Local Current Blog

Wordplay literary festival will kick off with Rock Bottom Remainders performance at First Avenue

Authors Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Amy Tan, and Stephen King perform with the Rock Bottom Remainders in 2007. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

On May 11-12, the Loft Literary Center will stop traffic in the East Town neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis to make way for more than 100 writers and thousands of eager readers at the largest literary festival the Twin Cities has ever seen.

“Anybody who thinks of Minnesota should think about books,” said Britt Udesen, the Loft’s executive director, at a Thursday event announcing the lineup. “We aim to raise the profile of our literary community and put literature at the center of civic life in our community by gathering thousands to be inspired, challenged, provoked, and galvanized around the power of the written word.” This will be the most ambitious endeavor the organization has undertaken since its founding in 1974.

Wordplay attendees will have the opportunity to interact with award-winning authors through a series of workshops and readings unfolding over the course of the weekend. From locally-based heroes like Marlon James and Nora McInerny, to emerging talents like Sandhya Menon and Morgan Parker, and literary legends such as Jamaica Kincaid and Stephen King, the event is chock-full of authors ranging in genre from fiction and nonfiction to picture book and poetry.

Music fans can also get ready for a special performance that is set to kick off the weekend at First Avenue on Friday, May 10. The Rock Bottom Remainders are a band comprising authors who, among them, have more than 150 published works, sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, and have been translated into more than 25 languages. They also, hilariously, rock out. The group formed on a whim at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention and have peppered the world with performances ever since featuring rock star writers such as Amy Tan, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Dave Barry, music journalist Greil Marcus, and more.

The group’s lineup has varied over the years, but Udesen promises the First Ave event will see the largest reunion of original members in years — due, in part, to the draw of the venue’s legacy.

The performance is “the best way we could be playful with words,” says Steph Opitz, Wordplay’s founding director. The aim of the concert (besides to bear witness to Stephen King’s singing voice) is to broaden the appeal of the festival, and play with the kinds of interaction people often have with authors. Fans might get to see Mitch Albom two ways: discussing literary craft and powering through a rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.”

Wordplay tickets go on sale Friday, March 15 and start at $10. (Attendees 17 and under are free.) Rock Bottom Remainders tickets are $40 and will be sold by First Avenue. An on-sale date will be announced soon.