Writers need to be able to speak in front of an audience if they ever hope to get their work read. For many of us this is a daunting task not easily achieved. Many prefer the seclusion of a coffee shop to being center stage, but eventually you may have to read your work in front of an audience.
Why not start working on your fear of public speaking by watching others who want to do it for a living? Who knows, maybe that funny piece you wrote the other day will give you the courage to mount the stage and try to get some laughs yourself!
The first few times I did standup I made sure to write out every single word that I was going to use. While I didn’t bring the paper up with me, I did make sure to practice and bring up note cards with key words written on them. Even the more professional comedians will bring up a notebook of some sort if they’re still workshopping their bits.
There are countless places around the Twin Cities where you can “cut your teeth” as a comedian. Some require you to sign up online, some you have to know the host, and others have no rules whatsoever. Here are the top five open mics I’ve personally performed at.
- Grumpy’s Downtown, Minneapolis Wednesday 10pm 21+
This open mic is generally inhabited by comedians only, which takes some of the anxiety of performing away. It is hosted by Chris Maddock and the only requisite for performing is putting your name on a list.. The show starts at 10, but if you want to perform make sure to get there around 9-9:30. Talent ranges from veterans of the open mic scene to the timid just trying to get their feet wet. https://www.facebook.com/GrumpysDeathComedyJam/
- The Monday Night Comedy Show, Club Underground @ Springstreet Tavern, Minneapolis Monday 8pm 21+
This is where I performed my first show. It’s a long-running open mic that always has a great turnout. Shows are always started by the evisceration of the Monday Night Comedy Bear, so don’t get there late. Unlike Grumpy’s, there is a small cover charge of $5. Andrew Brynildson hosts and you must sign up with him weeks before to get on the list. But do not fear, for there is always one wildcard spot where those not performing can get a chance to shine for 3-5 minutes. Make sure to say hi to Josh behind the bar. https://www.facebook.com/themncs/
- Acme Comedy Club, Minneapolis Monday 8pm 21+
While they have great professional comedy during the weekends, on Monday’s you can watch hopefuls try their luck at what is generally a packed crowd. To sign up, make sure to get there before 7 and put a star by your name if it’s your first time. First timers are usually given a spot and given 3 minutes. http://acmecomedycompany.com/the-club/open-mic-night/
- The Comedy Corner Underground @ The Corner Bar, Minneapolis Friday 10:15 21+
Right down the road from Grumpy’s is another little spot for comedy. To sign up for this one you need only go online and put your name on a list on the Friday of the show. First timers are almost always given a 3 minute spot. The greatest thing about this open mic is getting to sit in the back room with other comedians, who are generally always funnier than you. Also, there’s a timer that tells you exactly how much time you have so you don’t have to guess when the light’s going to shine to get you off the stage. http://comedycornerunderground.com/
- The Lack of Beards Show, The Terminal Bar, Minneapolis Thursday 7:30 21+
Although you can have a beard and perform at this show, its host Earl Elliott has never sported a beard since I met him some years ago. Maybe he is a meticulous groomer, although some claim he doesn’t have the ability to grow one. Signup starts at 7pm, but, like with any open mic, knowing the host helps get you a spot. https://www.facebook.com/events/664157497018843
So you’ve been going to the shows and are feeling the call of the stage, but you don’t know how to go about writing for a direct audience. Don’t worry, everyone’s nervous their first time and most people bomb terribly. If you can get one or two laughs, consider the night a smashing success.
If you’re going to perform you must remember two things: if you go over your time they will grab the long cane and pull you off stage, and comedians have a terrible health plan.
Meet the blogger:
DANNY ANDREWS is a senior at Hamline University. He loves writing political satire, performing stand-up comedy at various open mics, hats, and acting. His poetry has appeared in his university’s journal, The Fulcrum. If he could be any kind of animal he would be a lobster that is blue.
While reading through our creative nonfiction submissions, the topic of emotional distance of the author from their work, is brought up more than anything else. Sometimes we feel a piece is too emotionally close to the subject matter; other times it feels too distant and stony. So, what, then, is the appropriate amount of distance when it comes to writing about difficult subject matter? How can a writer tell that they’re in the right range to channel the right amount of emotion into a piece?
