Wed. May 29th, 2024

When my best friend Erin Satterthwaite and I founded the literary reading series Car Crash Collective, we hoped that it would take us to some crazy places. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine one of those places would be Boise, Idaho—home to Treefort, a festival that’s been dubbed “the SXSW of the North.” Not only does the fest boast a lineup of musical performers, but the programming also includes film screenings, lectures, and even yoga lessons.

Erin and I were invited to host a poetry and prose showcase as part of “Storyfort,” the festival’s division for writers. What follows is a breakdown of our three days in town, plus photographic evidence of our odyssey through Arts and Culture.


10:00 a.m.: Erin and I were lucky enough to snag the same row on this flight. We feel like two kids in the back of a school bus on the way to summer camp—partially because we’re giddy with excitement, partially because the flight attendant is leading us all in a call-and-response clapping exercise.

11:03 a.m.: The same flight attendant has us all sing “Happy Birthday” to his colleague. She insists that it’s not her birthday.

11:22 a.m.: I ask Erin to open my boxed water for me. She obliges.

1:39 p.m.: We touch down in Boise! A text from Sam lights up our phones: Treefort intern Max Schwartz is outside to pick us up. We slide into the backseat and find ourselves in the company of two literary icons. Megan Nolan, author of mega-acclaimed novels Acts of Desperation and Ordinary Human Failings, sits in the passenger seat. Beside us in the back is Christoph Paul, the mastermind behind indie press Clash Books. Clash has been on my radar for a while; they publish books I can tear through in one sitting, books that might be described as Lynchian, Cronenbergian, or even Arakian. Erin and I gush about Earth Angel, Clash’s short story collection by Madeline Cash (co-founder of NY-based lit mag Forever).

Max is happy to play the part of tour guide. He introduces us to the chain restaurants we haven’t seen before (“What’s Dutch Bros?”), regales us with tales of Idaho potato kingpins (“Simplot family controls all the potatoes,” I jot down in my Notes app), and gives us the lowdown on local vintage shopping.

2:00 p.m.: Our hotel is in the heart of Boise. The neighborhood has a welcoming college town feel: everything is walkable, and adorable ice cream parlors, shops, and dive bars can be spotted on each block.

3:37 p.m.: After taking a breather, we dash over to Ochos, the wine bar that will become our center of operations for the next few days. We slip into the upstairs ballroom just in time to watch Michelle Lyn King of Joyland and Jillian Luft of X-Ray, two of my favorite lit mags, discussing their protocol for submissions. Jillian notes that a good story should feel like “a skeleton hand clutching my heart and massaging my brain at the same time.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Before we duck out for dinner, we spot Anika Levy, the other Forever Mag co-founder. Three years ago, when I was roaming around the East Village during a Big Apple stint, I wandered into KGB Bar and found myself at the magazine’s launch event. Just out of Catholic school and recreationally rocking the pleated skirt look, I was reeled in by the Forever girls’ use of religious imagery: they even performed the sign of the cross before introducing themselves, a post-ironic gesture that affirmed the literary reading as a sacred space. Over the years, I came to admire Madeline and Anika’s curation—they snapped up everyone from Eileen Myles to Allie Rowbottom for their glossy, immaculately designed print issues. Since Erin and I started Car Crash, we’ve developed a virtual friendship with Anika—and now we’re meeting her in the flesh for the first time. We greet each other with a round of big hugs.

Another familiar face is Sam Berman—not only a brilliant writer but the guy who organized this whole shindig. I’ve seen him in lit mags, in my email inbox, and on Zoom meetings, but never three-dimensionally. “You’re real!” I call out.

4:45 p.m.: Erin and I debate dining options until we land on an answer—the Artists’ Lounge, duh. After we get our all-access wristbands, we load up our plates with food from catering and explore the space. A shelf is stacked with free books from Rediscovered, the local bookshop. We grab two titles on female obsession—The Girls by Emma Cline (loosely based on the Manson murders) and Big Swiss by Jen Beagin (about a fascination with a gynecologist, soon to be adapted into an A24 series).

