All Written Up and No Place to Go

Why it's time for you to get onstage

All Written Up and No Place to Go

You, silent writer. I’m talking to you.

You hole up in front of your computer, putting the final touches on that story that still makes you smile after the hundredth read. Or you circle your room like a slow-motion dervish, mouthing the lines of the poem you can’t believe you wrote, the one that squeezes your heart every time you think about it.

Then your writing group picks the piece apart.

But they still leave you reason to hope. Back home, you go through your recalibration process (crying, kickboxing, contemplating an MBA, whatever) then sit your ass down and make your piece even better than before. Now, surely, it’s ready for submission.

Or is it?

One way to find out — and hear a ton of great local writing at the same time — is to take part in a reading. Yes, you, reading your work in — gasp! — public. No excuses, silent writer: The Independent has already given you E.A. Aymar’s excellent article about how to put on your best show. But once you’ve psyched yourself up to do it, where do you go?

  1. The Writer’s Center hosts open-mic reading sessions once a month (most months) on Sundays from 2-4 p.m. Writers — that means YOU — arrive as early as 1:30 to sign up for a five-minute slot, then settle in to discover a variety of authors they may otherwise never have met. It’s a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and the best thing is you can corral all your writer friends to sign up and support each other when you walk up to the podium. (Oops, now I’ve blown my secret plan for the next open mic on Sunday, April 10th.) Consult the center's calendar for more information.

  2. You may not have expected to see 826DC on this list, given its focus on children’s writing and reading skills. But they also plan activities to promote community among their grown-up volunteers, one of which is the lowercase reading series. Although the bulk of the readers are volunteers and friends of 826DC, the readings are open to the public and, time permitting, audience members may have a chance to read their own work. The exciting newsflash for March: lowercase is going on the road with a reading at the Shakespeare Theatre Company on March 24th. After this, it will revert to its normal schedule: the first Wednesday of the month at Petworth Citizen. Come get acquainted with 826DC and you may wind up in front of the mic yourself!

  3. Rachel Coonce and Courtney Sexton have changed the meaning of The Inner Loop from a space of commuter rage to a fantastic monthly reading series in DC. The two MFA graduates from Sarah Lawrence College combine featured readers with local talent to celebrate and enrich DC’s literary landscape. Writers — again, that means YOU — submit a short piece for consideration and, if selected, are invited to read their five minutes of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry at super-hip bars like Johnny Pistolas and Colony Club. You’ll feel as cool as the ice in your cocktail when you step up to the podium.

  4. And many more! Busboys and Poets holds weekly open-mic nights for poets. Storytellers, if you were afraid Speakeasy had disappeared, don’t be: it’s still going strong under its new name, Story District. Hive mind, help me out here: Post more in the comments section below!

It’s time to graduate from holding forth in front of your monitor (or your spouse or your stuffed-animal writing mascot). Reading to an audience is an excellent way to connect with fellow authors and future readers, as well as to ferret out the best and weakest parts of your work. And even the most stoic writer needs a little applause and appreciation every now and then. So get out of your pajamas, silent writer, and step up to the mic!

With a BA in English and an MA in German, Tara Campbell has a demonstrated aversion to money and power. She volunteers with 826DC and the Washington Writers Conference, and reads at The Inner Loop and the lowercase. She hopes to hear from some new (formerly) silent writers at future events!

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