When a piece feels too close to the subject, or as readers we feel as though the issue is still too recent, it can feel like the writer hasn’t quite worked through things out yet. One common trait I’ve noticed is that the writer relies on a lot of abstract words that don’t carry much meaning on their own, such as soul, pain, or thoughts. This makes it seem too personal and specific to the writer’s experience – they know what they mean by using these words, but the reader will have different notions about the meaning of “soul”, and as a result the meaning the reader gets will be different.
Another sign a writer is too close to the event or subject is an over-reliance on words focusing on emotion. This runs into a similar problem–each reader will have a different idea of what it means to be angry or sad or devastated. There is also usually a lack of concrete, tangible detail as well as a roughness to the writing that suggests the topic is still floating around in the writer’s head and they just need to write everything out as a way to process what’s going on in their mind. This isn’t a bad thing but what comes of this will need revision. It will need to be looked over again when the issue isn’t as charged with emotion and there’s been some time to move on and think about what the piece is trying to convey.
On the other side, it’s also possible to be too far removed from the emotional intensity of an event when writing. Sometimes emotionality is derided since it can’t be proven, but maintaining a good amount can strengthen creative pieces because it makes it more relatable to a reader. Pieces too far removed from emotion can be harder to spot; there usually has been some revision done already so the piece will probably feel more complete.
The first sign that a piece is too distant is an almost analytical tone, for example, “this happened because of this; I should have done this; this has had x effects on my life”. The writer has moved far enough away from the emotional reaction to what they’re writing about that they turn to an opposite strategy: looking at everything rationally, which often sacrifices a feeling of the piece being “genuine” and makes it read like a lab report – everything feels just a tad too constructed for it to feel entirely natural. Maybe the person ignores talking about themselves and focuses on what they do know such as time and place. Either way, the whole piece ends up feeling very impersonal, like they’re looking back on their time with the aforementioned emotionalism and trying to pack it neatly into the bottom of their luggage.
Ideally a piece should work in the area in-between these two, eliciting a personal and emotional reaction in the reader without being soppy or too analytical; leaving some room for the reader to interact with the piece. Using well-placed words and a mix of the concrete while working to define the meaning of the abstract usually serves a piece well. Emotional distance can be a tricky thing, and the best way to figure it out is simply through practice.
Meet the blogger:
CONNOR BYRNE says despite his endless study of literature he still don’t know how to introduce himself. He is constantly lost in the world of words, words, words and not enough in the physical, but in this field that’s probably a good thing. Connor wants to be a fiction writer but generally ends up being more into poetry. Weird how that works out.
Everyone has experienced tragedy in their life. Whether it was devastating, damaging, unforgettable, and maybe in the end repairable, we’ve all experienced pain. We have to in order to appreciate happiness, love, and y’know all that crap worth living for.
Here’s the thing. If you’re a writer and have the dream of seeing your work published on some bookstore shelf, then use that tragedy as inspiration for your writing. It’s hard, trust me, but it’s well worth it. Why? Because it’s hard to make work that’s unique nowadays.
I’ve given this topic a lot of thought because I’ve experienced some pretty crazy things. I’ve had a lot of tragedies happen in my life, but I use that in my work. Life is the best inspiration to draw from. I use all those ugly, colorful, heated emotions as my character’s own and apply it to specific situations or characters and have them deal with it. My work is much more relatable as a result.
It’s said that tension is the heartbeat of the story, and all tragedy stems from tension. Use that personal tension to develop characters, relationships, plots, or situations for your characters to face.
I struggled a lot with making use of my own personal tragedy. It started out as negative energy hovering around me, creating “writers block” (if that even exists, maybe it’s procrastination, I’m not sure). It was all I could think about, but I would never share it with anyone. I always thought it was too personal, too embarrassing, or whatever excuse I could think of at the time.
But I found by using that tragedy in stories that I was finally writing again. It was therapeutic and productive. I learned that some of the crazy things I’ve experienced served as really good material in stories. I’d change a few things since I primarily write fiction, but it was finally being used for something good.
