Photo by Kelton Sears

Short Run Is Coming! (Sleep When You’re Dead)

Prepare for the small-press and comics festival’s bountiful offerings all this week.

It’s an overwhelming year. We’re all overwhelmed by the presidential election; we’ve been overwhelmed by the continual cycle of cool celebrities dying; and Seattle’s incredible growth—and attendant anxieties—has been impossibly overwhelming all year long. Everything has been overwhelming for so long that we’ve forgotten what it is to feel whelmed. You’re probably hoping I’ll explain that we’re in for a rare quiet week in the literary arts, with one big reading and some smaller group readings. Ha, ha—nope! Prepare to be overwhelmed again, motherfuckers!

Seattle is hosting not just one but two literary-minded festivals this week. The Spring Street Center presents the latest edition of the Cascadia Poetry Festival (, in which poets gather to discuss what exactly a Cascadian tradition of poetry means. Poets are pouring in from all over the area to take part in one of the few artistic celebrations of the region that doesn’t ignore the politics of what it means to be Cascadian.

And all week long, cartoonists and small-press folks are celebrating the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival ( at (mostly free) events around town. The week kicks off with four international cartoonists on Nov. 2 at the Central Library—(see the calendar for more details)—and then on Nov. 3, Mexican cartoonist Inés Estrada offers a bilingual cartooning workshop for kids at the library’s South Park branch. On Nov. 4, Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery is hosting an art show, Marathon, a special preview of cartooning maestro Dash Shaw’s upcoming animated feature film, and a reading from local comics rock star Tom Van Deusen.

But that’s all just preamble for the big show: the sixth annual Short Run Festival on Sat., Nov. 5. Nearly 300 artists from around the world will show their work in one of the fastest-growing festivals of its kind. Part of the thrill of Short Run is how overwhelming it is: You just walk in, wander around, and see what speaks to you. Last year I was blown away by work from Seattle paper-craft cartoonist Mita Mahato, Robyn Jordan’s #shoutyourabortion-themed minicomic, and the weirdly beautiful comic series Coin-Op out of California.

Because wandering the floor can be, yes, overwhelming, Short Run’s programmers have set up various sideshows, including a speed painter, animation shows, a community coloring project, and a comic called Arctic Circle that forgoes the visual to tell its stories through the sense of touch. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s also an afterparty at Washington Hall featuring killer musical acts (also see calendar for details). So go ahead and be overwhelmed: Maybe you can get some sleep next week. Short Run. Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center, Free. All ages. 11 a.m. Sat., Nov. 5.

Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at

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