Open Mic Reflection

Black and Gray Microphone

Writing is meant to be read and what better place to read your work then an open mic. Last week, Wideners Creative fiction class hosted a virtual open mic on zoom. One may worry about the awkwardness of staring a screen, wifi acting weird, or nerves from having to read their work to a bunch of alumni, current students, and faculty. No matter the problems one could have on a virtual open mic, it didn’t stop the community of Widener creatives to share their love for the arts as they kept the encouragement alive with the zoom chat and reactions features. Even though quarantine kept us away from being at Widener, the hospitality of our MC Stefan Cozza made us feel like we were back home at our Widener Pride. Below our host Stefan Cozza shares his experience about Wideners open mic event. – Ciana Bowers

Considering I am an English/Creative Writing Major, one might assume I have been to many open mics before, but this is actually not the case. Honestly, the introverted part of myself was surprised when the words “I’ll do it,” came out of my mouth in response to the question “Would anyone like to volunteer as the MC of the event?” Nonetheless, once they were out, they were out, and there was no turning back. Being that we’ve all been in Quarantine together for months now, simply being part of an event was enough to unleash the butterflies in my stomach. This wasn’t a bad thing; it was beneficial more than anything. Now more than ever, we have to create meaning in the small things.

There’s extra anxiety associated with hosting an open mic over screens; a plethora of issues can arise and the whole thing can descend downhill in a matter of seconds. Magically, the event could not have gone better. Perhaps it’s the loneliness, but the support encouragement was palpable from the audience. In a traditional open mic setting, applause is held until the end of a reader’s piece, and comments and questions are left until everyone has had their opportunity to present. In a virtual environment, if the host allows it, the chat is available the whole way through, allowing audience members to hype up the speaker as they are reading. I was pleasantly surprised by just how lively the chat was, and how easily the spectators lent their kind words.

As the voluntary MC of the event (MC, for those unaware, means Master of Ceremonies), my duties were to introduce upcoming readers and hand the event back over to the host after everyone had presented. While these were simple enough responsibilities, I felt I needed to personally address each reader after they presented. Maybe I was getting too big a head, but I kept imagining I was hosting the Academy Awards and needed to throw in my two cents here and there. I was up to my shoulders in anxiety, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from trying to make the most out of my job for the night.

Luckily for me, the words slipped out of mouth before I had the chance to overthink what I was going to say. Every single reader took command of the stage and had such an assertive poetic voice; it was wonderful to hear so many people be vulnerable and open with the audience. For those who have never attended an open mic event, this may sound melodramatic, but it really was the case. Poetry and creative writing are very personal crafts, they’re an up-close representation of the author’s psyche, and that in and of itself carries an important emotional component. I did my best to send each reader off with my own praise, trying to highlight what parts I found specifically endearing or effective. Hopefully, no one felt their response was lacking in comparison to anyone else’s.

Apart from being the MC, I was nudged to present a poem of my own. On top of this, I was pinned to perform first, a request which I happily (as well as nervously) accepted. Amazingly, reciting your own poem, while nerve-wracking, is a very cathartic experience. Even though my poem was amongst the shortest of the night, it still felt substantial. As I said, poetry is personal, and that is what makes it such a growing experience. With an open mic event, the audience is there to hear your work; they want to hear what you have to say. Presenting your voice to a respectful and accepting environment is an incredible experience. It not only gives the reader experience on how to act and perform, but it makes them feel that what they are speaking is  valid and important. And at the end of the day, that is all anyone wants to feel.

By Stefan Cozza

Reedsy Blog and Prompts

When it comes to creative writing tips and resources, Reedsy has been a recent obsession for me. Reedys offers a variety of free (and some paid) resources for creative writers. Below are my two favorite parts of the website.

Ready’s blog feature is my favorite tool from the website. The blog feature has many ‘how-to’ articles and tips that help writers that want to know how to make their writing more effective. These blog posts come with free templates and outlines that you can download and keep in your creative writing stash. One of the recent templates I’ve downloaded is the ultimate world-building template which allows you to build you story’s history, setting, and characteristics. This template is perfect for science fiction writers!

Another favorite of mine from the Reedsy website are its writing prompts. It gives various writing prompts in case you need a boost of inspiration for your next story or if you just want a prompt to free write to. If you do decide to write a story based on their prompts, you can send in the story for free for a chance to win a cash prize!

While Reedsy has many other resources that I love, like a book editor, character name generator, and more, I’ll leave the exploring to you. Next time you’re searching the web, click the link below and check out the free resources they have for writers.

https://blog.reedsy.com/

By Ciana Bowers

Writers Helping Writers Webinar

October is a month for spooky fun, costumes, tricks and treats. Want a treat? Writers Helping Writers is hosting a free zoom webinar to celebrate their fifth anniversary.

One Stop for Writers is a website that holds many creative writing tools for writers, such as character generators, plot starters, setting builders and so much more. This month, in honor of their anniversary, they are hosting a free zoom webinar about character building on October 14 at 7 pm. They will show viewers how to use the character building template on their website and give all viewers a free one month subscription instead of their usual two week free trial.

Unable to attend? Your sign up won’t go to waste as they will send the video recording of the webinar to your email.

Click the line below to sign up.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSegmTHs7wls0u54Gbx6BvNvrGiBnd6EGddfLmGP2BCVZMqtSA/viewform

By Ciana Bowers

Issue 24 is live!

Issue 24 (September 2020) features undergraduate writers from Central Michigan University, John Carroll University, The Ohio State University, SUNY Geneseo, University of Central Florida, and University of Oregon, plus an interview with poet/musician Sadie Dupuis. Thanks to all contributors for your patience during the Covid19 delay!

