You’ve been working on a poetry or short story piece for what seems like years, and it is almost perfectly complete. What do you do next? Do you jump right into submitting it to magazines like the Mochila Review, or do you wait for a while, letting it stew in the computer and mock you?
Well, there is a third option: attend an open mic in your area (in case you don’t know of one, this is a pretty awesome website to find one: http://openmikes.org/). This sounds cheesy and old, but it still stands true: if you want to be published, you need to be a part of the writing community. Open Mics are great for getting your name (and work) out in the local scene. They are also amazing for getting feedback on your poem or short story excerpt—even if it is just to hear that other people like your writing as much as you do.
If you’ve already found your favorite niche to hang out in, here are a few tips on reading / attending an open mic:
- Bring at least 3 different poems / sections from your short story to read. This is done in case you arrive, and realize that the poem you originally brought to read isn’t one you want to read, or you realize that a different poem you wrote fits the mood of the other poets better.
- Before you arrive, practice reading your poetry / excerpt outloud. This will allow you to be more confident of your word choice on stage – and help you sound less bumbly as you perform.
- If the crowd laughs at a funny bit of your piece, pause until the laughter dies down. You don’t want them to miss the next line of your work because the last line was too funny!
- Be aware of potential time-limits, and stick to them. This may mean reading your work before a timer a few times to make sure you can get those pieces out without the moderator or host interrupting you! (Note: some open mics have a time limit, but allow people to go over depending on the amount of people in que for that day. For example, the Open Mic I attend is called First Thursdays, and the host, Mary Stone, usually has a strict limit of 5 minutes per person. However, if there are only 10 or 12 people in que, some people can take up 7 or 8 minutes with their work. This is just something you will get the hang of as you adapt to the climate.)
- Introduce yourself (briefly) to the audience. How are you going to become a published writer if no one knows who you are?
- Most importantly: plan on staying for the entire duration of the event! I cannot stress this enough–if writers do not support other writers, then there will be no audience’s left in the universe.
Good luck and keep writing,
Copy-editor of The Mochila Review