Monday, December 7, 2020

From Solitude to Connection: Jackie Fender from Creative Colloquy on Starting a Writing Community with Open Mics and More


If you are reading this, you can likely attest that the action of writing, the very being of a writer is a solitary endeavor.

Though the process of writing tends to be a very raw, vulnerable, and emotional experience, the art of storytelling is an extrovert by nature. From the dawn of time, communities have gathered to narrate tales through the tradition of oral storytelling while gathering around an open flame, to joining over a shared feast to connect and conspire. It is in our instinctual nature to weave tall tales for others.

For a moment in history, I served as Managing Editor for a local indie lit magazine. Though a short stint, it was through that opportunity that I connected with many of my peers who shared my affinity for the written word and from there friendships blossomed. Even after the demise of the literary publication that brought us together, it was over shared drinks and morning coffees a common, reoccurring topic of discussion emerged. “Would it be cool if...” Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a platform to share short stories? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could connect for a regular open mic? Wouldn’t it be cool to meet other writers in the area…and so an idea, and then a plan formed. It was not my idea alone, it was a group of us, daydreaming about the potential of a thing.  

And in February of 2014 Creative Colloquy was born with a mission to support local writers and foster relationships built upon the mutual admiration of the written word through a variety of platforms. We started first with an online publishing platform followed by the first of our live reading events and open mics. In the beginning it was all about the art of asking and hoping for the best. We didn’t even know if anyone was going to show, we just wanted to share stories.

I called six of my friends most insistent that it would be cool if we had this “thing,” and asked if they would send a story for the website and be willing to read if I could score a venue. They, of course, said yes. Next, I connected with the owner of my favorite local café. Known for its cozy and eclectic ambiance, live events, and nicely curated beer selection, it was my very first choice. The owner to this day has a reputation of cultivating a stellar bumping space fondly remembered and sorely missed by many. He also said yes, so then it was only a matter of spreading the word.

That came easier than I anticipated. Newspapers are staffed with writers and writers tend to be eager to support other writers! So, we set a date, asked our friends to show up and were pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support from local arts and culture publications. They too had recognized a void in this platform. You could find a few amazing and reliable organizations that supported poetry, but you would be hard pressed to find a space where you were encouraged to bring your short fiction or novel excerpt.

The stage was set, we had the gumption, wonderfully talented writerly friends, the perfect venue, and a solid buzz of anticipation, all that was left was waiting to see if anyone showed up. And show up they did. 

First Open Mic Night at B Sharp Coffee House

As people filed into the room, I was floored that the majority of faces were unfamiliar to me. 50-60-word loving souls came to fill the seats and steep themselves in the written word. As we continued on our journey it became clear that poets could dig it too and we swiftly began to expand upon our submission guidelines allowing for writers outside of Tacoma to the general “South Sound” region and including poetry and other genres to be among the words you could find among our pages and spotlighted on stage. More than anything at the core of our vision was inclusivity bridging genres and generations, spanning demographics and experience levels each and every gathering.

Creative Colloquy Open Mic

We grew more so, each event thrumming with an energy that comes when storytellers crawl out from behind their keyboards to share stories and space. Among our programming offerings you will find our online literary site open for submissions monthly. An annual print publication pairing a matrimony of poetry, short stories, essays, and art all crafted by South Sound creatives. A yearly storytelling festival each autumn boasting a pub crawl styled literary readings happening simultaneously in an evening of literary performances, art, and music. We’ve recently hidden nearly 100 messages in a bottle submitted by local scribes inspired by the prompt “Glimmers of Light."

Creative Colloquy "Glimmers of Light" 

Also, we have facilitated a selection of workshops hosted by local professionals in their field exploring themes, experiences, and creative concepts that both help participants to hone their skills and find kernel of inspiration they are seeking.

Example of a Class from CC

One of the things I’ve discovered as Founder and Event Producer of this grassroots organization is that in the art of asking, you might just help fuel the alchemy of the human spirit that happens when we find the courage to share narratives  with one another and you’ll definitely hear a good story or two.

BIO: Jackie Fender (Casella) has been a resident of Tacoma and surrounding areas since she was just a glimmer. She’s an editorial writer with columns among the pages of the Weekly Volcano, and has been published by City Arts Magazine, South Sound Talk, Post Defiance, South Sound Magazine, and Grit City Magazine. Other creative community endeavors have included Tacoma ART BUS/Duchess of Downtown Tours, Wrist Magazine, and Art on the Ave. Fender was awarded the 2018 AMOCAT Award for Outreach by an Individual. Peruse stories, submit your own work or find out more about Creative Colloquy at 

Links: Creative Colloquy Website    Creative Colloquy Facebook    Creative Colloquy Instagram

A Note from Tyrean Martinson (one of the admin team from IWSG): I can personally attest to the way Creative Colloquy builds up and encourages authors in the local community. I am inspired by their work and am honored to have a bit of writing in one of those bottled up Glimmers of Light. I've attended classes and open mic events. I've met authors and grown as an author. While we at IWSG want to encourage you to connect here, we also want to encourage you to make local connections. If you want to meet the Creative Colloquy peeps, their Zoom classes are open - a writer from Australia attended one I went to recently. Plus, you can re-watch their classes on Facebook.




Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's really awesome. Like the IWSG, you started with an idea and it's grown from there. My your group continue to grow and share stories.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful someone took photos at the first open mic. You'll always want to remember it.

Tyrean Martinson said...

So glad to share this group and their journey to writing connections!

nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful write Tyrean, a good start to my day. thanks for sharing this with us.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tyrean - a great read about someone helping others change lives and continuing to do so ... fascinating to see how the group is doing. As Alex says ... similar to the IWSG group ...all the best - Hilary

Mirka Breen said...

Nowadays, being a writer is much less solitary, though the act of writing still is.
Here's for a balanced life!