Sunday, May 24, 2015

Creative Colloquy - Kicking the Gate Open

In a world full of gate keepers - Jackie Fender, Joshua Swainston, and William Turbyfill have dispatched the guard and kicked the gate wide open.

Together they are the team behind Creative Colloquy (CC), an online literary site that hosts a monthly reading in Tacomas Opera Ally at the B Sharp Coffee House (every last Monday of the month at 7 pm). In addition to the site and the readings, CC has an annual print literary review and a regular podcast that William hosts called LiterallyTacoma. CC primarily focuses on short fiction and novel excerpts, but they also include poetry and other prose.

CC was founded in February of 2014 and their mission is to foster relationships built upon the mutual admiration of the written word and provide a platform to highlight literary talent in the South Sound.

This coming Monday May 25th, I will have the pleasure of emceeing this months reading, along with my fellow co-founder and co-producer of the Drunken Telegraph (DT), Megan Sukys.

I dont know the team at CC all that well.

I have attended a few of the readings, peruse the site regularly to read what local writers are putting out, and of course I bought a copy of this last years literary review, Creative Colloquy - Volume One. Jackie and I have crossed paths in other storytelling and literary circles.

We were grateful when Jackie invited the Drunken Telegraph to host the upcoming show and cross promote our final  Drunken Telegraph show of the season at Studio 3 of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts on June 13 at 7:30 pm.

However, beyond my gratitude lies my admiration for CC and its team. Certainly, we share some things in common - not the least of which is a love for a story well told, albeit our focus is grounded in the oral tradition and theirs in the written word.

However, my admiration doesnt end with CCs fine work of highlighting and promoting storytellers and writers, and in fact is highest as it relates to their commitment to build community.

You see it in that one line of their mission statement - to foster relationships built upon a mutual admiration of the written word.

CC & DT have that in common - its not just about the stories and the writing - its about community and building relationships.

Going back to my opening point, I grow weary of the self appointed or privilege appointed gate keepers of the arts here in Tacoma and elsewhere. They never really grow the arts, they just recycle through the same old manifestations, which rarely serves more then their out of touch donors and their own egos.

This is why CC is so refreshing.

If you read their publications or come to a reading you will find the words of established and talented local writers - as you should. You will also read and hear the words of emerging writers, of writers who are sharing their work for the first time in a public forum, and yes, sometimes you might hear or read something that you think is really bad.

Perhaps that bad writing will never be any good. Then again, with practice, and with the forum they are provided through CC, perhaps it will get better, and even become great.

Right now I am reading the book The Republic of the Imagination: America in Three Books by the author Azar Nafisi, best known for her book Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Both of Nafisis books are about the power, the necessity, and the subversiveness of literature (and story) to transform peoples lives and to re-imagine and shape the identify of a generation and even a whole culture.

This is why I think the two most important words in CCs mission statement are mutual admiration.

Too often the gate keeper approach to things only allows the ones deemed the most talented to get up close. This isnt just true in the arts.

I think anyone that has lived in Tacoma for a while can attest that part of our problem as a city has been the role of gate keepers who hoard to much of the power within a chosen few and thus stifle the creative imagination of the masses.

Certainly this isnt the only issue, but youd be hard pressed to convince me that it hasnt been part of the problem.

Not every arts based organization can be or needs to be as egalitarian as CC. But, every community needs a few groups like it to create a place not just for the super talented (whatever that means), but for everyone trying to tell a story.

Luckily CC isnt the only group that refuses to play a gate keeper role in Tacoma. We have a lot of community based and in touch artists who are focused on building community and developing artists, wherever they are at in their development.

It is true that the tellers of stories and writers are transformed by the process and practice of sharing their words and stories. Still, the greatest service of stories and literature is to the masses. It is to the admirers. The readers and the hearers - whose imaginations, actions, and trajectory are forever changed by their encounter.

So, I say thank you to Jackie, Joshua, and William. Thank you for not only highlighting and cultivating the literary talent and culture of our city, but thank you for building community and opening your gates to every budding writer and storyteller that risks sharing their words and story with us.

I invite all of you to come out and join us this Monday night, right here in the Theater District of downtown Tacoma

Bring your own stories or just bring your imagination. Bring with you a belief that part of how we build the strong community we all want, is to build on our already vibrant arts community, and most importantly take the time to listen to one another’s stories - perhaps even risking to tell our own.

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