Maybe you’re nervous to do that. Don’t worry, I get it. I was too. Maybe you think “my life is boring, no one is gonna care about the shit I’ve gone through,” or “would it really help? Would it really be interesting?” Stop. Just stop. As a writer I learned that it’s important to stick to your true style, self, and tone. Don’t write what you think other people will like. Write as if you’re only talking to yourself, write the book or poem you wish existed. Write to entertain yourself. Isn’t that all that matters in the end? Because that’s the honesty and vulnerability people will appreciate, whether they agree with your content or not.
Meet the blogger:
COURTNEY YOKES is a senior a Hamline University who primarily writes fiction and poetry. Her work as been seen in The Fulcrum and The Rapids Review. Like any writer she works hard to build her publishing credentials, connections, and most importantly her skills as a writer. The world is overwhelming and she’s just looking to make her mark on it.
Many music listeners are primarily exposed to the music that is promoted by streaming services like Spotify, TV Shows, and radio stations. Unfortunately much of what is promoted on these services is dictated by what is going to make them money, and history has informed us that music with a simple message is the majority of what sells. While auto-tuned mumble rap seems to reign supreme in this category for Hip-hop, there are a few genius poets like Kendrick Lamar who are raising the bar for music and poetry writing as a whole. Thus, I have compiled a list of 3 Hip-hop songs that you absolutely must read on the page (or screen) and listen to, a few of my favorite quotes from each, and a literary device exemplified within the text.
Possibly one of the most unique pieces of poetry I’ve ever read or heard, Jays masterpiece contains four movements, each with a sound sample from a different part of the movie Eternal Sunshine On the Spotless Mind’s orchestral score. If the mood of each movement of text being compounded with each scene referenced wasn’t enough intertextuality for you, the piece also contains several voice samples from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Think Claudia Rankin’s Citizen, in the sense that Jay expertly uses found text and sounds (instead of images) to assign greater meaning to the poetry which they have already created.
“The handling of a heart’s a very delicate art cause it’s paper thin/ One irrelevant thought that started out as a spark could be a poisonous dart/that leaves a permanent mark, that’s ice cold in the day and burns in the dark/And makes you never wanna see her face again”
“Voodoo man, tap dancing in the French Quarter/walking on water with a scroll in my hand/the blueprints for a disc shaped-like vessel/that was chiseled out of metal off the coast of Japan./ Fasting on the top of a mountain out in Tepoztlán/saw a shiny object floating out of the ocean.”
Intertextuality, Form, Imagery.
A masterfully crafted song containing two persona poems written from the perspective of people Kendrick knew growing up. The first is from the perspective of a man who got caught up in gang life when he was young asking to tell his story if he dies before fulfilling his goals of escaping. The second is from the perspective of a woman who is criticizing Kendrick for appropriating the story of her sister’s death in Keisha’s Song from his album “Section 80” to create a song warning of the dangers of prostitution. This amazingly self-aware juxtaposition is followed by a poem from Kendrick’s perspective explaining why he thought the education provided to listeners through the stories made them necessary to tell, and an apology to anyone he may have offended because of it. The second half of the song address the dark realities that systematic oppression has forced upon the people of Kendrick’s community with a broader lens.
“I know exactly what happened/You ran outside when you heard my brother cry for help/Held him like a newborn baby and made him feel/Like everything was alright, and a fight he tried to put up/But the type of bullet that stuck had went against his will/As blood spilled on your hands, my plans rather vindictive.”
“And I’m exhausted, but fuck that “Sorry for your loss” shit/My sister died in vain, but what point are you tryna gain/If you can’t fit the pumps I walk in? I’ll wait…/Your rebuttal a little too late/And if you have an album date, just make sure I’m not in the song/’Cause I don’t need the attention, bring enough of that on my own.”
“I wrote some raps that made sure that my lifeline reekin’/The scent of a reaper, ensuring that my allegiance/with the other side may come soon./And if I’m doomed/may the womb of my mother be blessed for many moons./I suffer a lot/and every day that glass mirror get tougher to watch/I tie my stomach in knots.”
