While its name may seem grim, Death Rattle Writers Festival, a four-day gathering of literary artists that takes over downtown Nampa each October, has a very positive goal: to revitalize the Treasure Valley lit scene by offering a platform for performers from a diversity of backgrounds, experience levels, races and sexual orientations. This year, the festival will pack 60 performances into four days.
"We want to make the invisible, visible. We want to make the impossible, possible. We want to make the unstimulated, stimulated," the DRWF website reads.
The festival, founded by two young literary idealists who now serve as its leading board members, grew out of that desire, and they chose the name Death Rattle—literally "the last breath in a body"—to lend a sense of gravitas to their mission.
"It's a reverberation of a raw expression," said co-founder and poet Diana Forgione, earning nods from fellow board members Dig Reeder (co-founder, painter and playwright) and Sarah Pincock (singer-songwriter and comic artist).
Because of its unique mission, IDWR both seeks out and attracts outsider artists. The board members, who are diverse themselves, make a point to host minority-specific events like this year's LBGTQIA Readers Showcase and the story session "Motherland: A Story Collage of Refugee Experiences," which will put the Treasure Valley refugee community center stage.
The festival will take place at a variety of locations in downtown Nampa, including Flying M Coffeegarage, PreFunk Beer Bar, the Nampa Public Library and Lloyd Square. While most of the performers had to apply for their slots, there will be a Keynote Poet (author/dancer/actress Serena Chopra) and six Spotlights—Quentin Baker, Jayy Dodd, Indrani Sengupta, Robert Lashley, Rachael Jensen and Mike Young—chosen by the board for their talent and diversity.
Attendees are invited to sit in on readings of poems, short stories and flash fiction as well as hip-hop shows and one-act plays, free workshops and boozy adults-only parties. What may be the highlight of the festival, however, is the Death Rattle Book Fair, which will open PreFunk Beer Bar and the Wall-Street Alley for writers of all stripes to sell their published works, including chapbooks, comic books and zines, without paying for booth space.
"We just want people to have this outlet," said Pincock, who organized the book fair. In every way possible, Death Rattle is looking to give artists a leg up.
While the event will certainly be action-packed, Forgione says the board has "super lofty" goals for the future that go far beyond a four-day weekend. Their plans include a brick-and-mortar location for Death Rattle in downtown Nampa that would serve as a dedicated space for workshops, performances and peer feedback year-round. If they have room for a bookstore, even better.
"We want to build Death Rattle into more of a regular and dependable community resource," said Reeder. If the board's ambitions are anything to judge by, Death Rattle is a nonprofit to watch—there are still more voices to be heard.