Open-mic night puts writers center stage

“New writers are welcomed warmly,” promises Patricia Vestal, a representative of the North Carolina Writers Network-West division. Photo by Matt Rose.

“New writers are welcomed warmly,” promises Patricia Vestal, a representative of the North Carolina Writers Network-West division. Photo by Matt Rose.

Writing is often a solitary act. Sitting alone with a paper and pen (or, more likely, keyboard and screen) can feel isolating when fellow writers are miles and mountains away. Quiet tranquility can evolve into loneliness, unless a chance to commune with other wordsmiths is on the horizon.

Thirty years ago, writers from throughout the state banded together to form the North Carolina Writers’ Network. This expansive group of prose, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writers still join together in person and online to explore their craft and support each other in their pursuits.

NCWN-West, the western arm of the organization, is a resource for writers in Henderson County and far beyond, reaching into South Carolina, North Georgia, and eastern Tennessee.
“Hendersonville and Asheville — the whole of Western North Carolina — is a very creative area,” notes Patricia Vestal, the co-Henderson County representative for the NC Writers Network and NCWN-West. “There’s a lot of craftspeople and artists here, and also a lot of writers as well.”

NCWN-West hosts an open mic night at the Henderson County Library on the third Monday of each month. It’s a magnet for local writers who want to share their work with the public and gather with other writers. Nearly all genres are welcome, ranging from serious poetry to humorous short stories.

If the idea of standing in front of an audience and revealing one’s work sounds intimidating, Vestal assures writers that they’ve entered a safe space where they can feel supported.
In other words, this is not a “slam.”

“There’s a very strong sense of camaraderie, and new people are welcomed warmly. They may be nervous when they first get there before they read, but by the end of the evening they feel like they belong.”

The public plays a key role in the process. Anyone with an appreciation for the spoken word is encouraged to attend — even, and perhaps especially, if they’re just there to listen. Somewhere between 18-23 readers present short works between 3-5 minutes long, so it’s a varied listening experience for all involved.

The readings are timed out in advance to make sure each writer gets a chance to read and to keep the program lively. This format also provides a framework for the writers themselves, many of whom have not shared those particular works in public.

“We spend a lot of time sitting alone with our writing, and it is nice to be able to communicate with other people who are like you or have different points of view,” says Vestal. “Just coming together is very important.”

The North Carolina Writers’ Network hosts its open-mic nights at the Henderson County Library (301 N. Washington St., 828-697-4725) each month, except December. The event resumes in January, email opmiclit1@gmail.com for a schedule and to sign up. www.ncwriters-west.org.

4 Comments

  • Glenda Beall says:

    This is an excellent article on the Open Mic night sponsored by NCWN-West, a program of NCWN. Pat Vestal, Nancy Zelman and Lana Hendershott have been influential in starting this event for writers in the area. Pat and her co-leader Nancy provide a needed venue for writers in the area.

  • Congratulations and a big thank you to the NC Writers Network West representatives for this special open mic night for writers.

  • Even if you’re not an author, you would enjoy the once-a-month get together. It’s a wonderful way to spend an evening, and, who knows, you might be inspired!

    Many thanks to Pat for all she does.

  • Patricia Vestal says:

    We want to thank Bold Life for this opportunity to tell the aabout the NC Writers Network,and Network-West in these western counties and our monthly Open Mic. event. Beginning April, 2016 writers will no longer need to sign up by email in advance. Just bring your 5 minutes of prose or 3 minutes of poetry to the Library between 5:15 and 5:45 the third Monday of each month and sign up to read and enjoy the work of your colleagues. Pat Vestal, Co-Henderson county NCWN-NetWest Rep.

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