Most people throw the prefix “pub” in front of the word “crawl.” But local writer and author Jason Norman decided to shirk that tried-and-true formula somewhat to bring the first ever WordCrawl to the city. Organized by the same crew that puts on the successful “Words with Friends” events (which includes noted Edmonton poet and writer Kasia Gawlak), WordCrawl is “also the love child of an orgy between a literary reading, a poetry slam, a songwriting showcase, and a pub crawl,” according to the event description on Facebook.
I spoke with Jason Norman over email to get a better idea of how WordCrawl came about — and full disclosure, I’ll be one of the people acting as a judge at WordCrawl:
How did the concept for WordCrawl come about?
The concept for Word Crawl was something I’ve had rattling around in my head for a long time. I never talked to anyone about it until I was sure that it was something we could get done ourselves. It’s a simple idea that takes something like a literary reading and gives it legs (or in this case, wheels) and makes it more lively and dynamic. As it should be.
Was it easy or hard to convince Awesome Edmonton to support WordCrawl?
I think Awesome Edmonton was very enthusiastic about this idea. They had just given money to another arts based initiative the month before so I think there was some hesitance to give money to another one. The Awesome Edmonton Foundation wants to be seen as a group that wants to help any great idea in Edmonton, not just an arts one. Ultimately, the best idea was chosen and that’s what is important.
What about the venues? Did you need to do some arm twisting to bring them around to the concept?
Venues were fun to approach. At first we thought we would do the crawl in mostly independent book stores in the city. However, issues of space and timing just didn’t let this idea work out. Audrey’s is still on board and we’re really excited to be working with them. Kasbar and Expressionz were pretty good about seeing how this was a larger event and even though they may have preferred their venue to be filled with people all night on a Saturday, this was a crawl and even though each place plays a lesser part in the evening, when you put it all together you get a GREAT event. That will reflect positively on these venues for a long time afterward.
How have ticket sales gone? How have people reacted to the event?
We are new to ticket sales. Usually our Words with Friends events are free and people just kind of decide to show up whenever they feel like it. Those events have always had great attendance. Now we are trying to sell tickets to cover costs of some venues and refreshments and, of course, the bus. It’s not much money but it’s still a Saturday night in Edmonton so there are lots of things to compete with. Ticket sales have been slower than we initially hoped, but steady. I know we’ll see a lot of people showing up at the last minute and filling the bus to capacity. Lots of people think this is a great idea. This is a one of a kind event for Edmonton and there are some really great artists involved.
Assuming a successful inaugural WordCrawl (how could it not be?), what’s next?
After a successful Word Crawl I think we will be able to finally exhale and then enjoy another beautiful Edmonton summer and all the events that it’s filled with. Words with Friends will come back in the fall and we’ll keep trying to find unique and original ways to bring people out to see great writers and musicians. I want Words with Friends to become more of a household name in this city.
Why do you think these kinds of events — Story Slam, Words with Friends, and WordCrawl — are quickly gaining popularity in Edmonton?
Events like ours are gaining ground in the city because they’re filling a need. For a long time there weren’t many events like this and now there are options, which is good. We need a lot more though. We can’t just wait for festivals to come around once a year to celebrate fiction or poetry or things like that. We are getting people together about as regularly as we possibly can and we’re supporting great artists and that’s bringing out and encouraging other great writers and poets and this is how you build a real community of artists. They need a place to meet and to perform and they also sometimes need a reason to keep writing. It helps to know that there is an event you can go to once a month or so and read something you just wrote or sell some chapbooks you made, things like that. Especially for the younger artists who are just starting out.
Is there anything you’d like to mention that wasn’t covered off by these questions? Because you should say it right now.
The Words with Friends collective is very excited about Word Crawl. We think that this is something the city hasn’t seen before. It is going to be a really fun evening.