Erin Satterthwaite posing outside the artists’ lounge

6:30 p.m.: It’s back to Ochos for the first big literary reading of the weekend, hosted by Anika. Highlights include Jon Lindsey (co-founder of Cash for Gold and author of quintessential LA alt-lit novel Body High) reflecting on a long-ago trip to prison, and Ben Fama (EIC of Wonder Press and patron saint of New York poets) ruminating on the writings of Christian mystic Simone Veil. “Sick of the discourse, sick of the vibe,” he repeats—a modern-day prayer.

10:17 p.m.: After exploring the festival grounds (for some reason, there’s a larger-than-life statue of Abraham Lincoln by the stage), we mosey over to Dirty Little Roddy’s, the hottest dive bar in Boise. A Western-themed mural—ideal for iPhone photoshoots—reads, “Roddy’s made me do it.” Cages and poles—free real estate for enthusiastic patrons—flank the stage, where a DJ spins an array of 2010s hits (including David Guetta’s “Sexy Bitch” and Pitbull’s “Timber”). A mechanical bull bucks and brays in the center of it all. I know I’m about to have the time of my life.

Everyone from Storyfort is here—everyone says they will give Roddy a spin (is the bull the eponymous Dirty Little Roddy? I assume the bull is Roddy.)

Anika Levy with a bonafide bull rider at Roddy’s.


10:30 a.m.: The best way to recover from a wild bull ride? Yoga. Erin and I dash over to Yogafort for Harmonic Flow, a session with RN and yogi Erika Hill and sound healer Emily Clark. Soothing tones play as we shift from warrior pose into downward dog. I feel whisked away to another planet—the only indication that I’m at a festival is the band around my wrist.

12:02 p.m.: For breakfast, we join Ben and Taylor Lewandowski (journalist and owner of Dream Palace Books in Indianapolis) in sampling the spuds at Moon Kitchen, a cute cafe nestled in a shopping center. The guys have a panel right after this, and I couldn’t be more excited. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more sobering examination of public tragedy and celebrity culture than Ben’s debut novel, If I Close My Eyes—it starts with a mass shooting at a Kim Kardashian book signing and doesn’t let up from there.

2:00 p.m.: Somehow, Erin and I wheedle our way into moderating. We discuss how celebrity adoration can feel spiritual, in a sense—after all, isn’t fandom about devoting yourself to a far-off ideal that will never be fully knowable?

2:53 p.m.: After the panel, we slip out with Anika to check out No New, Boise’s go-to vintage shop. There’s no recycled Shein or Princess Polly in sight—everything here is a beautifully constructed 20th-century treasure. Highlights include a knit “Happy New Year 2000” sweater that takes “Y2K” to the next level, a rack of Gunne Sax, and a lacy party dress that reminds me of what Samantha Parkington (my favorite American Girl Doll) wore for Christmas. It’s hard not to take everything home, but I only have so much room in my carry-on.

3:30 p.m.: We dash back to Ochos for a panel on small presses, with Christoph representing Clash and Jon, Nathan Dragon, and Harris Lahti representing Cash for Gold. A hot topic is the forthcoming C4G release Sillyboy—the debut novel by cult filmmaker and actor Peter Vack. I eagerly snatch up an ARC, which boasts an image of the purple Care Bear (“Sweet Dreams Bear,” a Google search reveals) on the cover. The goofy placeholder design is a hit. Apparently, a copy went for $250 on eBay, proving the dedication of Peter’s following.

6:30 p.m.: Erin and I are hosting tonight’s reading. We’ve got some heavy hitters on deck, including Bud Smith (author of the Badlands-esque Teenager) and Halle Hill (whose Good Women was named a 2023 Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews). I’m especially partial to a story by Kyle Seibel (a fixture on my Twitter feed) about a house with a roller coaster next door. Pseudonymous poet and performance artist Lily Lady, sporting a bomber jacket that boasts their chosen last name (remarkably, it’s not a custom—they thrifted it), concludes the night by leading the audience in Mad Libs.

Ben Fama and Lily Lady chilling after the reading

10:30 p.m.: We migrate to Neurolux to see Canadian artist Marci, who describes herself on Insta as the “tallest woman in showbiz”—and does indeed have a model’s height. We shimmy to the front of the crowd and drop our bags off by the stage so we can dance. Jazzy, ’80s-influenced bop “Immaterial Girl” gets an especially big reaction. As we twirl around, we wave to our friend Josh Da Costa, who’s banging the drums.

