Writing, at its essence, is a means for people to communicate with each other. Just like hugs, holiday cookies and the common cold, writing is meant to be shared.
A group of local wordsmiths have made it their mission to establish a venue where all kinds of creative writing can be shared. Roughly every other month, a group of about 15 writers and another 15 audience members head to River City Books in Soldotna for Writers' Night to read, listen and enjoy.
"For myself, I really like the opportunity to get my work out in public because it's very difficult to do that in a community as small as ours," said Vicki Steik, organizer of Writers' Night. "To get published is a real feat, but we still want to get our work out there so people know what we can do and can appreciate our work."
Writers' Night got started about a year ago at Kenai Peninsula College. A group of people taking a nonfiction writing class decided to hold the event as their semester final.
Participants took turns reading something they had written in the class and the event was such a kick that they decided to make it a regular occurrence, Steik said.
Christine Ostrander laughs as she reads one of her haiku poems.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
The event found a more apropos home in the bookstore. Though the limited size of the store's cafe area constrains the amount of living, breathing audience members who can attend, in a sense there are thousands of fellow writers present, represented by their printed and bound accomplishments that line the wooden shelves.
Steik said anyone is welcome to attend and-or participate in Writers' Nights, whether they've had something published, taken a writing class or consider themselves "writers," or not. Partic-ipants rage in age from teens to 60 and above. Some are students, some are professionals and others are housewives.
"One of the things that has tickled me to death is we have such a variety of people," Steik said. "... We get quite a mix of people and topics and styles."
At the last Writers' Night on Saturday, topics included lighthearted poetry about a nonexistent car, a humorous look at combating the boredom of calculus class, recollection of a life-flashing-before-your eyes moment, and a look at petroleum in Alaska. Styles range from essays, poetry, fiction and just about anything else that can be put down on paper.
"We've had some very eclectic things, some very different things, but it all has been very excellent," Steik said. "I'm just continually amazed at what great writers we have around here."
Writers' Night has grown in popularity and attendance since its inception, and Steik said she hopes it continues to do so.
Sharing your work in public is not the easiest thing to do, however.
"It's really hard to stand up in front of people because what you write is so close to you heart, it's so hard to put it out there," said Barbara Waters, a Writers' Night participant. But she does think the experience is worthwhile and compliments Steik on her efforts to organize it.
"She does it herself, I appreciate her allowing us to have our little moment in the sun," Waters said. "... It's very nice to be able to get your writing out and they hear it and see it and give you feedback and tell you, 'eew' which sometimes you get."
Even though it can be scary, the warm, relaxed atmosphere in the bookstore and the encouragement of other participants can help calm nerves and build confidence.
"I'd like to encourage people (to come)," Steik said. "Anybody who writes who would like to get their work out there, or if you're not quite brave enough to do that, come listen and build up your courage."
The next Writers' Night is planned at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at River City Books. Another opportunity for writers to share their talents is at KPC's open mic nights. The next one is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at KPC.
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