I literally just got home from Loch Norse Magazine's Open Mic event at the Bow Tie Cafe in Mt. Adams...that's in Cincinnati, OH for those who don't know where the hell I'm talking about. :) Anyway, I thought I'd take some time to offer a reflection of sorts about how it all went down.
The first thing I need to talk about is the turn-out. The turn-out, to my estimation -- and it could simply be the fact the Bow Tie Cafe is a compact place and there were regular customers about, going in and out, hanging around, buying coffee and/or alcohol, etc. -- was significantly greater than Loch Norse's first event on campus in our Student Union's multipurpose room. I have to admit that when I heard their decision to have the event off-campus, I was extremely concerned about how this would impact the turn-out. I was convinced that because it was across the Ohio River in Cincinnati, turn-out would be impacted in a negative fashion. I am so proud to tell you that I was wrong. Having the event off-campus was definitely the right call, and I applaud Loch Norse's staff (Jennifer Whalen, Rex Trogdon, Elizabeth Parsons, faculty supervisor Kelly Moffett, and the rest of the staff that I'm blanking on...my sincerest apologies) for taking such a risk to begin with. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I really feel like you guys are ushering in a renaissance for the creative writing community on campus, and I'm grateful to be included in the thick of things.
Dr. Gary Walton was the featured reader for the event, and he read to us various poems as well as a novel excerpt that were all incredible. I need to buy his novel because it focuses on old Newport, KY and because there is so much shit talk and foul language in it! It definitely caters to someone so easily amused as me. I also noticed the faculty turn-out for the event -- Professors Andy Miller and Stephen Leigh were notable attendants -- and I'm guessing this was due to Dr. Walton being the guest speaker. I definitely see where having a prominent, established "keynote reader" if you will would be essential in guaranteeing the turn-out of fellow creative writing professors and other established writers, and if the staff at Loch Norse read this I would emphasize that they continue with this trend. Faculty/established writer turn-out is an essential turn-out that these events need, and people like Dr. Walton can guarantee that.
I also noticed that the event had a lot more readers than the first event, which is definitely a sign that Loch Norse is doing all the right things in its promotion of creative writing at NKU. Many wonderful writers got up to read their work for us, and I really wish my memory was awesome enough to remember every name because I'd list them all here for you to see. So many wonderful poems and pieces of fiction. I, too, stepped up to read a bit from the most recent short story I wrote for Professor Miller's Fiction Writing class, concerning a writer who is stuck pitching a novel manuscript to a mysterious figure in a suit and a Grim Reaper hood (still untitled as of this post). The reaction I got was great, most of the praise coming from my enthusiastic and inflected delivery, but it made it obvious that I'm slowly starting to become the type of creative person who's own personality and presence overshadows the creation. I've inwardly criticized this in the past, and have developed a desire to have my work speak louder than myself, but I've also understood that a creative person's work is, essentially, an extension of themselves in some way, shape, or form. I guess I'm torn on how I feel about this, but I'm proud to have gotten the praise that I did.
The only thing that I think is missing in the scheme of things is turn-out from the general student body. It's easy to motivate the people already invested in reading and writing, but it's much harder getting "regular" students to come out, unless the professors get to them in the English classes and demand they attend literary events for credit. I can't really cite this as a criticism toward Loch Norse, because this is a problem many organizations with a focus are faced with...attracting the general population. I personally don't know how exactly to go about addressing that issue, but my thought-process would be to somehow "bring" the action to them, or let them somehow "sample" it on a smaller/more condensed scale. Perhaps a public reading held somewhere on campus? At this stage of the semester, with it being cold outside, it would likely have to be inside a heavily populated/traveled building like our Student Union...basically just setting up shop and starting to read aloud to anyone who might pass by to advertise an upcoming event. I could see this maybe working to an extent, but then again not so much...
All in all, I think Loch Norse is doing all the right things, and I think their efforts are really starting to pay off.