First Draft Event!

tj murray and jessica thompson
TJ in character as “Kyle” and I host, 1/21. All photos by LaRae Murray.

Although I’ve mentioned First Draft on my blog before, I haven’t gone into detail about what it is. Well, here we go: First Draft is a live lit event that takes place on the third Thursday of each month at Southern Brewing & Winemaking in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. It features readings by notable authors and storytellers, with interactive audience activities in-between. I am a First Draft producer and host.

ira sukrungruang
Ira Sukrungruang reads, 1/21.

We (TJ, Colleen, and I–you might recognize their names from weirderary), began First Draft in my apartment in January of 2015. The goal was to have a couple of trial events at my place then move it to a venue by summer. Life happened, I got busy, deadlines were pushed back, etc., etc., and although we didn’t move First Draft to a venue until two weeks ago, it happened! And now it will keep happening. I’m pretty pumped.

Our first event went well. At least forty-five people showed up! Our readers were Ira Sukrungruang, Tiffany Razzano, K.C. Wolfe, and Erica Dawson. These are all local writers and storytellers. Their readings were fantastic. I was so pleased.

Pretty good-sized crowd for a first show.
Pretty good-sized crowd for our first show in a venue.

I first had the idea to start a live lit event back in 2011. I’d realized I definitely wanted to pursue fiction writing over comedy, but I still wanted to get on stage on a regular basis in some capacity. I did The Moth and a few other storytelling events in Chicago, and attended The Paper Machete, an event they call “a live magazine.”

in the bar
Two audience members participating in a live game based on a story one of them wrote

My initial vision was to create a booked show that featured writers, poets, storytellers, and comedians, with live music somehow interacting with and responding to their readings. I also wanted to have someone sitting on stage acting as a scrivener of sorts, typing up a story based on what was happening. I envisioned this story being projected onto a screen and/or printed and handed out to the audience when they left.

Erica Dawson
Erica Dawson reading never-heard-before poetry.

We aren’t doing any of that, as the activities we’ve come up with arose organically when we discussed things as a group. They are interactive, though, and there is definitely a “live” element to the event. My goal for First Draft is that it will continue on in Tampa after (if?) I leave, and that it will expand to other cities with time, similar to how The Moth takes place across the country. I plan on starting it up again in whatever city I move to next.

Another dream I have for First Draft (that is also similar to The Moth’s path) is that it becomes something that costs money, sells out, and draws long lines of people someday. We will see. :)



jessica thompson
Photo by Annalise Gray.

On October 9th, I was able to take part in a reading put on by USF’s MFA program. It’s called 6×6 (six by six, when said aloud), and the idea is that it features the creative writing of six graduate students and six undergraduate students.

It was super fun! I read “The Tooth.” Lots of positive feedback afterward.

jessica thompson
Photo by Colleen Kolba.

Reading reminded me how much I enjoy public speaking and how much I miss doing readings and storytelling. The Tampa area doesn’t have much of a live lit scene compared to Chicago and Denver. In fact, when I use the term “live lit” here, some people act suspicious and I feel like they think I made the term up. I’m hoping to help change that. First Draft, the live lit project I’m involved with out here, has some things in the works. Stay tuned.

education events

USF English Department’s Fall Colloquium 2014

jessica thompsonAfter updating you on three-month-old news, I realized I never updated you on one year and three-month-old news. My first semester in USF’s MFA program, I took part in the English Department’s Fall Colloquium. It was a formal yet relaxed event that included both academic and creative presentations connected by the loose theme of horror. (It was held in October.)

In my time slot, I put up a slideshow of mug shots of men who had been arrested for sexual violence in the area within the previous year. I went back and forth between reading portions of Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (pdf here) and the mens’ names and alleged crimes. I had some people come up after and tell me it was creepy, which is what I was going for. My hope is that I’ll get a chance to mix fiction writing with non-fiction images again in the future for some presentation or another.


I was teaching Composition that semester and encouraged my students to present something at the colloquium, too. (By “encouraged,” I mean offered extra credit.) Four of them, as a panel, presented art and writing on creepy topics. It was a lot of fun to see them share their original creative work in front of a larger audience. They were nervous, but they did a great job and I felt proud. :)