurt), Kristen Arnett (fiction and essay writer, winner of Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction), David James Poissant (2015 LA Times Book Prize finalist, author of The Heaven of Animals) and Kristin Harmel (international bestselling author of The Life Intended and The Sweetness of Forgetting). They’ll all be playfully “judged” on Performance, Intangibles, and Literary Merit. The third category will be judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. No pressure.
As the event approaches, I can barely contain myself. In order to calm down, I asked LDM co-founder, Adrian Todd Zuniga, who happens to be residing in Orlando at the moment, about how it all started, and how Orlando stacks up against the rest of the world.
Q&A WITH ADRIAN TODD ZUNIGA
What was the impetus behind starting LDM, over 9 years ago?
Our goal has always been to make literature a celebration, and to organically integrate literary genius with comedic brilliance and a vaguely literary goofball finish to leave the crowd floating on a cloud of wit, lit and lightness. Literary Death Match was the format that allowed us to fit all of that in.
Since then, LDM has been to all over the world. Which city is your favorite? Which city is the weirdest?
I’d say LDM cities are like our children, and we don’t have favorites, but that’s not true! For fun, we started naming our City of the Year back in 2010. Last year was Portland, Maine. The year before was Reykjavik, Iceland, which is also the weirdest. The most fun: LA. My favorite: maybe Oslo? Or Nashville? Or London? Every city has such brilliant charms, it’s tough to have a favorite. Though if the Norwegian government allowed it, I’d move to Oslo tomorrow.
How does Orlando stack up against the rest of the world?
We’re about to do our third in Orlando, which puts it on LDM par with Beijing, Paris, Montréal and Glasgow. Amazing company! Beyond that, Orlando’s like most cities––it has a handful of crazy-talented people within arms reach. The aim is to come back annually, at least.
What brought you to town? What are your impressions of the city as a temporary resident?
I came to do a writing project for Electronic Arts, and while I’ve known there are great writers around, the great part about living in town is that I’ve discovered Orlando has a ton of super-hilarious people (through SAK and the improv world). Also, the sandwiches at Pom Pom [Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria] trump any sandwich, anywhere.
Have you developed any Orlando habits?
I’m a huge fan of Stardust––it’s my go-to for writing, for tea, for random meet-ups. I’m there an embarrassing amount of time. Also, vegan blueberry muffins at Drunken Monkey. Also, Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux for healthy food. And pretzels at Olde Hearth at the East End Market (which is so rad). I just realized I rarely go outside of a four-block radius of my home. Redlight Redlight is my farthest jaunt, and that’s a 54 second drive from my front door.
You’ve also been working on your own writing here. Will you share a few words about your current fiction project?
I started a novel 11 years ago and have rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. After “finishing” it in November, I went on an agent hunt, and one felt the way about the book that I feel about the book, and after getting his superb notes, I’m editing it into what will be submittable shape. It’s been an awesome journey, and I’m really hopeful this will be my debut novel.
If you had to pick a place in Orlando to prominently feature in your book, what would it be?
I’d say Hanson’s Shoe Repair. I love the hidden and the mysterious and the excellent. It always feels like, when you praise a speakeasy-type place, that you sound like a pretentious a-face. But I like that place. So, mea culpa.
What should the uninitiated expect on October 7th?
Fun. Intelligence that’s not condescending. Surprise twists that just make you think: how is this possible? How is this something that exists? Then, after, flirting with the smartest people in the entire city.
Literary Death Match, Orlando Ep. 3 Benefitting Burrow Press
Wednesday October 7th
Mad Cow Theatre 54 W. Church Street, 2nd Floor
7 p.m. Doors, 8 p.m. Show
$12 pre-sale, $15 day of event
Tickets at burrowpress.com/tix