Frederick News Post: Open mic nights often take place in coffee shops or book stores amid patrons chatting over coffee or browsing through books. But what would it be like to read flash fiction or play a song in an intimate setting designated exclusively to literature readings and music performances? And what if that setting was under a starlit sky at night? It seems befittingly poetic. And it’s happening every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. as part of Literature Night at downtown Frederick’s recently opened Sky Stage (and occasionally indoor venues downtown in the event of rain). The series is free and open to the public.
To be more specific, Literature Night at Sky Stage is hosting The Eckleburg Reading Series, an outreach of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, a literary and arts journal based out of The Johns Hopkins University. The reading series began in 2010 — with its journal counterpart — and has taken place in cities such as New York, Baltimore, Chicago and D.C. This is the first year that series has taken place in Frederick.
The Eckleburg Reading Series, conceptualized by Rae Bryant, a Frederick native and editor of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, is sponsored by the Frederick Arts Council and kicked off on Sept. 22. It runs through Nov. 17 and is slated to re-emerge in the spring.
Bryant, whose short story collection “The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals” earned a Pushcart nomination, said that, since the series premiered in Frederick, Bryant has recruited authors who have traveled from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oregon and the UK to join the event as featured guests. “It’s really exciting to see all of these people willing to travel and come share this reading series,” Bryant said.
Each reading night typically schedules two to four featured authors, who are given an allotted amount of time to present their work. “We generally have a pretty full featured reading schedule, but we also have a good 20 or 30 minutes at the end to encourage other readers to get up,” Bryant said. She said that members from the public in attendance who would like to read their work or play music don’t need to sign up in advance.
Some of the featured writers who have read at various locations for The Eckleburg Reading Series include Rick Moody and Cris Mazza in Baltimore and Richard Peabody, Daniel Armstrong and Lindsay Lusby in Frederick.
“It’s not just about scheduling the featured readers. … We’re also asking for the Frederick community to come out and not only listen to our featured readers — who are coming from all over the country — but also, we’re asking our local talent to come out and share their stories.”
As far as what genre of writing is typically read at the series, Bryant said, “It is every form. We absolutely love poetry, but we love equally to see fiction and prose and nonfiction, [such as] essays. We find that flash fiction is a really great format for reading in public, or a self-contained excerpt from longer work.”
Bryant acknowledges that reading personal work in front of a live audience can be daunting: “I think one of the things that’s really important … for each of these reading series is that everyone feels like it’s a safe space to come and read.”
Bryant is seeking indoor venues to host the series during the winter months. During the series’ hiatus from Sky Stage, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review will have a booth at the AWP Conference (national collegiate writing conference) in February. Bryant encouraged Frederick writers to attend the conference and said it can provide networking opportunities for indie writers. “Eckleburg [staff] would love to have local Frederick writers get involved and will be happy to facilitate events so Frederick writers can network with all the literary journal editors and creative writing programs involved in this annual conference.”
Overall, Bryant said she was pleased with the first season the The Eckleburg Reading Series at Sky Stage. “As a writer myself and creative writing teacher, I am excited and humbled and want to thank our readers both locally and nationally for their support of Frederick arts,” she said.