First Draft Event!

tj murray and jessica thompson
TJ in character as “Kyle” and IĀ 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 envisionedĀ 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. :)