Issue 24 Is Coming Soon!

Dear readers and contributors: Thanks very much for your patience. We are putting the finishing touches on Issue 24, which has been delayed due to the Coronavirus. We plan to have it out in the next week or so. We are currently reading for Issue 25, which will come out in Spring 2021. Submit your best poetry and prose by March 1, 2021.

Issue 24 Delayed Until Fall 2020

Due to circumstances related to the Coronavirus, we need to push back the release of Issue 24 to the Fall of 2020. Our hope is to have it up by the beginning of September. We sincerely apologize for the delay.

About Sadie Dupuis

Widener University had the pleasure of hosting local poet Sadie Dupuis as our visiting writer earlier this semester. Not only is Dupuis a passionate poet, she is also the self-described “frontdemon” for the popular indie rock band Speedy Ortiz, serving as the band’s lyricist, guitarist, and lead vocalist. She also released a solo musical project in 2016 named SAD13. In her most recent collection of poetry, Mouthguard, Dupuis expresses a consuming desire to understand the world around her and the place she occupies within it. Referred to in an interview with Rolling Stone as “a sly cycle of loss and renewal” and in Marie Claire as “nostalgic and familiar,” Mouthguard seems to be the meeting point of humor and self-exploration. Dupuis uses imagery that stretches the boundaries of language. Her poem “Move in with Me” opens with the lines: “And my underwater sculptures / made out of brain / the cold of the blue ocean.” The startling truths featured in her poems comprise just a fraction of the wealth of perspective available to Dupuis. In the titular poem “Mouthguard,” Dupuis writes: “I am very qualified / to discuss myself / in my wrongness / if personal mythology / is interesting to anyone.” In that, Dupuis harnesses the root of why all writers should write: because perspective is subjective and unique, and there is always someone who benefits from hearing it. Her poem “This Message Is for Sadie,” opens on the line: “Who is looking slash feeling / And never remotely understands / Messages she leaves herself.” To me, this perfectly summarizes the hopefulness that pairs with self-doubt, and reflects the courage Dupuis puts into her poems and subsequently, into her readers.

If you’d like to learn more about this Philadelphia-based artist, check her out on social media @sad13, or at her website sadthirteen.com. Her most recent publications can be found in Blush Lit.

Their Dogs Came With Them Book Review

The Blue Route staffers are looking forward to the AWP conference in San Antonio later this week. In addition to the exciting array of panels, the festival-like bookfair, and the Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors caucus, there will be the keynote address by the fabulous Helena María Viramontes. Below, our own Sarah De Kok reviews Their Dogs Came with Them, Viramontes’ ambitious 2007 novel. 

Image result for their dogs came with them

In modern television shows, there are often multiple plots going on at once. The main characters will go through a series of events while side characters go on their own adventures. By the end of the show, viewers see both stories come together for the final resolution. In Helena Maria Viramontes’ character-driven novel Their Dogs Came With Them, a similar shift in point of view occurs. Told through a third-person point of view, each chapter follows a different character and the people around them. Viramontes focuses on the stories of four young women: Tranquilina, Turtle, Ermilia, and Ana. These women all cross paths in one way or another and are identified through similar character descriptions throughout the novel. The threat of their neighborhood being torn down to make way for a highway overpass is ever-present throughout the story, as is the curfew for citizens so authorities can helicopters can eliminate stray dogs to prevent the spread of rabies.

The story of one’s family is influential to one’s own story. In that same sense, the story of other characters has a hand in the story of the four main characters of Viramontes’ novel. Readers first meet a young Ermilia going to live with her grandparents. As Ermilia’s story progresses, she bands together with a group of girls each with their own stories to bring to the narrative. Ermilia grew up on the same street as Turtle, a gang member who later becomes homeless. Turtle struggles to survive on the streets while living in constant fear of being jumped by rival gang members. Turtle’s refusal to conform to gender norms by presenting herself as male keeps her safe while living on the streets of East Los Angeles. She is on edge from being homeless and staying away from rival gangs. Tranquilina’s life is devoted to serving others in her father’s church. Her story includes the story of her parents and how they traveled to southern California.

Ana’s story is primarily influenced by her brother, Ben. His mental illness takes up most of his time and energy, allowing little time to prioritize anything else. Ana must step in and care for her brother, becoming the mother figure that was lost to them as children. Readers may find themselves disappointed with the lack of Ana’s perspective on her experience. The way the book is advertised gives the impression this is a novel about four young women and their experiences as women living in southern California in the 1960s. To an extent, this is true. Viramontes includes universal experiences of women through each character; Turtle is assaulted as a young girl which leads her to shave her head and pass as male.

Viramontes uses point of view in a way that is unique to her story but leaves readers disconnected from making emotional connections to the characters. With the understanding that this is a character-driven piece, underneath all the layers of setting description and inner thoughts is a story about survival in a world of “us against them.” Despite these minor drawbacks, Viramontes’ novel creates a unique world with relatable characters for readers who are looking for a film-like experience.

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Send in Work by March 15th!

The deadline for submissions for Issue #24 has been extended to March 15th. Undergraduates–submit your best poetry and prose for consideration. Remember, we’re a paying market! (see Submission Guidelines for details).

Submissions Open for Issue #24

Undergraduate writers: The Blue Route is again open for submissions. After reading the submission guidelines, please feel free to send us your best poetry and prose for consideration. The submission period for Issue #24 is January 1-March 1, 2020.