WHY THERE ARE WORDS: giving classy a good name

(Nicole McFeely)

In this January 2011 article, Why There Are Words won Litseen’s first (and only) award for Classiest Reading Series. For those of you who have never been to this monthly, Sausalito-based series, we’re not being sarcastic. Though, it’s true, Litseen doesn’t give out awards, (yet!) and I am sort of wary of using that word to describe it, Evan was right: the series is classy. It’s just that when I hear “classy,” part of me thinks “bourgeois.” I can’t help but picture stodgy, affected poise and upturned noses, and I assume I can’t afford it—whatever it is.

However, my experience at July 14th’s show, Culpable, proved just how far-removed WTAW is from any of that nonsense. Series creator Peg Alford Pursell has found the right combination of elements to create an instant classic and restore classy’s good name. Perhaps, this success has something to do with her assertion in this January 2010 article that it is “encouragement that is really honest and interested, authentically interested” that is truly valuable in helping others and, in turn, ourselves. Maybe it’s the way the lineup is composed of a balanced number of published and, as of yet, unpublished writers that draws such a down to earth crowd and therefore contributor (or vice versa). Or, it could be the spacious and airy atmosphere of Studio 333, the series’ regular venue, which allows both performer and crowd to subconsciously feel more open and receptive. My guess is that it’s some winning combination of all three of these things.

However, whatever it is, the series evokes an air of mutual respect that defines class to me. I couldn’t help but feel that the readers of the evening seemed eager to speak with their audience, not to them, in a way I haven’t seen done so emphatically almost anywhere else. This conversation is why there are words and creates a rare opportunity for everyone involved to share an experience that seems, in some regards, more personal, if not more personalized, and is one reason why so many people return again and again as I definitely plan to.

If you missed the full experience, there’s always next month! In the meantime, here’s the videos from last week’s show:

Graham Gremore

Kristen Tracy

Evan Karp

James Warner

Agatha Hoff

K.M. Soehnlein