A Year of Open Mic Nights!
Bellingham WA is an awesome place to be if you’re a writer, especially the last Monday of each month as many of us gather in the Readings Gallery at Village Books for Open Mic.
If you’re one of those people who notices stuff, then you know I’ve been a tad remiss in posting recaps. I have a thick folder of handwritten notes from the last Open Mic Nights, capturing so many wonderful moments from the last months. Here’s a point in the story where the character makes a choice—to dutifully type all those notes . . . or not.
Thanks to my early days as a Kelly Girl, I type 100+ words per minute with a low error rate. Nonetheless, that’s still a lot of typing. Every writer who participated throughout the year absolutely deserves a mention, but here’s just a few highlights to give a sense of just how great this past year has been. Someone asked me the other day how many years I’ve been the Emcee for Open Mic Night, and I couldn’t say for sure, but I think it’s been about eight years. It’s certainly a wonderful part of my Bellingham experience.
In NOVEMBER, Jack McKee shared his story about building a real kids’ playhouse in the same way as kids would play with Lincoln Logs. Read: Eight preschoolers is a handful when attempting a group project of building a playhouse. Wonderfully, this endeavor to build a playhouse gave way to building on children’s imagination. Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayer’s presentation was another highlight, telling about hearing her mother’s memories as a six-year-old in war-torn Philippines and the writer’s emotions at listening to these stories sixty years after the fact.
For OCTOBER, I got homemade cookies! Thanks to Susan Chase-Foster, who not only brought delicious cookies for my birthday (which is on Halloween), she and the crew spent the evening sneaking a birthday card around the room, and everyone signed it right under my nose and surprised me with it. It was delightful, and apparently the sugar rush from the cookies affected my organizational ability, because I can’t locate my notes from that month. Probably some goblins took them. We have never really gotten along.
“Lust.” That’s how Deanna Hawkins started off her set in SEPTEMBER. It kinds of puts you right there, doesn’t it? After grabbing our attention, she delivered a poem that dared to appeal to our senses with classy delicacy until surprising us with a beautifully timed humorous twist. Let’s just say that French menus will never be the same after this. With another twist, a thoughtful ending tied the themes together and left us lusting for more. Then Harvey Schwartz cracked us up with “It’s OK to be Empty.” This performance required an assist from C.J. Prince, who held up appropriately abbreviated signage—“MT” to signify “Empty”—at each repetition of a key word. Needless to say, we were delighted and in stitches at the witty interplay between poet and prop woman.
Deanna Goodman brought a pair of poems in AUGUST, both poems having to do with cars, “one very sad, one not so.” The first highly moving poem was about a tragic car accident. Only the poet can say if the story was fiction or non, but of course she made us all wonder. Bravo! It wouldn’t be Open Mic in these parts without a trip to Bob’s Burger and Brew in Sudden Valley, orchestrated on the page by Jim Milstead’s “Fantasies on the Green.” In this piece, nature still exists, albeit in some artificiality, evidenced by robotic golf club bags following after each golfer.
JULY yielded both sobering and hilarious tales. Angela Belcaster shared her gorgeous poetry, ripe with a mother’s angst about trying to reach an autistic child and how hope prevails. Sylvia Crosby told about going to the grocery store, wearing a jacket with “North Dakota” lettered on it. This resulted in hearing the entirety of another shopper’s history when it was revealed that both women were from that great flat state. There may never have been a lengthier or more hilarious bio revealed in the produce section.
Over the course of several months, JUNE included, Vince Landi had us hooked on his twisty serial tale about the comings and goings and doing of an enigmatic character named Adam Schemm, who is possibly good or evil. This went on for multiple evenings, finally concluding in June. We will miss this wild ensemble of characters, but the good news is you can read more from Vince in the recent #7 issue of Clover a Literary Rag. Congrats, Vince! Dick Harris took us back to June 6, 1994, and a little bakery on the corner, where the setting for a solitary diner sparks a memory from a half-century earlier. A young boy accompanies his father on an everyday errand, made far less everyday by knowledge of the war raging in Germany.
In MAY, we were treated to Jenny Godwin’s lovely set of poems, opening with “To the Poems I Haven’t Written Yet,” offering a fine reminder for writers to keep at it. She also read “Island Place,” inspired by seeing beloved poet Samuel Green read at Village Books. Writer/historian Janet Oakley gave us a preview of her latest novel in process, set in the nineteenth century, titled Thatch’s War. Janet’s books Tree Soldier and Timber Rose continue to get props in the media and onstage! And she’s now in the midst of a library tour, speaking about women climbing mountains in skirts. Go, Janet!
Which brings us to APRIL, when the inimitable Denise du Maurier had us falling over laughing with her tale that involved a unicorn licking a window, procrastinating during NaPoWriMo, and a memory of France. Andrew Shattuck McBride, who did not procrastinate during NaPoWriMo, and instead created his own prompts, shared two new poems, including a reflection about Easter that blossomed into asking larger questions about life.
MARCH, FEBRUARY, and JANUARY recaps are posted separately. So there!
The Sweet Stuff:
♥ NEW CLASS: Sign up now for my next class designed to help you repurpose your writing, i.e., why publish it once when you can publish it twice?: Selling the Excerpt
- Thursdays, February 5 thru March 12
- 6 – 9 p.m., Cascade Hall Rm. 165, Whatcom Community College campus
- Fee $195
- Register here.
♥ NEW STORIES: Read my stories, including “Don’t You Come Back,” in Clover, A Literary Rag.
♥ MANUSCRIPT EDITING: I will be accepting new clients for individualized manuscript review and editing in 2015. See my Scope of Services.
♥ OPEN MIC NIGHT: Join me on Monday, January 26, for the next Open Mic Night at Village Books!
XO Laurel Leigh
Dear Laurel Leigh,
What a wonderful community you have there, and what a great service Village Books provides by hosting your group. Thank you for sharing this–it is interesting and inspiring.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year!
Thanks so much for the encouragement and good wishes! We are pretty lucky to have a bookstore like Village Books in these parts. It’s a mainstay for writers.
You have a fantastic New Year as well. And keep up the wonderful posts. Writing Between the Lines is an amazing blog, and I’m so glad you’re writing it. Photo-writing it? I’m not sure what word to even use for what you do!
Thank you, Laurel Leigh! (For making me smile).
Delightful! But what you don’t mention, being of humble nature, is how you steal the show at each open mice with your wonderfulness! Have the best year ever in 2015, Laurel!
Aww, you are too sweet Susan! I hope 2015 brings you all good things!
Wow! That’s a lot to get off your chest in one fell swoop, as my mother would have said. 😀
Clearing the plate for the new year. I’ll bet it’s going to be a good one! Cheers to those fabulous writers in the PNW!
LOL, I love stuff that Mom would have said. My mom would have said that too!