WeHo Reads x Literary Death Match

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. PT

The City of West Hollywood and WeHo Reads are partnering with Literary Death Match for what promises to be a blazingly-bright night of lit, wit, silliness and belly laughs, to boot. This is Literary Death Match’s first-ever show in West Hollywood!

Wednesday, November 8 · 7 – 8:30pm PST

City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room

625 N. San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069

RSVP on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weho-reads-x-literary-death-match-tickets-709709770027

Our brilliant lineup is set to ensorcell and inspire with judges Timothy Simons (actor, Veep), Rasheed Newson (TV writer, showrunner and author of My Government Means to Kill Me, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist) and Pickle (West Hollywood’s Drag Laureate), and readers R.K. Russell (former NFL player and author of The Yards Between Us), Melissa Chadburn (activist and author of A Tiny Upward Shove), Jessamyn Violet (drummer and author of Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar) and Kyle Seibel (veteran and short story scribe). There will be a special bonus reading by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Jen Cheng, and other talent to be announced.

This in-person event is free to attend. Please RSVP here to attend. More info at www.weho.org/wehoreads.

Book Soup will be at the event selling books written by the readers and judges, and an after event gathering will take place from 8:30pm -10pm, location TBA.

Literary Death Match, co-created by Adrian Todd Zuniga, marries the literary and performative aspects of Def Poetry Jam, rapier-witted quips of American Idol’s judging (without any meanness), and the ridiculousness and hilarity of Double Dare.

Each episode of this competitive, humor-centric reading series features a thrilling mix of four famous and emerging authors who perform their most electric writing in seven minutes or less before a lively audience and a panel of three all-star judges. After each pair of readings, the judges — focused on literary merit, performance and intangibles — take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary about each story, then select their favorite to advance to the finals.

The two finalists then compete in the Literary Death Match finale, which trades in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurd and comical climax to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown.

It may sound like a circus — and that’s half the point. Literary Death Match is passionate about inspecting new and innovative ways to present text off the page, and the most fascinating part is how seriously attentive the audience is during each reading. Literary Death Match has been called a great literary ruse: an audacious and inviting title, a harebrained finale, but in-between the judging creates a relationship with the viewer as a judge themselves.

WeHo Reads is a literary series presented by the City of West Hollywood. More information and events at weho.org/wehoreads. BookSwell, a literary events and media company dedicated to lifting up writers from historically excluded communities, is producing the WeHo Reads 2023 season. Additional support is provided by UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and Poets & Writers as well as media partnerships with Bookshop.org, Book Soup, and Los Angeles Review of Books.


Timothy Simons

Timothy Charles Simons is an American actor and comedian best known for his role as Jonah Ryan on the HBO television series Veep, for which he has received five nominations and one win for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. He has also had acting roles in the films The Interview, Christine, and The Boss. – IMDb Mini Biography By: Bonitao

Rasheed Newson

Rasheed is the author of My Government Means to Kill Me, which examines the political and sexual coming of age of a young, gay, Black man in New York City in the mid-1980s. The novel was a 2023 Lambda Literary finalist for Gay Fiction and was named one of the “The 100 Notable Books of 2022” by The New York Times. Rasheed lives with his husband and their two children in Pasadena.

Photo credit: Christopher Marrs


Pickle is a live-singing, drag queen host, entertainer, and storyteller. A Los Angeles native, she attended Hamilton High School Academy of Music before receiving her BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. Pickle has focused on blending education initiatives into her drag work and runs the LA chapter of Drag Story Hour. She has partnered with many organizations, including the Academy Museum, the Aquarium of the Pacific, the City of West Hollywood, the Independent Shakespeare Company, LA County Library, LA Public Library, LACMA, the Music Center, Tinder, and many more, to present unique and dynamic drag programming.


R.K. Russell

R.K. Russell is a professional NFL football player, social justice advocate, published poet, artist, and author of The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Football. A decorated defensive end, he has sacked Hall of Famers and gone up against the fiercest competitors at the height of their game. Since coming out, he has written about his experience as a Black queer man in sports for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Out Magazine, and Queer Majority, among others. Russell has spearheaded multiple NFL Pride initiatives such as the NFL Super Bowl LVI Pride panel and the NFL’s National Coming Out Day PSA. He has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), by Gay Times as Sportsperson of the Year, and was selected to the prestigious OUT 100 List in 2019. His short documentary, “Finding Free,” won a Webby and was nominated for a Sports Emmy.

Photo credit: Maxwell Poth

Melissa Chaburn

Dr. Melissa Chadburn’s writing has appeared in The LA Times, NYT Book Review, NYRB, Paris Review online, and dozens other places. Her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, was published with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in April 2022 and was longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award. She was just awarded her Ph.D. from USC’s Creative Writing Program. Melissa is a worker lover and through her own work and literary citizenship strives to upend economic violence. Her mother taught her how to sharpen a pencil with a knife and she’s basically been doing that ever since.

Jessamyn Violet

Jessamyn Violet is a writer and musician based in Venice Beach. Originally from Boston, she has a BFA from Emerson College and an MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts. She’s published a book of poetry called Organ Thieves (Gauss PDF, 2017) as well as short fiction in Ploughshares and more. Her debut novel Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar was published this spring. She is also the drummer for the band Movie Club.

Photo credit: Erin Naifeh

Kyle Seibel

Veteran and short story scribe.

Special Guest – West Hollywood Poet Laureate

Jen Cheng

Jen Cheng is the Fifth West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, the author of Braided Spaces, and a multidisciplinary storyteller who amplifies under-represented voices. Jen is the founder of Palabras Literary Salon, celebrating BIPOC poets and writers, and a 2023 California Arts Council Fellow. Jen blends East-West cultural influences in a new form, Feng Shui Poetry. With stories for tween audiences, mystery detective fans, and queer love, Jen is a cross-pollinator. She is a filmmaker with a documentary project celebrating LGBTQ Elders. She can be found on Twitter/IG @JenCvoice or her website: www.JenCvoice.com