The hallowed halls of the Shanghai International Literary Festival will soon be ringing to the sound of raucous laughter, a healthy dose of ridiculousness and goodness knows what else. Readers, brace yourselves: after successful stints across Europe, the US and more recently in Beijing, Literary Death Match is coming to Shanghai.
Ann Heatherington is Executive Producer of these feisty and sometimes downright ferocious affairs, and kindly took time out from her busy schedule to chat with CreativeHunt about what lit-lovers can expect from the JUE Festival highlight.
"Literary Death Match is a competitive reading series that features four emerging and established writers each of whom read seven minutes of their most electric work in front of a panel of three all-star judges who evaluate them on the basis of literary merit, performance and intangibles". Notoriously hard to pin-down, past 'intangibles' have included a Laser Tag Duel, Literary Card Sharks, Name That Tune and a lucrative-sounding Cash Advance Money Grab.
This is how it works: writers compete one-on-one in two rounds, and after each round, the judging panel spout off-the-wall, hilarious "critique," and then select one reader from each round to advance to the finals to decide who should be crowned Literary Death Match Champion.
The international events are the brainchild of Todd Zuniga, Founding Editor of Opium Magazine. According to Ann, he's a firm believer that "great writing, humor, and entertainment can and do connect authors and readers from all corners, rather than just preaching to the lit choir".
This refreshingly inclusive approach naturally extends to audiences: "College students and editors, business people and plumbers, housewives and artists - we've had every kind of person attend, and everyone has a blast. Performance judges are often actors or musicians, Literary Merit judges might be authors or critics, Intangibles is often fielded by a comedian. Bringing people from outside the literary world attracts a wider audience and helps the show be both hilarious and relatable. Writers tend to bring work they wouldn't read at a bookstore or other traditional venue, and the audience is invariably plied with libations, so a good time is invariably had by all!"
LDM has clocked up a whopping 28 cities to date, and organizers seek nothing less than global domination: "We've already featured almost 500 writers, and thanks to our loyal fans spreading the word, we're approached by cultural and literary festivals in all corners of the world. We'll go just about everywhere. If anyone wants to bring LDM to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Mumbai or Melbourne, we're game". There are even, Ann reveals, plans to televise the battles, bringing some LDM magic to the masses.
It's testament to the events' winning formula that LDM's format remains consistent despite its globe-trotting ways. Explains Ann, "Actually, we've found that it need not change whether we are in Edinburgh or San Francisco, Minneapolis or Amsterdam, Los Angeles or Beijing. Local flavor usually comes from featuring local talent and home-grown celebrities. When we do festivals like this one [Shanghai International Literary Festival/ JUE], we've also got the luxury of attracting some of the best international writers out there".
The event promises to be quite the night to remember, and with the likes of short story writer Nancy Conyers, crime-writer SJ Rozan and Irish poet Martina Evans vying for the LDM crown, it's a must-attend wherever your interest lies. The line-up of judges is no less stellar, with China specialist and local legend, Paul French, Lit Fest founder Michelle Garnaut and award winning novelist Vikram Chandra rating pugilists' performances.
By all accounts, the event will be a lot of fun. If your preconceptions of literary readers are that they're highbrow, snobbish or just plain boring then think again: "Every show is unique and we never repeat the same line-up twice. It's a live show - you never know what will happen. When we come to town, a lot of folks come out looking for something entirely different that will make them laugh, and maybe even make them a little bit smarter".
The gladiatorial goings on will take place at Glamour Bar on Friday 18 March. Tickets are available here and are a steal at 65rmb, including one drink. If you're feeling lucky, though, drop us a line here with the subject line 'To the death" quick smart - we have two pairs of tickets to give away. Get emailing and good luck!