The Tastiest Wordplay Dishes, Delivered to You

Wordplay Banner 2020 Virtual

This Saturday marks the finale of virtual Wordplay. We had events ranging from author panels to story times to happy hours, and each one was so insightful and delightful, I wish I could watch it all over again. 

"But wait!" I exclaim as I raise my pointer finger, a perfect imitation of the Shamwow Guy. "I can!"

Putting on a five-week virtual festival with less than a month of notice had its challenges, a major one of which was timing. We wanted Wordplay to be as accessible as possible (catch that $0 price tag), but given work/kids/general anxiety, we knew there wouldn't be a one-time-fits-all solution. So we made the investment to have all of our events recorded.

To make the enormous archive that is Wordplay 2020 more palatable, I've broken our events up into bite-size groupings that will hopefully appease your literary appetite while being conscious of time restraints. So pour yourself a beverage, order delivery from your favorite local dive (tip your driver!), and settle in for the main course.



Author Claire Comstock-Gay, AKA Madame Clairevoyant, graced us each week with a reading for another Wordplay author and a discussion of their book, culminating in a session focused on her own work. Tune in for an introduction to an array of excellent books and how they reflect their authors' star charts.


For Your Entertainment

Raise your hand if you just want something to pull you out of your quarantine-day-fifty doldrums. *Looks around.* Yeah, that's what I thought. Want to be spooked? Laugh? Tune out to music? Feel like you're brunching with the babes again? We've got it all right here for you—and you won't even have to put on real pants.

  • Spooky Story Time with Ben Percy: grab a flashlight, turn out the lights, and huddle together to listen to Percy read from his newest book, Suicide Woods, a collection of short thrillers, horrors, and spooks
  • Hoppy Hour with Samantha Irby: if you're looking to awwww at bunnies, laugh until you cry, and possibly cringe from second-hand embarrassment, this quick reading from Irby's newest book, Wow, No Thank You, is for you
  • Poetry House Concert with Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson: Laidlaw, a poet-songwriter, and Hanson, vocalist-instrumentalist, collaborate for a joint poetry reading and concert, all from the comfort of your couch
  • Debuts Brunch: highly anticipated debuts Kawai Strong Washburn, Gabriel Bump, Brandon Taylor, Rita Woods, and Dennis Staples gather to chat about their books over the most important meal of the day


In Celebration

Most of my favorite books right now are those that recognize and honor something. Not necessarily books that are primarily happy or optimistic but books that are a salute, even if in a complex manner. That's what each of these titles is, a celebration:


Inspirational Women

Any author is inspiring just by merit of writing a book, but these women—the authors and subjects of these featured book, alike—show what it means to aspire to greatness and inspire others to do the same. Let their sessions shine a little light during the pandemic dullness. 


Kids and Teens

Don't get me wrong, these sessions are meant for any and all viewers, but this course was especially curated for children, preteens, and young adults. Along with a brief reading from each book, they'll get to hear how their favorite authors come up with ideas and make them come to life on the page.

  • Story Time with Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox: join as Stutzman, author, and Fox, illustrator, read aloud from their hilarious picture book Llama Destroys the World
  • Loft Wordplay and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Book Club with Kate DiCamillo: DiCamillo gives a reading from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and answers all of your questions about your favorite rabbit
  • Middle Grade Roundtable, featuring Max Brallier (the Last Kids on Earth series), Kacen Callender (King and the Dragonflies), Omar Mohamed (When Stars are Scattered), and Jaqueline West (The Collectors series) 
  • Teen Scene, featuring Debbi Michiko Florence (Keep It Together, Keiko Carter) and Sayantani DasGupta (The Chaos Curse
  • YA Round Table, featuring Melissa de la Cruz (The Queen's Assassin), Len Vlahos (Hard Wired), and Deborah Wiles (Kent State)
  • Black Girl Magic, featuring Junauda Petrus (The Stars and the Blackness Between Them) and Ashley Woodfolk (When You Were Everything), moderated by Patrice Caldwell (A Phoenix Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope)


Mysteries, Conspiracies, and Cover-Ups

Take a break from your favorite murder podcast to check out these four events, each focusing on a fictional or historical whodunit. In the case of the former, you'll learn how to create a riveting mystery on the page, and in the case of the latter, you'll learn how these investigators followed their leads to uncover unbelievable stories.


On Belonging

What does it mean to see yourself reflected in the world? To cross boundaries and borders and find your likeness? How do you combat distraction, disappointment, stereotypes? How do you weave together cultures, the past and the future, perception and reality? These though-provoking sessions explore each of these questions.



Sometimes, the most effective way of calming your brain is to listen to someone else's beautiful words. These sessions, focused on and championing poetry, are a mental deep breath, an ode to the lovely things in life. 



The environment, the opioid crisis, investigative journalism, and international relations—these sessions are sure to quench your thirst for interrogative fiction and hard-hitting nonfiction. 


She Persisted

Not that it's news, but being a woman in society can be . . . challenging. Be it in a workspace, a relationship, or just walking around on the street, we encounter hurdle after hurdle. And it can be depressing. And suffocating. And infuriating. These works don't tamp any of that down; they write into it, exploring those feelings, and applaud women who do something about it.


A Toast to Family

Just in time for Mother's Day. It's been a trying time to be a parent (or so I've heard—my two fancy rats haven't given me much feedback lately): homeschooling, entertaining, trying to help your child cope while figuring out how you're going to cope. Each and every one of you deserves to indulge in your food or beverage of choice and relax to the soothing sounds of parenthood being championed in all of its messy, exhausting glory.


Translation and Language

With our impromptu platform stretching across the globe, we were thrilled that our lineup included both authors and translators and that we were able to sit down and discuss the dual art forms of writing and translating, conversations that were able to encompass language and communication as a whole.



Illustrators, visual artists, and people who enjoy watching how something is made, this course is for you. It's got a little décor, a little cultural exploration, a little competition. Be ready for creative inspiration to strike (or to completely overhaul your work space, whichever).