Speakers/Personas, Meta-criticism, Character Building
A beautiful story of love, creativity, and motivation lost in depression and mental health in general. Blu’s ability to blend metaphor after metaphor into a cohesive story within a strict form that necessitates end rhyme and a focus on sound is incredible. On top of that, vivid imagery pushes listeners and readers alike through scenes like a dream sequence necessary to unpack over the course of several days.
“Now that I fumbled and folded that open letter said/dead men walkin’ don’t dream – /you taped yours./And you told me I could rent it,/thought it was invented for my viewing pleasure/human error./The apprentice turned teacher, preacher turned God/couldn’t reach ya, just a façade, the main feature.”
“Definitive days that turn my nights to fiction./ Friction-less, just a pen tryna pimp this stress/cause I couldn’t keep a lid on my life./Naïve as the dry leaves on the ground looking past the tree to the blue sky asking why me.”
Imagery, Metaphor, Intertextuality
Meet the blogger:
ALEX McCORMICK is a poet, songwriter, and musician from Minneapolis, MN. His poetry is experimental in form, incorporating found texts that are later annotated, transcribed speeches and fake documents like resumes and letters. All are primarily tools used to create political satire and philosophical discussions. Alex’s other passion is playing and writing music, and currently performs with Minneapolis based indie rock band Sass, as well as several others. He is a senior at Hamline University, with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in English.
Living in a world surrounded by people that don’t quite share your beliefs, you find yourself stopping. Having to write from a perspective that is commonplace to you, but “other” to the person sitting next to you.
I write as a Jewish person. I write from that place of “other”. Usually, in a classroom, I am the only Jewish person.
Here’s what it means to write as a Jewish person in a non-Jewish Community:
It means rewriting your experiences to be understood
More often than not, I write two drafts. The first draft is for me. The second draft is for the reader. For example, I had to write about a summer experience for a class. I chose to write about Shabbat (the sabbath) at the Jewish camp I had gone to every summer for 12 years. The first time I wrote it, none of my classmates had understood what was going on. They would have gotten the gist of the piece, but there was some connection for my classmates who didn’t know what Shabbat is in the Jewish community.
This isn’t the hard part. The hard part is rewriting every. Single. Time.
It means explaining culturally specific words/holidays
When I went back to edit that piece for class I realized that most of the things I wrote about needed explaining. I spent a good chunk of time rewriting about Shabbat in a way a non-Jewish person could understand. I called it Sabbath, the day of rest, instead of Shabbat. I explained what the customs were and why we were doing it, both in the context of camp and in the context of Judaism as a whole.
It means writing to inform
This form of reiteration has provided me with a perspective: how do I write so someone other than me understands my point of view. These rewrites are not authentically “me”, there is always the subtext of education. Before the editing stage, there is an “understanding” stage of making sure that all things said made sense to people outside of that community. Writing for non-Jewish classmates has enabled me to think about context and information outside of my experience.
It means writing yourself as “other”
We all write things to be understood. The subheader of “Jewish” is an ever present part of me that becomes a source of commentary. Shabbat becomes more than this thing that I do. It becomes a difference between me and my classmates. By writing about my Jewishness, I become subject to the commentary of my environment. What my practices mean to non-Jews. How my classmates perceive me.
It means getting the chance to educate
As a person subjected to such commentary, my writing is a platform to provide perspective. The first draft is intended for other Jews that understand and relate to the experiences I have. The second draft is for the uninformed, the audience that I write for because of mere circumstance. The ability to think of myself as “other” allows a sort of educational drive to my writing. Shabbat becomes more than what I did, it becomes a way to let the unknowing in. I am able to teach someone about a different religion just by writing about the things I do in my daily life.
It means being empowered
My writings provide perspective. By writing from a perspective of being “other”, a lot of times I feel as though I’m able to add something for the person reading it. I contribute to their overall knowledge of Judaism through my experiences. I am asked questions a lot, further explanation, “what does this word mean?”, “why do you do this?”, etc. When I write as a Jewish person my writing becomes more than just for myself. And that is empowering.
Meet the blogger:
TAYLOR ELGARTEN is a senior at Hamline University who will graduate with a BFA in Creative Writing. She owns three cats, and will one day open a book and coffee “food” truck.