So, OK, sometimes you go to an open mic and they're awful. I don't mean bad writing — you can see enough examples of that everywhere if just take the time to look — I mean open mic experiences where you feel as though you're watching a one-sided therapy session with a heroin-addicted walrus.
And so I approached the USF St. Petersburg Read. Speak. Open mic with no small amount of trepidation. The organizer, department chair Thomas Hallock, opened the event to all. As a grad student, I enjoyed his writing advice, his quirks, and his writing, so I agreed to come check it out. I did not have high expectations — my last open mic left me feeling like my brain needed a bleach shower.
What a difference an open mic makes when you do it with ginger beer instead of lots of beer.
To be fair, the ginger beer probably wasn't the only reason. The readers had powerful messages and well-chosen words. It helps that USF St. Petersburg has evolved from the commuter school of the '80s and '90s into a university that feels as though it's an elite, private campus on the waterfront.
What's cool about this piazza of culture and education downtown is that when people like Hallock say they're going to have a reading, students and alumni attend. Students and alumni (of which I am one. Go Bulls, amiright?) bring their stuff.
The work read at the first "Read. Speak." open mic (now renamed Ginger Beer, because that's how the verbal and visual arts folks at USF St. Petersburg roll) reminded me not every open mic event had to feel like a therapy session gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Hallock provided the ginger beer and coffee, and the students and community offered up their musings.
One undergrad read a moving piece about a young boy experimenting with makeup for the first time — and his mother's tender reaction. Another student had a reading from his script about being a child with cerebral palsy.
"Literature is... a bridge into those foggy regions we are too chicken to explore," Hallock posted on Facebook after the event.
Join the next Ginger Beer Open Mic on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:45 p.m. in USF's Harbor Hall, second floor.