How This Mission District Literary Show Leaves You Happier Than You’ve Ever Been
BY CASEY BENNETT
Happy endings aren’t all that they are cracked up to be. What’s so good about characters riding off into the sunset and living “happily ever after”? Boring.
What is not boring is Happy Endings, the monthly reading series, held the second Tuesday of every month at The Make-Out Room in the Mission District. Happy Endings, which debuted in January of 2019, brings together five writers to read a story (or an essay, or poems) that contain happy endings. The founders and co-hosts of the series, Joe Wadlington and Danielle Truppi, like to point out at the start of every show that there’s no “mandate” that the pieces read at the event have to end on a happy note, but, according to Truppi, “sometimes there are silver linings or shifted perspectives or really cathartic laughs.”
The seed of Happy Endings sprung out of two other long-running reading series, Shipwreck, a monthly erotic fan-fiction event held at Haight-Ashbury’s The Booksmith that ran from 2013 to 2018, and Write Club, an event wherein writers would go head-to-head on literary themes which, according to their Twitter page, ran from 2011 to 2016.
“When Shipwreck was coming to an end…Casey Childers [who was another founding member before leaving in April of 2019] was interested in bringing something like Write Club back to Make-Out Room,” Truppi explained. “Something that had themes and a competitive element, but wanted the money to go to writers.”
Yes, that’s right: One element of Happy Endings that sets it apart from other reading series is that they pay their writers. More on that later, but, like Shipwreck and Write Club, Happy Endings is also a competition where judges from the audience select a winner. The winner gets to come back next month and also receives a little bauble.
And, if you like the double entendre of Happy Endings, credit goes to Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who was the first-ever judges’ favorite. “We thought this was brilliant — a cheeky wink to Shipwreck’s legacy and an interesting and versatile lens to hold the show together,” Truppi said. Wadlington and Tokuda-Hall were grand champions of Shipwreck, and the former doted on how Shipwreck “would always put me in a good mood. So I wanted our series to be a dependably uplifting space.” The event is less about hearing happy stories and more about being in a happy place with happy folk.
To reel in that happy feeling, each month has a theme. Some of the past themes have included “Heartthrobs and Demi-gods,” “Sand, Witches, Sandwiches,” “Dynamic Duos and Static Clingers,” and “Period Piece,” which was the theme of April’s event and included pieces not only about menstruation, but of the actual grammatical symbol. “We want them to be constraining enough that each show has a thematic through-line and that we don’t cover the same topics again and again, but have enough flexibility that writers can really surprise us,” Wadlington said.
Speaking of the writers, Happy Endings has featured a bevy of authors, poets, journalists, teachers, stand up comics, drag queens, scientists, and other speakers from different disciplines read on stage.
“Danielle and I have both been active in the Bay Area lit scene for years, so we’re lucky to know tons of interesting and successful writers. We keep them in a healthy rotation and we love being able to give our stage to a Bay Area writer with a new book out,” Wadlington said.
Wadlington also explained how “Casey Childers was known for giving brand new writers a shot (including Truppi at the time) even if they’d never been published before. So we make a point to pay that forward and don’t require performers to have notable experience.” Speaking of pay, the readers get paid! The event has no cover charge, opting instead to encourage attendees to donate to the show via Venmo. Wadlington gushed that “over the years we’ve raised thousands of dollars that went directly to local writers.”
So, if you are free Tuesday, May 9th, the theme will be “Exercise, Exorcism.” It’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been.
“A Lit Lover’s Happy Place” is a series by Casey Bennett is a native son of San Francisco, a native son of San Francisco, graduating from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Creative Writing. Books are his best friend. Seriously. He was bestowed that honor by his high school English teacher. He runs the Facebook group, Lit Events for the Lit-Minded, which attends the many different author readings and literary events around the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently working on a coming-of-age superhero novel. You can follow him on Instagram at @the_litminded.
Follow “Happy Endings” on Instagram @happyendings.show
Follow Bennett on Instagram @the_litminded