Atlanta writer’s groups dare to inspire

The crowded bar teems with young writers holding a cold beer in their hands and listening intently to a speaker standing at the front of the gathered listeners. He is passionate and loud, reading a piece he wrote just for the event. Another writer stands off to the side, preparing to step up front and read his own work opposing the other speaker’s view.

This is WRITE CLUB Atlanta, a group that takes the idea of what Consigliere Myke Johns calls a “high-brow stuffiness” literary event and turns it into a loud, nervy, interactive event for writers dying to produce new work and share it.

“If you’ve ever been trapped at a bad poetry reading, it’s the kind of thing you try to avoid,” Johns said. “WRITE CLUB takes the traditional reading event structure and turns it up a few notches.”

The event, which takes place in Highland Ballroom every second Wednesday of the month, presents two writers with opposing views about a subject and puts them in a competition in which the audience participates.

“One writer reads, then the other, and the audience picks a winner,” Johns said. “So by being there, you’re affecting the outcome of the show.”

The participating writers don’t come from an exclusive community. Anyone can participate—and, in fact, Johns strongly encourages students to contact WRITE CLUB. The group chooses writers for the event from the community or from submissions from curious writers through the website.

Each writer receives precisely seven minutes to read their piece, and when the timer goes off, time is up. The audience participation, the timed competition, and the excitement of hearing a new and original piece of writing creates a literary space that cannot be found in a coffee shop poetry reading.

“Hopefully the loud, combative nature of WRITE CLUB fosters a sense that as a writer it’s actually a boon to be bold and assertive and have opinions,” Johns said.

WRITE CLUB isn’t the only group hosting events in Atlanta— Naked City, WRITE CLUB’s sister show, takes place at the Goat Farm the first Monday of every month.

“It’s open mic, so if you show up early and get your name on the list, you get five minutes at the mic,” Johns said.

Vouched Atlanta hosts readings—also at the Goat Farm—a few times per month. Vouched, or “champions of small press literature” as they name themselves on their website, support small press authors, literature, journals and publishers. Laura Relyea, the curator for this event called Vouched Presents, gathers local and visiting authors together for an evening of indie literature.

“There’s a really amazing community of writers here in Atlanta now—our literary scene is blossoming and there are so many ways to get involved,” Relyea said about the literary events hosted in Atlanta, including Vouched Presents.

Vouched doesn’t only host readings at the Goat Farm. Their efforts to promote small press literature extend to guerilla bookstores and promotions on their website,

The website is filled with resources where students and small press literature lovers can find new books worth reading. Series such as “New Love” and “Indie Lit Classics” are only two examples of what has to offer.

“‘New Love’ is an opportunity for our contributors to herald a small press writer who they had never heard of before or whose work they have just discovered,” Relyea said. “Indie Lit Classics is where we offer our perspective on how a certain story or collection deserves its place in the canon or history of small press list.”

And WRITE CLUB’s website isn’t lacking in material, either: podcasts with writers as well as writing prompts welcome readers to a mecca of inspiration outside of the monthly events. Podcasts can also be located on iTunes.

WRITE CLUB viceroy and host Nick Tecosky encourages young writers not only to participate in events like this, but to find fellow writers to provide encouragement and understanding while writing.

“Find the best writers you can and make friends with them. Surround yourself with them. They know what you’re going through,” Tecosky said. “And listen to them when they talk about the craft.”

And Atlanta isn’t lacking talented writers. WRITE CLUB and Vouched Presents are only two of the many events hosted around the city to provide an outlet for professional and aspiring writers alike.

“Atlanta is full-to-bursting with amazing writers producing exciting and accessible work deserving of a wide audience,” Johns said. “Creating a space for writers to express themselves is important, but creating a space for people to hear that and be a participant in it is just as important.”

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