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A Guide To Literary San Francisco

A Thousand Lives
Photo Credit: Simon and Schuster

Julia Scheeres is the author of "A Thousand Lives: the Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown," published by Free Press, and the New York Times bestselling memoir "Jesus Land." Below, she shares insight into San Francisco's literary culture.

In an era of fickle readership, San Francisco prides itself on its storied literary heritage. It's the city where Mark Twain earned his writing chops in the 1860s, where Allen Ginsberg blew away his audience with his startling "Howl" in 1955 and where Amy Tan set her remarkable Chinese-American drama, "The Joy Luck Club." And those are just three examples.

Writers Grotto
Photo Credit: Writers Grotto

The San Francisco Writers' Grotto

490 2nd St, Ste 200
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 307-6943

This writers' collective resides in a dull office complex South of Market, but it's been my haven as I've labored through two books. With 33 shoebox offices and a large lunchroom, it's my 9 to 5 job spot, where I get critical feedback from colleagues, teach classes, feel a little less solitary and a lot more professional.

826 Valencia
Photo Credit: 826 Valencia

826 Valencia

826 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 642-5905
Hours: Offices open Mon to Fri 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Pirate Store open daily from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Dave Egger's nonprofit helps neighborhood kids fine-tune their writing skills and offers homework help – all for free. There's also a pirate store, where budding fabulists can stock up on eye patches and scurvy remedies. What's not to love about a place that makes reading hip for the iPod generation?

Litquake Litcrawl 2011
Photo Credit: Litquake


Various spots around San Francisco
October 5-13 2012

The week-long festival showcases national and local talent. On the final Saturday night, crowds swarm the streets of the Mission for Lit Crawl, which features readings at over 70 venues, including alleyways, bars, police stations and Laundromats. This is a truly a bacchanalia of the written word.

writers with drinks
Photo Credit: Writers With Drinks

Writers With Drinks

3225 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Organized by the flamboyant novelist Charlie Anders, this "spoken word variety show" has been packing seats since 2001. You never know what to expect here – a guy doing a striptease on a unicycle or the eloquence of Rick Moody – but Anders' bizarre ad-libbed introductions are half the fun.

San Francisco Public Library
Photo Credit: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The San Francisco Public Library

100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 557-4400

With 375,000 square feet of space, a palatial five-story atrium, and the ability to withstand an 8.3-magnitude earthquake, this modern $125 million Beaux Arts gem is still a sanctuary for a very old-fashioned pleasure: the book. With 1.2 million to choose from, even the most fastidious reader is bound to find something to love.

Julia Scheere's "A Thousand Lives" was published in October 2011.

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