Audience Expectations & Responsibilities at The Jam

The Downtown Writers Jam is twenty years in the making for me. I’ve always loved words and writing, but I’ve never loved how we celebrate the work in public spaces. When I read, I am transported into new worlds. When I have attended readings, it’s too often felt as if I was in school.

The Jam was conceived as a way to form a one-night community of authors and readers in an environment that celebrates the written word, stories, and literature without that sterile feeling. To do this, we’re creating an environment that encourages (one might even go so far as to say “requires”) our group to interact with each other and the authors.

Fortunately that participation isn’t as frightening as it may sound to our introverted friends. We’re looking to create a space where everyone can listen, respond, and participate without those social anxieties creeping in. The best of this ideas for the writers jam were stolen from places like Marc Smith’s Uptown Poetry Slam in Chicago, and various experiences I’ve had as a writer throughout the last 20 years.

How It Goes Down

The doors open at 7:00 pm, and we’ll get started about 7:10.

  1. We have 1 category this time: (5) who have 10 minutes
  2. Each has written a long-form story, book, essay, script, or series of stories. Some are published. Some are in process.
  3. Each author will tell a story from their work.
  4. The audience will respond. (See Audience Expectations)
  5. 3 randomly selected judges will rate the storytelling, and winners will be crowned.*

*winners receive nothing other than the warm feeling deep within their soul, if they have one.


Audience Expectations

The Jam is a feedback loop, a place where the authors find out what work and what doesn’t work in their stories. That means the audience does a disservice by sitting quietly and accepting whatever comes its way. At the Jam, the audience is expected to respond to the good, to the bad, and to the indifferent. We do this as an homage to Smith’s Slam.

  • Pay attention to the stories
  • Respond and interact, but do not help out verbally
      • If you like something: stomp your feet, bang your armchair, or slap the floor
      • If you love something: clap
      • If you hate or dislike something: hiss

Judge Expectations

  • Listen
  • Rate each story on a scale of 1-10
  • Announce it to the crowd (and expect feedback of your own)

Post Jam

When the Jam is complete, we’ll help Indy Reads Books put its room back together, which mostly consists of moving chairs and re-arranging furniture.

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