12:05 a.m.: Sometimes the ideal “afters” is stepping outside with the smokers. We catch up with Josh, who also plays with Drugdealer and CMON and has an NTS Radio Show. He introduces us to Al Robinson, guitarist for Nabihah Iqbal and fellow NTS DJ. Al hails from Manchester. He lets us in on some local lore: apparently Paul Ryder of the Happy Mondays really loved going to T.K. Maxx.

Josh Da Costa and Al Robinson having a smokE


10:30 a.m.: Saturday kicks off with a very special visit to Rediscovered Books—for my first book signing! I’m sharing a table with Parker Willis Young, whose collection bears the unforgettable title Cheap Therapist Says You’re Insane.

11:30 a.m.: Parker and I head back to Ochos to join Anika and Cash Compson (author of laugh-out-loud funny poetry collection People Scare Me) for the first-time author’s panel. Of all our books, Anika’s debut novel Flat Earth is the only one that hasn’t yet been released. I read in Publishers Weekly that it follows a young woman who’s jealous of her best friend’s artistic success. Here, Anika shares some additional info—the novel will also deal with the predicament of parents who fall into conspiracy theories. She adds that she wanted the cover to be a photo of her and Madeline Cash recreating the famous image of a nude Eve Babitz playing chess with a clothed Marcel Duchamp, but her publisher rejected the idea. A girl can dream…

1:15 PM: Erin and I dash off to the Idaho Film Society—a cozy theater tucked away in a converted Greyhound station—for the screening of Sam’s World, Lily’s first feature film. Lily’s a true auteur—they wrote, directed, and stars in this coming-of-age tale. Watching their character, Sam, chat with her friends at a diner, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on a real conversation, to the point that I’m inspired to ask Lily during the Q&A how much of the dialogue was improvised. The answer—none, surprisingly, leaving me in awe of their naturalistic writing style. Apparently, Lily’s next film will drop the same character into suburban Massachusetts with a totally different milieu. Why should the alternate universe framework be limited to the action and sci-fi genres? they argue. I have to agree.

3:23 p.m.: Lily, Erin, and I explore the local culture by checking out the Boise Art Museum. We’re immediately drawn to Indigenous artist RYAN! Fedderson’s Coyote Now, a mural that imagines the prototypical trickster-hero Coyote in a variety of modern-day situations, from typing at a laptop to getting fired for sleeping on the job. The installation is interactive—museum patrons can grab crayons to fill in the line drawing with colors and patterns. We add our own shades and swirls to the living artwork.

6:09 p.m.: We return to our beloved Greyhound station for… a group photo! After arranging ourselves by height and, of course, posing for a “silly one,” we dash off to the food hall, The Warehouse, for treats. We push two tables together, making one. Again, the summer camp vibes are strong.

9:07 p.m.: All weekend, we’ve been hearing about the pool at Anika’s hotel, which supposedly contains “water features.” We all head over to check it out. The sight of so many of my favorite authors and editors splashing around like kids is surreal, but surely stranger things have happened in literary history. Of course, we duck under the giant mushroom, play around in the waterfall, and pose for pics by the plastic palm tree.

Anika Levy, Shy Watson, and Taylor Lewandowski enjoying the water features

11:44 p.m.: At the end of the night, all roads lead to Roddy’s—at least for me, Erin, Anika, Shy Watson (author of poetry collection Horror Vacui and @formermissNJ on Insta—I believe it), and Taylor. After a go at Chekhov’s Test Your Strength Machine (all bars should have a contraption with blinking lights that patrons are invited to defeat in order to win a tech device from the year 2010), it’s time for us to hit the dance floor. This time, we’re not hearing any Akon or Kesha—turns out we’ve walked into country night.

We wonder aloud if the DJ would spearhead a four-minute indie sleaze revival by playing The Dare—first as a joke, then seriously. I persuade him by slipping him a $10 bill and telling him that it’s Erin’s birthday. “Erin, this one’s for you!” he calls out as the opening notes of “Sex” resound. Much to our chagrin, maybe eight people walk off the dancefloor… but it’s crowded again when “Cotton Eyed Joe” plays. There’s no option but to get into formation and kick up our heels—the perfect final scene. When in Boise…


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