Washington Books: Pie & Whiskey

Sam Ligon and Kate Lebo, founders of Pie & Whiskey, now have a new book.
Sam Ligon and Kate Lebo, founders of Pie & Whiskey, now have a new book.

Pie & Whiskey: Writers under the Influence of Butter & Booze

written by Cara Strickland

Six years ago, Kate Lebo, author of The Commonplace Book of Pie and Pie School, and Sam Ligon, professor and novelist, hosted the first Pie & Whiskey reading in Spokane, born of their experiences that people become convivial around sugar and booze. The event was a hit, and now happens every April at the same time as Spokane’s Get Lit! literary festival. Their book is a collection of essays, stories and poems, paired with recipes for pie (and some for cocktails). You’ll find words from Pie & Whiskey readers, as well as new pieces written especially for the collection. We chatted with the editors to give you a taste of how this collection came to be.

Pie and Whiskey inspiration

This book grew out of an event the two of you masterminded. Would you tell me a little bit about how it came about and what it’s like now?
KL: We were at a writing conference. Writers are weirdos and often nervous about talking to each other. We had this party, we made this pie and then threw in a bottle of whiskey. All of a sudden the writers could talk to each other.
SL: We just did it the first year for fun. The next year we made three pies and asked all the writers to come.
KL: Commonplace Book of Pie was coming out, and Sam had the brilliant idea to take the social buzz that we had kind of noticed from our pie and whiskey gatherings and turn it into a really fun community reading. We asked a baker’s dozen of Spokane-based writers to write on either pie or whiskey. We made ten pies.
SL: Maybe we had six fifths (of whiskey) total.
KL: We were hoping that fifty people would show up. Something like 200 people showed up. The next year we did twenty pies, we got double the amount of whiskey. Three hundred people came. Now our numbers are hovering between 300 and 400 every year. It’s been really fun to keep tapping all the great writers in the Inland Northwest—we’ve even expanded to some Seattle and Montana writers.
SL: We gave the writers prompts. We said, ‘This is about the pie, it’s about the whiskey, and it’s about you, in that exact order.’ They brought incredibly good writing to the event.

Pie and Whiskey: from culinary delight to printed book

What made you decide it was time for a book?
SL: Each event we do in Spokane generates a little mini-book of the reading. We had a bunch of those and the writing was so good we thought, ‘Should we collect these in a book?’ The answer was yes. Then we got to add to it. We asked eight people to contribute larger pieces, Kate got to write killer pie recipes based on those longer pieces, and I wrote cocktail recipes.

What are you hoping to leave readers with as they read this collection?
SL: We want them to have fun with it. We think the book is playful.
KL: And that you can find fantastic writing within this kind of sweet package. I’ve always thought of writing about pie in particular as this way to approach really difficult subjects through something that is quite easy and sweet and that everybody loves. If I start with a subject everybody has an interest in, I can do a lot of surprising things with it and get to harder places.

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