It’s time to dust off your moleskine notebooks! There’s a new open mic series for fiction writers—The Prose Bowl—starting this Tuesday, August 18 at Pete’s Candy Store, and it’s going to get fierce. “It’s sort of a competition, but a really lighthearted one,” says co-founder Christopher Green. “Slightly American Idol-ish.”
Unlike your regular fiction reading series, The Prose Bowl will have a judging panel and a (hopefully) rowdy audience that will cheer on the four readers. There’s a strict time limit that gives each writer enough space to read about 900 words—flash fiction style. “You read, and then we discuss the story for a few minutes,” says Green. “And at the end, we’ll declare a winner, who will get—I believe—a free drink and perhaps also a small token prize from me and the co-founder.”
We recently caught up with Green to ask the important questions.
Green came to Brooklyn from Cincinnati in late 2013, looking to “live in a place with a literary scene,” he says, “and I wanted to make my own contribution to that scene.” He was born in Alabama, and lived along the state’s coast before relocating to a “lot of places,” which included Cincinnati, where he had lived on and off for the past fifteen years. “There are just resources and levels of interest available in this city that I could never find in the Midwest,” he explains. “I can’t tell you how valuable that is. I hope I never leave.”
The Prose Bowl’s co-founder, John Hague, is a longtime Greenpoint resident and fellow writer who has a background in stand-up comedy. He’ll also be serving as the Bowl’s host. “The Seacrest to my Cowell, you could say,” Green adds.
Greenpointers: Who is going to be on the judging panel?
Christopher Green: Our panel for August will be myself; Catherine Duennebier, a Kenyon graduate and onetime lit journal founder; and Jordan Zolan, who like John has some comedy chops in addition to writing experience. Our plan right now is for me to remain the one permanent panelist and for the other two spots to perhaps rotate from month to month. Sort of like actual American Idol. Zing!
GPers: What is the judging criteria going to be?
CG: We plan on being pretty loosey-goosey about the whole ‘judging’ thing. We think it makes for a more entertaining show, but underneath all the pizzazz this series has one very serious goal, which is to provide an outlet for new writers to showcase their work.
Most readings just feature recently published writers, but I think when people picture New York’s scene a big part of what they imagine is the space for up-and-comers. Not having that feels like a huge empty space where there could be a thriving community. So that’s a big part of what we’re here for. People always talk about how the city is changing, and this is one small way we’re trying to change it back.
That said, I guess there has to be some judging or there’s no show. So in keeping with the American Idol parallels, we’re going partly on the quality of the story itself, partly on the reader’s stage presence, and partly—nay, mostly—on the audience’s reaction. The panelists pick two finalists, but it’s the audience who picks a winner.
GPers: How important is the reader’s performance? Meaning, will this be similar to a Poetry Slam?
CG: I’d say we’re fairly distinct from a poetry slam. Performance is part of the equation, but as panelists we’re going to take other things into account, at least to some extent, like the story’s structure or the development of narrators and characters. But that’s a lot to do with just the basic differences between poetry and fiction in general. We’re also considerably tongue-in-cheek as far as the competitive aspects go. There are no numbers. Audience applause is a primary metric. We describe it on the Facebook page as ‘one part bloodsport,’ but I think maybe that’s just because I think the word ‘bloodsport’ is super cool.
The Prose Bowl is a monthly series held at Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street) that starts on Tuesday, August 18 at 6:30pm (Twitter @theprosebowl). When he’s not busy organizing the Prose Bowl, Green can be found at WORD Bookstore—”No question my favorite spot in Greenpoint,” he says. “That place is the quintessential neighborhood spot, and everybody who works there is always really, really nice.” He also spends “a lot of time at Black Rabbit.”