where the writers are
Three Bay Area Readings

Independent literary events are an indication of the vibrancy of a literary community. Table 1, below, identifies three readings that I attend regularly and recommend because they are well organized, well attended, and maintain high standards of both reading quality and respect for readers. Attendees are invariably people who appreciate literature and are quite often authors themselves.

Lit Night at Julie’s is held in the living room of Julie’s upstairs residence, and the homey atmosphere is warm and inviting. Participants may bring food and drink, preferably purchased downstairs. Julie’s’ format is wide open, with no preset agenda of readers nor restrictions on content. In contrast with the other two venues, readers don’t have to be published, and participants may read from any source, be it their own work or the poetry/prose of another author, published or otherwise. The event is not well-publicized, and if no one posts a notice on AlamedaPatch.com, attendance can be as low as six. The crowd tends to be older and liberal. One regular reader, Wanda, is over ninety. She’s well along on her memoir about growing up on a farm in Iowa. Her voice is steady and her insights delightful. Readings at Julie’s have the greatest variety of the three venues.

Pints ‘n Prose can be wild and bawdy, as might be expected, given Peri’s is located in Fairfax, that almost-West-Marin liberal haven for artists. As with Julie’s, there’s an open-mic sign-up sheet at the door. People are encouraged to patronize the bar, and there are two “ten-minute” breaks for that purpose. Scheduled readers are invariably published authors, many well-known and each preceded by a brief introduction. After the scheduled readers, an open mic period continues until the list runs out. (In March, I was the last reader, twelfth in that latter category.) Readers exceeding the five-minute limit get a good-natured goose-honk from the bar, which always evokes laughter and applause. It’s part of the entertainment. The quality of readings at Peri’s has been consistently the most entertaining of the three venues, and sometimes an open mic reader steals the show, surpassing even scheduled readers.

Why There Are Words is the classiest venue by far. Held at the Studio 333 art gallery in Sausalito, the surroundings are quaint, the casual and inviting atmosphere accentuated by beautiful artwork and good wine by the glass. With few exceptions, readers are published authors, whose names and a biographical blurb are provided in a tri-fold pamphlet. As with Pints ‘n Prose, patrons on the mailing list will receive notices. Each reader is introduced by the facilitator, and reading quality is often outstanding. There’s a mid-way break for wine and bathroom, with authors standing by to autograph books, should one partake of the wares on display. The quality of the readings is so consistently high that you don’t miss an open-mic.

(Sorry for the formatting. RedRoom hasn't learned how to use tables; so you'll have to muddle along. There are four columns.)

Table 1 – Comparison of Three Readings

 

Title:

Lit Night at Julie’s

Pints ‘n Prose

Why There Are Words

Tenure:

14 months

Two years

Two years (est.)

Venue:

Julie’s Café

Peri’s Silver Dollar

Studio 333

Location:

Alameda, CA

Fairfax, CA

Sausalito, CA

Web site:

No

No

http://whytherearewords.com/wtaw-october-2012/

Frequency:

Monthly

Bi-monthly

Monthly

Timing (appx.):

First Thursday

Third Tuesday

Second Thursday

Hours:

7-9pm

6-8pm

7-9pm

Door Charge:

None

None

$5

Facilitator:

Bernatette

Roumualdez Cisek

Cyndi Cady

Peg Alford Purcell

Open Mic:

Yes

Partial

None

PA System?:

None

Yes

Yes

Tone:

Relaxed & intimate

Informal to “wild”

Formal to chic

Discussion:

Yes

No

No

Attendance (appx):

6-17

20-40

20-30

Atmosphere:

Home-like

Informal (pool tables in back)

Casual-reserved

Alcohol Served:

Wine & beer

Full Bar

Wine

E-mail Notice:

No

Yes-day of

Yes-month in advance

Books 4 Sale?:

Rarely

Always

Always