Getting Lit: Every Month Poets and Writers Converge on Ingleside for Raucous Reading Series

A featured perform reads at Lit Night at Ocean Ale House.

Every third Monday, local writers and poets gather at an Ingleside bar and grill for Lit Night, a reading series that draws both experienced and new writers alike to share their creative works.

Now into its second year, Lit Night is hosted by Ocean Ale House and consists of a packed schedule of about ten featured readers followed by a raucous open mic session.

“You see authors being vulnerable, funny and raw, allowing a rare window into the life, passion and work of our local community,” co-organizer and City College of San Francisco Department of English instructor Michelle Simotas said. “It’s energizing, and it’s something I look forward to every month.”

For a literary reading on a Monday night, Lit Night draws a crowd. There are usually 30 attendees. On busy nights the crowd can swell to 45. (Disclosure: The Ingleside Light is a sponsor of the event.)

No one mode of writing is featured at Lit Night; fiction, nonfiction and poetry are all given equal space. Readers often read pieces exclusively written for the event, or they read excerpts from longer works in progress.

Featured readers loosely adhere to a theme — usually a single conceptual word such as “friendship” or “dread” — but the theme is primarily intended merely to serve as a point of inspiration for readers. There is no penalty for creative deviations. Whenever readers explicitly use the theme word in their stories or poems, Lit Night host Neil Ballard unfailingly takes note of the mention during his interstitial monologue.

“Lit Night is terrific,” Ballard said. “We have readers from all backgrounds; it’s entertaining to the point it can get a little chaotic; and it’s helped me and others become more comfortable with public speaking, for which I am grateful.”

During the open mic session, some participants play instruments, break into song and encourage audience participation in often unexpected ways. During November’s Lit Night, Ocean Ale House co-owner Miles Escobedo read an original piece to the delight and surprise of the room.

“It’s important to us to support different forms of expression,” Escobedo said. “With Lit Night, we support the literary types the way that we support the other creative people in our community with our monthly schedule of live music, comedy and everything else. At Ocean Ale House, we’re all about giving space to all the various forms of expression that humans need in order to exist.”

Lit Night’s success is owed in large part to the creative talent fostered by the Department of English at City College of San Francisco. Simotas organizes Lit Night with the help of local cartoonist Neil Ballard, who hosts the event. 

Lit Night Details

When: Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. 

Where: Ocean Ale House, 1314 Ocean Ave. 

Note: The theme will be “Comfort”

For more information about Lit Night, visit www.litnight.org.