If it’s October in San Francisco, it must be Litquake. For the past eight years, authors have gathered for readings and other events in a San Francisco literary festival called Litquake, which opened last Saturday and runs through this Saturday. Last year, the festival drew 10,000 attendees.

This year the festival opened up with the first Barbary Coast Award for a Lifetime of Literary Achievement given to Armistead Maupin. Actress Laura Linney, who was in the 1994 PBS series of Maupin’s 1976 novel Tales of the City presented Maupin with the award. Litquake codirectors Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware both said that Maupin was the unanimous choice of the award selection committee. “He really put San Francisco on the map in a whole new way,” said Boulware.

Litquake has grown from a one-day event in the bandstand at Golden Gate Park to a weeklong festival with 354 authors in 58 venues throughout the city, at Kepler’s in Silicon Valley and Book Passage in Marin County. “It’s a kaleidoscopic smorgasbord,” said Boulware. Featured on the program this year are internationally known writers Amy Tan, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler and Jane Smiley, but Litquake also provides a stage for unpublished authors who know how to give a good reading. It all ends with the Litcrawl tomorrow night with back-to-back appearances by Bay Area authors at various venues in the Mission district of the city. “The Litcrawl really draws a young crowd,” said Ganahl.

In 2005, Litquake was one of the first recipients of the Page Turner Awards, sponsored by James Patterson, to provide funding to people and organizations that promote the joy of reading in creative ways. Even with the $25,000 award, Litquake operates on a shoestring budget, with Ganahl, Boulware and the other committee members volunteering their time. Several Bay Area independent bookstores sell books at some Litquake events, but Ganahl admits that book sales are not the first priority of Litquake. “It’s about getting up close and personal with the authors that you like,” she said.