MFA MIXER 2.0: a reading series for the rest of us
Two weeks ago, my boyfriend sent me a Facebook invite to an event: “Mixer 2.0: A San Francisco Bay Area MFA/PhD Reading Series.” He knew that this would be exactly the kind of event I would enjoy, as for the past six months I had been debating about going back to school to get an MFA in creative writing. But we had no friends who were in MFA or PhD programs. The reading mixer seemed like a perfect place to meet young inspiring writers, hear what they are producing, and at the same time get some of our questions answered.
On Thursday, May 16 we found ourselves first in line outside Cat Club (the venue for the mixer) on Folsom Street. A gentleman came out to greet us and asked if we were reading that night. After a bit of chitchat, we found out that we were actually talking to Sean Manzano, the creator of this reading series. He was generous enough to take us newbies along his side and give us a bit of history about how he started bringing new writers together.
Mixer 1.0 occurred eight times last year at Bollyhood, a West African restaurant that transforms into a dance hall. The group of writers for these events mainly come from the following six schools: Mills, USF, SFSU, CCA, St. Mary’s, and CIIS. Each reading is around six minutes long. We talked to Sean about literary journals in the Bay Area. He excused himself for a minute and later came back with his copy of 580 Split, a literary journal produced by Mills College. (Some of the authors featured in it were also present at the East Bay Poetry Summit during Memorial Day weekend.) Sean was gracious enough to let us keep his journal.
The Cat Club is the new, unlikely, and eerie gathering spot for Mixer 2.0. The red monochromatic ambiance of the place reminded me of Matisse’s painting “The Red Studio,” where time is halted and art prevails. While in Matisse’s painting the walls are covered with famous paintings by the artist himself, the walls of Cat Club have posters of upcoming events. One that caught my eye was “Bondage A Go-Go.” Equipped with a small stage next to a human cage, it is certainly a gothic venue. We were feeling a rush of excitement being amongst this emerging writing community and could not wait for the readings to begin.
There were a total of eleven writers that came to read on stage. Some seemed a bit self-conscious but gradually relaxed as their words melted into the audience. The writings were diverse yet had a similar backdrop of darkness that suited the mood. The tone was mostly sanguine with bits of humor. The pieces had no restrictions and the expressions were innovative. We chuckled when the San Franciscan liberated female writers chose to read their works inside the cage rather than on the stage. The crowd was mostly composed of writers who cheered as their peers read.
This event is a perfect place for writers to be given the opportunity to read their work, interact with the audience, and encounter other writers. This reading series is small, eclectic, and best of all, it is free.
Unfortunately we did not stay until the end when the dancing starts, but I am excited to have learned about this mixer and eager to visit their parlor again.
The next Mixer 2.0 is on Thursday, June 20th. But you can enjoy the last event below:
Fyza Parvis is a bohemian bibliophile who writes software by day and by night reads grotesque deranged modernist prose with intellectual and spiritual depth. She loves living in the Bay Area and covering its Literary Scene.