I took my last creative writing course at the University of Central Florida in 2013. When it was over, I was relieved. I’d finally have time to finish writing my novel. In lieu of classes, I picked up two more bartending gigs and a social life fueled by cigarettes and whiskey. It was awesome.
Except, I didn’t work on the novel. In fact, I didn’t write anything for over a year.
I can’t say writing even crossed my mind too much, until I stumbled upon Diverse Word. This outdoor open mic takes place in the courtyard in front of Dandelion Communitea Cafe every Tuesday [rain or shine], and has for over nine years. The performers are mostly a mix of poets, comedians, storytellers, and songwriters. The community is close-knit but welcoming; the mic’s host, Shawn Welcome, makes sure of that. I broke a year of writer’s block with a spoken word poem, an ode to whiskey.
Diverse Word was my first foray into Litlando, Orlando’s multifarious literary scene. S.A.F.E. Words soon became my second.
The S.A.F.E. in S.A.F.E. Words is an acronym that stands for nothing. Or possibly anything. S.A.F.E. Words’ originator, Curtis X Meyer, may tell you it stands for Some Acronym for Everyone. Poet Matador might suggest Sharing Art Fosters Empathy, while Jacyln believes Soap Boxes Are For Everyone.
S.A.F.E. Words slam poets converge on Milk Bar Lounge for competitive poetry two Thursday nights a month. On other Thursdays, you can find Milk Bar home to the Spilled Milk Literary Open Mic. The night is organized by local writer Joe XO, who intends to “create a place for Litlando to bridge the gap between slam poetry and sci-fi novel, blog post and college thesis, screenplay and fanfic.”
Poetry and prose play nice at Spilled Milk, but they throw down at There Will Be Words’ event ”Clash of The Word Titans.” Here, the two genres face off in head-to-head battle; the genre with the last representative standing is crowned victor. There Will Be Words also produces a monthly reading series in downtown Orlando’s Gallery at Avalon Island.
Also residing in downtown Orlando is the Orlando Story Club. The club can be found the first Wednesday of the month at The Abbey (not to be confused with the Abbey Bar in DeLand, where the Breaking Bad Poetry Slam goes down every Third Thursday). Stories are also the center of attention at Stardust Video & Coffee on the second Wednesday with the Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour. One can witness weekend storytelling at Sleeping Moon the last Saturday night of the month.
This litany of literary events just scratches the surface of what Orlando has to offer. With institutions like The Kerouac Project, Writer’s Atelier, Exodus United, Bookmark It, and Functionally Literate all producing regular events, Litlando doesn’t get stale.
The freshest event in the scene promises to become my favorite. Loose Lips, hosted by local legend, Tod Caviness, encourages writers to interpret current events in prose, poetry, and rants. It’s located inside Lil Indies, and it’s where I can be found the first Tuesday of every month. In this cozy cavern on Mills, I will listen, maybe sip a shot of bourbon, and definitely procrastinate finishing my novel.