The journey from writer to author is a challenge in any market, but for writers determined to make it in Peru’s publishing world, it can be a very public one, played out in front of a rapt audience.
In a twist on the famed lucho libre wrestling matches, a group of writers and publishers in Peru have teamed up for Lucha Libro, a literary “wrestling” competition that takes place once a week at a bar called La Noche. Wannabe authors don masks and duke it out on stage in the hopes of winning a book contract with the Solar editorial house.
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Instead of hitting their opponents with piledrivers and chokeslams, though, according to PRI, competitors are given three random words and five minutes to write a winning short story, which is then broadcast to the audience via a laptop hooked up to a giant screen. Their work is then judged and the losers are unmasked, while the winners move on to the next round of the contest. Whoever wins the final round will have six months to finish their book before they too are unmasked for the first time at the Lima Book Fair where their book will be released.
The contest isn’t just about finding the next Mario Vargas Llosa or Carlos Castaneda, though. “It’s also about changing the idea that literature is boring. This turns it into an event. Because it’s not just about the opportunity for a young person to become a writer,” said writer Christopher Vasquez, one of the founders of Lucha Libro. “It’s also about having a place for young people to hang out – and to read.”
And also to engage in vicious book deal sparring, of course.