Love Stories

Red Light Lit explores sex and romance in Healdsburg

Bay Area collective Red Light Lit isn’t afraid to get taboo. The small press and ongoing reading series, co-founded in 2013 and led by San Francisco writer and editor-in-chief Jennifer Lewis, is a platform for emerging and established writers to explore topics of love, relationships, sexuality and gender in a safe setting.

Often appearing monthly in
San Francisco, Red Light Lit makes its way north to Healdsburg this weekend for a night of poetry, song and storytelling on Feb. 10 at Harmon Guest House’s Rooftop Bar.

“The majority of the performers are female or identify as female or non-binary person,” says Lewis. “Red Light Lit is a safe place for women to talk about sexuality.”

Transcending the titillation of erotica, Red Light Lit’s mission is to inspect the complexities of sex and romance, with personal stories of intimacy and identity coming from a diverse range of experiences.

Last year, Red Light Lit published its first book, Love Is the Drug & Other Dark Poems, that covers the spectrum of
sex from more than 30 writers and artists.

Headlining this weekend’s event is musician Josiah Johnson, best known as one of the frontmen of Seattle indie-folk band the Head and the Heart.

“He’s a lyrical songwriter who evokes that intimate mood of connection,” says Lewis. “He’s providing the romantic portion of the show.”

Red Light Lit will also feature San Francisco poet and musician Sarah Bethe Nelson reading from her new poetry collection, Illuminate the Ruins, and poet and memoir writer Allyson Darling crafting personal poems on-demand for audience members. Lewis, herself an accomplished writer, will be reading a piece, as will Sonoma County journalist, documentarian and essayist Scott Keneally, best known for his film Rise of the SufferFests.

“He’ll be bringing the comedy,” says Lewis.

Accompanying the readings and music will be projected artwork from Santa Cruz–based gallery the Art Cave, showing images from their current exhibit, “Come-hither,” that celebrate the body and sexuality through illustrations, paintings and sculptures. Along with projected images, film composer David Williams will provide a musical score to the poetry.

“The show is highly curated,” says Lewis, who selects the performers and chooses which piece they will present from several submitted works.

“I curate it by picking the pieces that speak to each other, it’s almost presented like a play,” says Lewis. “It looks spontaneous because it’s really unrehearsed, so it has that excitement of a live show.”

Audience members are often inspired to share their own stories after attending a Red Light Lit event, and Lewis encourages everyone to do so. “The more we talk about things, the more compassionate the world becomes,” she says. “We share these stories so we can understand each other.”

Sonoma County Library