i recently wrote an article for a local website. it was my second one for them, and i am super excited about it! here goes:
Word Out of World: An Afternoon Experience
St. Pete’s literary scene is one of the most active and diverse communities in the Bay area. Groups like Keep St. Pete Lit and Wordier Than Thou put on events regularly, hosted at such local literary-loving hangouts as The Amsterdam, Studio 620, and the Local 662. We’ve got book clubs, open mic nights, and storytelling shindigs galore.
This past Saturday, a new event popped onto the scene. Local young writer Aaron Styza organized a gathering appropriately dubbed “Word Out of World,” which included readings from six local writers. The occasion was hosted by Wilson’s Book World— a fun, eclectic book store that carries over 250,000 used and antiquarian books.
Wilson’s Book World, located across from Trip’s Diner on 9th Street and 23rd Ave North, is a reader’s utopia. The family-owned and operated business has been a local favorite since its founding in 1971. They have a fun setup featuring every genre you may want to pick up: a John Wayne-themed room holds Western novels; a small vintage kitchen holds cookbooks, and there is a large back room that is entirely dedicated to $1 comics. If romance novels are your jam, you’ll find shelves upon shelves stocked with Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel; and if you prefer mystery, sci-fi, or classic literature, you’ll find tons of that, too. Best of all, The King himself welcomes you into their small Elvis-themed bathroom, where you’ll find walls covered in memorabilia and framed photos paying tribute. Wilson’s has inviting old chairs that pair well with its cozy atmosphere, and something else that is getting rarer by the day: that delicious, delicate old-book smell wrapped its arms around me as soon as I walked in the door, and confirmed once more that I will never purchase an e-reader!
After exploring the bookstore and helping ourselves to wine and snacks, courtesy of the friendly father/daughter duo at Wilson’s, guests gradually wandered outside. I was both surprised and excited to find all of the seats full- and still more people standing or sitting on the ground nearby. Aaron Styza introduced himself and gave us an idea of what the afternoon’s events would be.
There were six writers total- mostly students and professors: Aaron Styza, Andrew Harlan, Scott Ward, Jon Chopan, Erica Dawson, and Christina Lutz. Styza and Harlan were classmates; both were students of Ward and Chopan, who teach at Eckerd College.
Self-deprecating humor ran rampant and kept the mood light in contrast to the seriousness of some of the material. We listened to poetry and prose about racism, war, and love and loss, just to name a few. Each participant is in various stages of their writing careers- some are students pursuing writing degrees, some are recent graduates just emerging onto the scene, and others are long-established authors, having published multiple books and also teaching at nearby colleges and universities. The difference between the emerging and established writers was blurred by the confidence and obvious talent of each person reading their work.
When asked what group this event was affiliated with, Andrew Harlan, who helped organize the event, told me that they are not affiliated with any specific group, but rather that they “just happen to be a group of poets and writers who love this city, literature, and sort of vibe with each other.” Perhaps it is because of this organic coming-together that the event felt so smooth and natural.
The event’s creator, Aaron Styza, will soon be moving to Hong Kong, where he will be teaching English. Andrew Harlan hopes to continue this event on a regular basis in the future, and I must agree that I hope they will, too.