Speak For Yourself Open Mic: Origins

People ask me all the time how Speak For Yourself Open Mic came to be so I thought it might be a good idea to blog about it. As with most events, everybody involved comes to it with their own story and this is just one perspective of many.

A couple of years ago I moved to Utah County from St George, leaving a beloved poetry community called Storm the Mic. It had been such a great community and had so positively impacted my writing that I hoped to find a similar community here in Utah County. Salt Lake City has a thriving spoken word community but as a mom of young children the one hour commute to be a regular part of that scene was not palatable to me. I came across several warm and welcoming groups (shout out to Rob Blair and the UVU Creative Writing Club for their kindness and support) but didn’t find anything that was similar to the open mic I frequented in St George.  The organizer of that open mic, Darren Edwards, suggested starting one myself and after talking to other writers I had stumbled upon in my search for a writing community I found two writers who were interested in starting a creative writing open mic in Utah County—Roah O’Reilly Beisinger and Jessica Dixon.  Roah was involved with a periodic open mic/poetry reading night called Speak For Yourself that was started by Jacob Rees and Kyle Nelson around 2009 in the Lone Peak High School community. I loved the name and asked if we could use it for this new venture.

Together we found a venue (Enliten Bakery) that was willing to give us a three week trial run in May 2014. With the help of Salt Lake performance poet RJ Walker, we put together three weeks of fabulous featured writers (RJ himself, Courtney Hammond, and Benjamin Barker) followed by an open mic that was overflowing with wonderful Utah County writers. After the first week, the manager of Enliten, Oscar Camarillo, said he didn’t consider this a trial run anymore; he wanted us to make Enliten our home.  We were ecstatic and consider ourselves so lucky to have found such a supportive venue (bonus: it is also an incredibly yummy restaurant). The most amazing part of this origin story, though, is how many talented and passionate writers show up every week to be a part of this community.  With very few exceptions, each week we are full to capacity with thoughtful, gifted writers and each of our featured writers has been so incredibly generous with their time and talents.  It has blown me away!  People often thank us for creating this community but it’s really all of you that have created this community (we’re just the folks who facilitate it).

So thank you for creating a community that nourishes and encourages writers of all stripes. Thank you for making Speak For Yourself Open Mic a safe place for writers to thrive. Thank you for speaking for yourself.

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