Friday, March 1, 2013

The Pen Is Mightier

Credit: Dante's Bar

It seems that no matter what night of the week you visit Dante’s Bar on Main Street in Frostburg, there is always something interesting going on. Thursday evening, February 28, they hosted a Story Slam in conjunction with the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing. The rules were simple – show up before 7:30 pm, register your name, and then wait to be called upon. When your name was called, you would make your way up to the single podium on the dimly lit stage and recite a short story, or an excerpt of a longer story, that you had composed. After five minutes, time would be called, and the judges would score you on writing style and presentation. This process would be repeated once more, and after the second round, the top-scoring writers would have to endure a final round to compete for the grand prize.

Everyone that was in attendance expected a very quiet evening out. The tables were filled with couples fresh from work, dressed in their business casual attire, sipping wine and eating tapas from the Red Giant kitchen. There were six writers participating in the event, and after a few opening words from the emcee, the event took off. By the time the first round was done, it was clear that using the word “slam” in the event title may have been more accurate than anyone had anticipated. During the first intermission, a belligerent gentleman climbed onto the stage, causing the emcee to become irate and start shouting at anyone and everyone within earshot. He furiously counted out the prize, after only one round, and awarded it to the highest-scoring writers before storming out, shouting, “My life is too fucking short to deal with this bullshit!” With looks of bewilderment, some patrons left while others stayed to watch the rest of the scene play out. After what attendee Tim Ryan called “ten minutes of ‘what the fuck’,” the two winners decided to put their money back into the pot and continue on with the story slam, with one of the judges substituting for the emcee.

Contestant Gabe delivers his final story for the evening.

The rest of the evening was very low-key, and after several apologies from the judges, contestant Nick Gaudio took his place at the podium and opened his second story with, “First off, I just wanna say – fuck that guy! Seriously… I don’t even know who that guy was. I’m really sorry about that,” in reference to the gentleman who walked up onto the stage unprompted. Attendee Ed DeWitt responded to Nick's second reading with, "I'll never doubt his passion to his craft. I'm a better man because tonight happened."

The stories from the contestants ranged from being very serious self-anecdotes to comical science fiction pieces, each with their own personal flair, but only two contestants moved forward to the final round. After a short tale of a hotel worker who is approached by two beautiful, intoxicated women at three in the morning, local Corey Oglesby was awarded first place in the competition with 72 points; second place went to Gabe, who performs in local band Jon Felton & His Soulmobile, with 69 points. Although the cash prize was $44, the participants agreed that nobody who was there signed up for the money. The evening was about getting together and sharing their passion for literature, giving their work a voice, and bringing people from all walks of life to share a common experience.

For further event listings, please visit the Creative Writing Center or Dante's on the web.

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