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Get Lost in Words at This San Francisco Literary Show

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A group of audience members watching the Racket live. (The Racket)


What started out as a cozy little get-together at Adobe Books in 2016 has grown into a many-headed beast of literary goodness, with journals, mixtapes, puzzles, prose, poems, and performances. And, strangely, we have the pandemic to thank for that.  

The Racket Reading Series was brought to life by Noah Sanders, a Seattle transplant who came to the Bay Area in 2009. The Racket was inspired by “the million punk shows I’d seen as a kid where there was a national headliner, and then a bunch of local bands who opened for them.” The reading series always has a featured writer promoting their latest book, while the rest of the lineup is made up of local favorites and a few fresh faces who are just getting started in the writing world. “I think of The Racket as a really warm and accepting place for new readers,” Sanders said. “And I love providing an opportunity for someone to be embraced by this community.” 

The punk-rock attitude in the early days included limited edition posters for the readers and brought in folks with the promise of “Free Beer.” A few short weeks after lockdown, Noah brought The Racket to Zoom and started doing weekly events every Thursday. While the first one was disastrous thanks to Zoom Bombers, Noah persisted. 

I wanted to create a consistent space where people knew they could come and lose themselves, just briefly, in other people’s words,” Sanders said. “I’ve heard a handful of times that The Racket Weekly was a life preserver for people during the pandemic. [It] gave them something to hold on to when everything was seemingly coming apart at the seams. Which I always laugh at because The Racket Weekly was what kept me sane during the pandemic.” 

These weekly Zoom sessions not only kept people sane (myself included), but it also kindled some romance between Matt Carney, who handled the security to keep those pesky Zoom Bombers at bay, and local writer Lauren C. Johnson. The two began dating and got married in early 2023, where Sanders served as their official witness. Matt and Lauren now host their own reading series, Club Chicxulub. It is a Racket Love Story!!

It wasn’t just the weekly reading series that helped keep this community afloat, though. Noah also began putting out the online weekly Racket Journal, which started out just containing stories and poems from frequent readers before branching out to include interviews, puzzles, and artwork. The journal now comes out bi-weekly and has just released its 82nd issue. Sanders is always looking for submissions.  

“The journal just seemed like a way I could lose myself in other people’s work and at the same time provide a distraction for every other person trapped within their homes trying not to fixate on the deadly disease right outside their windows,” Sanders said. “I wanted it to feel like a light, momentary distraction when everything else felt so heavy.” 

In addition to the monthly reading series and the journal, Noah also cobbles together playlists containing whatever eclectic music has caught his attention and produces a newsletter. Indeed, Sanders is a well-respected renaissance man who has done wonders keeping the Bay Area literary community alive and thriving. 

Once the pandemic “ended” and it was deemed safe to start doing live events again, The Racket found its new home at vibey bar The Sycamore in the Mission. In fact, they are having their next show on Thursday, May 25th at 7 p.m. where Francesca Bell will be the featured reader promoting her latest poetry collection, What Small Sound. The beer is no longer free, but you will still find a place to lose yourself in other people’s words.    

“A Lit Lover’s Happy Place” is a series by Casey Bennett is 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.

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Follow Bennett on Instagram @the_litminded

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