Brave New Whirl: Talking Literary Trivia with COVEN

As Lit Crawl 2021 draws nearer, literary and media enthusiasts across the Boston area are surely getting excited for any of this year’s sessions. One session, “Brave New Whirl” hosted by the Charitable Organization of Very Enthusiastic Nerds (COVEN), offers a particularly exciting opportunity for pop-culture experts, with a literary trivia wheel and prizes for attendees. In anticipation, we spoke to Marisa, a member of COVEN, about Lit Crawl, what it means to be a “nerd,” and more. Remember to register for Lit Crawl 2021 here!

BBF: What can audiences unfamiliar with COVEN expect or look forward to from your Lit Crawl session and Literary Trivia Wheel?

Marisa: As our name suggests, from us you can always expect enthusiasm! Enthusiasm for books, enthusiasm for Lit Crawl, and enthusiasm for testing the knowledge of fellow book lovers through an obsessively detailed activity—in this case, a custom, handmade prize wheel! You’ll stop by, answer a trivia question, and then (if you answer correctly) spin the wheel to determine your prize, which could range from a literary-themed button to your choice of a book. And while you’re there, we’ll also give you a chance to vote on what our next trivia event will be. 

BBF: How do you define “nerd?” Clearly it’s a positive, but what do you think really embodies the spirit of the title?

Marisa: Great question. We consider ourselves nerds because of our heightened affinity for specific topics, which tends to always result in deep dives verging on obsession. Whether it’s evangelizing the perfection of Schitt’s Creek to anyone who will listen, meeting weekly over Zoom in the middle of a pandemic to watch Doctor Who together (because a couple of us had not seen it and that can not be allowed to stand), or attending every Lit Crawl and literary trivia together, we are constantly channeling our aforementioned enthusiasm into some form of pop culture/art. 

BBF: What has been your favorite part of working with and fundraising for the Boston community? Do any specific events stand out in your memory? 

Marisa: It’s been incredible just to see how many people come out and support the organizations we’ve raised money for. We only charge $5 at the door, but we’ve always raised significantly more than $5 per person thanks to the generosity of the people who show up at our events. We had only been doing this for about a year before the pandemic hit, but the first event we ever did is definitely a highlight. We hosted Schitt’s Creek trivia to raise money for Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. We just thought it would be a fun way to raise money for them leading up to their annual walk, and we were at peak Schitt’s Creek obsession at the time. We had no idea how many people would actually show up. But in the end we filled the restaurant with 50 attendees, many of whom dressed in costume, and we raised $1,200. The energy at that event and the elation we felt afterward was magical and motivated us to do more. 

BBF: How has the past year shaped your approach to events, outreach, and/or community building, both virtually and as we return to in-person? 

Marisa: We have managed to pivot to virtual events during the pandemic and have held four of them so far. A silver lining is that we have been able to reach people outside of the Boston area for these events. The downside is that Zoom fatigue is real, for us and our audience. But as we’ve continued to witness the horrific results of systemic racism over the past year, we’ve felt more motivated than ever to make a difference. We’re trying to put our enthusiasm toward raising money and awareness for the people and organizations who most need allies right now. And now we have both in-person and virtual approaches in our arsenal!

COVEN’s Lit Crawl drop-in activity, “Brave New Whirl,” will take place on June 10 at Cambridge’s Starlight Square, from 7-9pm. For more information and to register, visit the Lit Crawl schedule.

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