The Downtown Writers Jam, Vol. 1 hosted by The Geeky Press showcased 8 authors who came from 3 states to tell stories to a crowd of 60 people at Indy Reads Books on Wednesday, July 24. Hardly a soul left during the 90-minute event, and the audience engaged with every author who entered The Round.
Before you watch the performances, you should know a thing or two about the event. The authors and audience created a long-form literary event infused with a jazz sensibility and spiced it up with the rules of a poetry slam. It was unlike any traditional reading in that The Jam required that the audience participate in the process, giving the writers immediate (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback.
We had well-polished stories, some improvised work, some stories that went off the rails, and an audience that was fully engaged and supportive of all of our writers no matter what was happening. What made me most proud was the audience response to the rawness of the stories and authors. Afterwards several folks told me they enjoyed themselves because it felt real and unpolished.
I knew we had something special when Garret, mid-story, looked at me and said that he was sure he’d approached this wrong. I hollered out: you absolutely did. The audience responded by clapping.That’s the moment I knew we’d truly created that one-night community that was ready to follow us wherever we went with the work.
Vol. 1 authors
The event was broken up into two divisions: the Newbies and the Pros.
Meet The Downtown Writers Jam Professional authors, who had 10 minutes each to tell their story:
- Jared Yates Sexton
- Michelle Freed (her performance)
- Garret Mathews
- Erik Deckers (his performance)
- Andrew Neylon (his performance)
Meet the Downtown Writers Jam Newbie authors, who had 5 minutes each to tell their story:
The Jam isn’t a competition, but we have do select three judges from the audience who are asked to rate each story on a scale from 1 to 10. We tally up the scores at the end, and announce winners (who receive nothing, by the way).
Newbie Division: James Figy told a story from a short story collection he’s writing. His piece entitled “Cory Matthews downs a stolen bottle of seven-dollar brandy.” Figy narrowly edged out Sarah Janssen, whose “Humble Beginnings” told the story of a young man who escaped a neighborhood of poverty and violence and went to university.
Check out James Figy’s winning story
Professional Division: Author Jared Sexton Yates story “The Hook and the Haymaker” was an improved version of his story. Realizing he wanted something more person, he told the real-life story that led to his fictionalized tale. His change helped me edge out Andrew Neylon, who started the show with the powerful “The Long War” about his father’s suicide.
Check out Andrew Neylon’s story
A complete list of feedback from our response cards
It’s easy for me to tell you that the Jam was a rousing success, but there’s no reason for you to believe the organizer. Instead, I’ll tell you that more than 20 audience members, writers, and friends gathered at the Chatham Tap on Mass Ave after the show, where we hung out for several hours, and I’ll provide you with what people to us about the show on the feedback cards we provided.
- I’m new to Indy and am so excited to see this powerful arts influence here. Can’t wait until the next one.
- I’ll give it a solid 8.5! Surprisingly good.
- Great atmosphere by [Brad King]. Comfortable and helpful for writers and authors. Great variety of storytellers!
- Awesome event. Great to hear pieces or concepts of authors writing. Look forward to more. Enjoyed the participation aspect.
- I loved it!
- Nice variety. Very fun.
- Perhaps a bit more focus would help! Love the concept and would love to come see more.
- Loved it.
- Excellent, and never seen anything like it. Should do this again. Great to see writers together.
- It was absolutely awesome.
- Love the mix and amount of stories.
- Great. Can’t wait until the next one.
- It’ll probably take a couple of times for me to get comfortable hissing at people, but I liked the interaction. Instant feedback is something writers rarely (never) get so I can see where it would be a great tool – lots of fun.
Our Vol. 1 Sponsors
The Geeky Press, a loosely-affiliated writers collective and organized by Brad King (me), is driving this show. If you’d like to play with us, read up on what we do and maybe think about joining us. As for the Jam, it takes a village to put on a killer show.
Blotterature is an online literary magazine, started in August 2013 by a few Region Rats who came together via The Literary Underground and college. They seek poetry. fiction, creative nonfiction, and art that speaks blue collar sheik. Authentic voices and creative storytelling are what they desire to read.
We’re lucky to have an organization such as Indy Reads Books, which has agreed to let us take over their establishment for a few hours.
The space is perfect for a night of storytelling, and the environment is perfect for people who love words.
Vouched Books has been instrumental in getting the word out, and they’ll be on hand at the event. Whether they are reviewing work on its website, hosting a reading, or selling small press books at one of it’s guerrilla bookstores, the heart of Vouched Books is this: they love small press literature.
Our friend Barbara Shoup who is the executive director of the Indiana Writers Center, a literary hub that hosts workshops, readings, and gatherings, has thrown the support of their organization behind this. You might also want to take a look at the IWC workshops.
The mission of MWW is to give all writers the opportunity to improve their craft, to associate with highly credentialed professionals, and to network with other writers. Its the three-day program has everything from fiction to nonfiction, marketing, and ways to get your creative juices flowing.
The esteemed Jane Friedman who runs Scratch, a digital magazine that explores the intersection of writing, money, and life, has thrown her support behind our effort.You should also check out Jane’s blog, which is a virtual guide through the modern publishing world.