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Satish P. Jayaraj, founder of the Cracked Walnut literary series, shown reading at the Little India grocery store in November 2012. Photo courtesy of Cracked Walnut.

Satish P. Jayaraj, founder of the Cracked Walnut literary series, shown reading at the Little India grocery store in November 2012. Photo courtesy of Cracked Walnut

It’s a good time to be a bookish sort in the Twin Cities. From March 18 to April 12, the Cracked Walnut Lit-reading Festival is holding readings by local writers at coffee shops across St. Paul and Minneapolis (with one stop in Duluth) almost daily: four weeks, 21 readings in 21 different venues, featuring more than 120 writers. The line-up is impressive, including a mix of fiction and creative nonfiction, spoken word and poetry by writers established and emerging alike, plus live music, good food and drink.

Among those reading are many whose names you likely recognize: fiction by Charles Baxter, Kelly Barnhill, John Reimringer and Thomas Maltman; poets Wang Ping, Sheila O’Connor, Deborah Keenan, Katrina Vandenberg and Sun Yung Shin; raconteurs Andy Sturdevant and John Jodzio.

Hamline University MFA grad and fantasy writer Satish Jayaraj started the Cracked Walnut literary series a couple of years ago, in the summer of 2011, as an experiment – he wanted to explore the possibilities of live readings and see if he could draw wider audiences to local literary events by taking writers outside their usual settings in libraries and bookstores. In addition to hosting events in coffee shops and bars, Jayaraj has held a number of Cracked Walnut readings in more unorthodox venues: a funeral home, an Indian grocery store, an ice skating rink.

According to the Cracked Walnut website, the goal of this literary series is to innovate how readings of local writers’ work is handled, where they’re staged and, by extension, who they might reach: “to bring talented voices to new and targeted audiences to foster a love of spoken literature, community and creativity.”

The Cracked Walnut Lit-reading series runs from March 18 - April 12 in 21 different coffee shops across St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth. Image courtesy of Cracked Walnut's website.

The Cracked Walnut Lit-reading series runs from March 18 – April 12 in 21 different coffee shops across St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth. Image courtesy of Cracked Walnut’s website

Find the full schedule of readings on Facebook and the Cracked Walnut website, with links to authors and participating venues: http://www.crackedwalnutreadings.org/upcoming-readings.html.

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