The first rule of Write Club is to tell five to seven other people about Write Club, so here I go. Write Club takes two writers and gives them opposing themes to write an essay about. They prepare this essay ahead of time and it must take no more than seven minutes to read out loud in front of an audience. That's where you come in. The audience listens to the two writers read their pieces, and decides who the winner is. What are the criteria? Who the hell knows, I couldn't figure it out during the evening of Write Club that I attended last week. As far as I could tell, it was whichever essay you enjoyed more, totally subjectively. They use the "applause-o-meter" tool. The evening was a lot of fun.
The first two writers to face off at the Fillet of Solo event I attended had been given the following themes: hope and fear ("Hope Vs. Fear"). The fear writer spoke poetically about fear as a concept. The hope writer told his story of overcoming the desire to kill himself after learning about a retreat type of place in Switzerland where they help you kill yourself. It was an candid, unpredictable essay and he won.
The second two writers represented "Cradle Vs. Grave." The grave writer described a death metal rock band named Grave that he used to know. My favorite quote from his essay was the Grave lyric "fisting me in the ass with a severed arm" (I apologize for not getting that verbatim, which I'm sure I didn't). The cradle writer told a story about a date she had that went terribly wrong: it turned out the guy wasn't looking for the mother of his children, but a woman to powder his behind. As someone who dated for way too long when I was single, I really appreciated her extremely startling and funny story. She won that battle.
The third faceoff wrote on "Teach Vs. Learn." Both writers touched on the theme of how soul-suckingly discouraging it is to teach in the public school system. The more engaging essay described what the writer had learned from her mother who is now dead. This was the only pair I didn't have a strong opinion about (in the previous "fights" my favorites had won). The woman with the dead mother won.
The host of Write Club is Ian Belknap, who admits to being an ex-actor and who teaches writing. Some of (all of?) the writers that night were his students. Ian did an impressive job of being dry and funny enough to keep the audience engaged and enthusiastic from the very beginning. I liked him a lot. He really built a rapport and I felt like a full participant even though I stayed in my seat the whole time.
Write Club takes place at The Hideout in Chicago at least once a month. I'd say more, but I couldn't easily find upcoming dates on their website or Facebook page. Chicago is the birthplace of Write Club, but there are also Write Clubs in Atlanta, Athens, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto. I'm a middle-aged woman without much energy for evening shows of any kind, but I really enjoyed myself at Write Club and could see myself doing it again. I laughed a lot, heard some great stories and got to give input on who did best. I hope you'll check it out.