Freeze Tests Out Town’s Open Mic

Wabash English Professor Eric Freeze will be reading from his work tonight at The Bowery, a Crawfordsville coffee shop now hosting open mic nights on Fridays. Welcoming writers for Story Matters and musicians on other open mic nights, it could be a great venue for Wabash students, faculty, and staff, a vision Wabash Administrative Assistant Violet Mayberry conveys in this piece about the event she wrote for the Crawfordsville Journal-Review:

Last week I sat inside The Bowery, my first visit to the downtown coffee shop. The combination of wood, chrome and glass was refreshing, modern and yet welcoming at the same time.

I was here to chat with Maria Weir, the emcee for The Bowery’s Story Matters series. I’d met her through Eric Freeze, the professor in charge of the creative writing track at Wabash, where I work as an administrative assistant. I wanted to speak with her about The Bowery and the November 8th event.  Eric will read from his book “Dominant Traits”, the debut collection of short stories the Boston Review calls “A well written collection of literary short fiction…I doubt we’ll see a better short-story collection this year.” (A Motley Vision)

“I’d like Story Matters be a place where clumps of young and old, story lovers and poetry fiends, meet up and share. It may start and stay cozy, which is great, but I’d like the room full of writing tramps, high schoolers, college students, natives and newbies to make tracks through the space. If we have variety, no one will want to miss a reading.”

As Maria spoke of her vision for Story Matters, my eyes wandered over the tiny coffee shop. In the corner, I pictured a Wabash freshman sitting on one of the chrome stools. His fingers push his slippery glasses up the bridge of his nose. Dr. Freeze walks away to applause.  The student takes a deep breath and steps off the stool to walk to the microphone.

To my left I could feel the shadow of a teenage girl, her dark hair pulled back into a messy pony tail and her basketball jersey peeking through the opening of her jacket collar. She’s come straight from practice. There is a single sheet of paper folded and refolded, pushed between her palm and her knee. Maybe next month she will sit a little closer to the microphone, she is gravitating toward the center of this universe.

Maria says “Writers are often loners, working in quiet, happy to put pen or key to the white blank page, but reading aloud can be exhilarating for feedback… I hope to give writers the confidence to enjoy the experience, rather than feel it is nerve-wracking. Stories captivate.”

As I glance over her shoulder I imagine The Bowery windows frosted with the chill of the first snow. In my mind, the door is pushed open by a woman in a bright red coat. Her short dark hair is laced with silver strands. Her hands carry composition books, a purse, keys, and an enormous cellphone. She does not want to interrupt anything or distract anyone. Her head down, she slides past the crowd to sit in the very back. She is as far as she can get from the microphone where the Wabash student stands unbalanced. The room is silent. Absorbing,

Maria has a vision that Story Matters will bring a sense of community back to Crawfordsville. “We’ve lost our narrative,” she says. It is up to each of us, writers, listeners, students, workers, poets and paupers, to narrate our story. To make the story matter. There is a process of learning and growing that takes courage to begin. In the shadows of The Bowery I see Maria’s vision coming to life. A college professor, a college student, a high school student, a student of life, all belong in this space together. The Bowery is asking us to begin the adventure to reclaim our narrative. Please join us Friday, November 8 at 7pm as we continue the journey.

—guest column in the Journal Review by Violet Mayberry