Open Mic Series unites writers, builds community


CW / Brynna Mitchner

Brynna Mitchner | @BrynnaOfficial, Contributing Writer

Students gathered to share their writing and listen to their peers’ writing at Monday night’s [Name This] Open Mic Series, a monthly opportunity for creativity and community sponsored by the creative writing department.

The scent of coffee and donuts filled the room as students gathered in Morgan Hall to hear their peers share their writing at Monday night’s [Name This] Open Mic Series. Students sat and chatted among themselves about their writing, their classes and their excitement for the event as they prepared for it to begin, quickly quieting and sitting attentively as a Maya Angelou reading kicked off the night.

On the first Monday of each month, the Writers Guild hosts the [Name This] Open Mic Series, where any undergraduate UA student can sign up to share a piece of writing relating to a topic decided on before the event. Students studying English and a variety of other disciplines from creative media to Italian delivered and listened to poetry, prose and fiction in a relaxed, friendly environment on campus.

The theme of Monday’s [Name This] Open Mic Series was “voice,” which readers interpreted in many ways. Valerie Lawhorn, a junior majoring in English, serves as the president of the Writers Guild club on campus and organized the open mic night, chose the theme.

“The theme that I leaned towards tonight was voice because it’s a really important month for that,” Lawhorn said. “It’s black history month, and it’s the start of the caucuses tonight, so it’s a really big part of our democratic process, and I wanted to make sure that we harnessed on that because this community is a lot about sharing your voice, be it you reading your own work or other people’s work.”

Brody Marshall, a sophomore english major, read a flash fiction piece he had recently written.

“I heard about this [event] in one of my creative writing classes freshman year,” Marshall said. “I came to it, I liked coming to it, so I kept coming to it, and eventually I started reading.”

Elizabeth Turner, a sophomore majoring in English and history, read a piece she wrote called “Niche,” in which she listed the characteristics of different types of people whom she had encounteredafter hearing about the event from both her creative writing course and her friends and deciding to participate. She liked the freedom that writers had with what they wanted to read at the open mic nights, as it created a unique space for many very different types of writing to be shared.

“It gets kind of funny because one person will read something very serious and then someone will do a prose thing and then someone will do something totally comical,” Turner said.

Lawhorn spoke about the sense of community that many students have been able to find by attending open mic nights.

“This is oriented towards anyone who likes to be part of a community of creators, so we’ve had people come up and sing things, we’ve had people come up and read parts of their novels,” Lawhorn said. “It’s honestly just to give people exposure to reading but also to join a community. We have people that will meet at these regularly and enjoy the experience.”

Caroline Lisko, a sophomore majoring in English and Italian, came to Alabama from a small town in New Mexico and appreciated the new community of writers she found by attending open mic nights.

“I always write stuff in order for other people to see it, so I like coming to events like this, and I like hearing everybody else’s stuff,” Lisko said. “I just love the community of writers here and in Tuscaloosa in general. Everybody’s super cool and talented, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Lisko reflected on how inspiration for writing can come from anywhere, as she decided to write about Ted Kennedy after she unexpectedly found herself deflecting from conversations and talking about him randomly over Christmas break. Lisko’s poem, called “For Edward Moore Kennedy,” illustrated the diversity of the styles and topics of the writing shared throughout the [Name This] Open Mic Series.

Lawhorn returned to the idea of ‘voice’ and emphasized the importance of events like the [Name This] Open Mic Series  participants’ experiences as both college students and unique individuals with ideas to share.

“I really think that it’s important to foster the voices of students,” Lawhorn said. “I think that students are an under-targeted demographic when it comes to being listened to and having their opinions matter, and I think this is a good way to make sure that people actually get their voices out.”