Buy the man a beer, or something

Three years ago,  Jason Lucarelli and I met to discuss creating a new reading series in northeast, Pennsylvania, one that would include featured readers only, no open mic, and combine poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Out of those initial meetings came the Writers Showcase Reading Series, which was held at the now defunct New Visions Studio and Gallery in Scranton and then the Vintage Theater this past year. We wanted to showcase the work of our friends, and since then, we’ve hosted over 100 writers, some local and some from far away as Chicago.

Jason has been an instrumental part of this reading series. He has invited several poets and prose writers to our area, connections he’s made through his  low-res M.F.A. program in Vermont.  Furthermore, once I started the Ph.D. program, took on a full-time teaching job, and released a new book, he took on the press duties  and has succeeded in ensuring our readings got publicity in the weekly arts papers.  So far (fingers crossed) we’ve never had a low turnout for any of the readings, and that is because of Jason’s hard work getting the word out.

All of this said, Jason will be moving away to Philly for a new job. I wish him the best of luck. We ran this series for three years, and it’s been a great run. It will continue, at least for July and November, dates we confirmed a long time ago with the Vintage. Our next reading will be Saturday, July 12 at 7 p.m., and it will feature Bryne and Charlotte Lewis, Paul Capoccia, Eric Wilson, and Bernadette McBride. Here is the Facebook event page.

When it’s a little closer to the date, I’ll post more info about July’s featured writers, including their bios, and post some articles from the local arts papers. It’s unclear now whether or not Jason will still be in town to co-host the reading, but if he is there, give him a thank you for co-organizing this series over the last three years. Buy the man a beer when we all go out to a bar afterwards.

Here’s a picture from the first reading at New Visions. The featured readers were Norma Bernstock, Amye Archer, Steve Keating, Alexis Belluzzi, Tom Borthwick, Jason, and I. In the meantime, keep supporting the other readings in the area, both the open mics and featured readers series. Other people like Jason put a lot of time and energy into sustaining this local literary community, and they deserve support.



It’s All About Community

Yesterday, I took part of a panel discussion at the Osterhout Library in Wilkes-Barre in celebration of National Poetry Month. I could talk for hours and hours about my relationships with poetry and why I love the genre, but that’s not why I enjoyed this event. I liked it because I looked out and saw young people in the audience, including one high schooler with a stack of books, and an elementary student. Both have an interest in writing, and they were wide-eyed and on the edge of their seats while we talked about the writing process and our key influences.

After the event, I thought about how lucky I am to live in an area that has events like this. Throughout April, Osterhout is running a series of free poetry workshops. The library has also held various poetry and prose readings, and it publishes a literary magazine, Word Fountain. A few blocks down from the library, there is a reading series the third Friday of every month at ArtSEEN Gallery in Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton includes the Prose in Pubs series and the New Visions series. As I chatted with the two young members of the audience yesterday, I thought about how important community is to writing, how we need mentors and friends involved in the writing process because no one outside of such a community cares that we write.

Students in one of my creative writing classes this semester understand the importance of community, since they decided to create a writing workshop outside of class. I’m also starting to see more and more students at various literary events in the community. That’s what it’s all about, supporting each other, guiding each other, and forming something bigger than one’s own writing.