A Way With Words

Check out these 5 free open mics and reading series events, where audiences can experience the raw authenticity of writers, poets and soapbox orators.

Di-Verse Word

About a dozen courageous creatives are set aglow by the patio lights at Dandelion Communitea Café each Tuesday from 8-10 p.m. as a crowd of about 60 people enjoy tea and craft beer while listening to performance poetry, monologues and stand-up comedy.

“We’ll hear serious topics, funny and silly, heavy pieces about abuse, poems about being gay, you name it. It’s such a goulash, and the way that they are delivered is different for each person,” says host Shawn Welcome, who launched the free open mic series in 2006 to give a “revolving door’’ of writers a stage to share their work. “People just show up the night of and put their name on the sign-up sheet, which fills up quickly.” dandelioncommunitea.com/events/diverse-word

There Will Be Words


With Magnolia Avenue as their backdrop, four previously published writers take to the stage at Gallery at Avalon Island on the second Tuesday of each month for what organizer J. Bradley describes as a highly curated, literary reading series. From 7 to 8 p.m., an audience of mostly 30-somethings listens, many following along in $8 chapbooks, as Central Florida writers share a 10-minute sampling of their fiction or non-fiction work.
“The folks who read have already proved their page-worthiness in order to be on stage. You don’t need an MFA, but you have to be good,” says Bradley, who takes submissions in advance via therewillbewords.com. The event, which offers red and white wine for a small donation, rolls out a few themed and competition-style events each year. “It’s a reading series versus an amateur night,” he says.

Speakeasy at Will’s

F-bombs and quirky confessions are commonplace at this open mic hosted on the third Tuesday of each month by Tod Caviness at either Will’s Pub or Little Indie’s next door. “It can be nerdy, offensive, the good, the bad and the ugly. I like that chaos,” says Caviness, who shares each night’s theme in advance at speakeasyatwills.blogspot.com
Fifteen to 20 speakers, many regulars, add their name to the sign-up sheet upon arrival and later take to the mic to share a 5-minute monologue or performance poetry piece. “I really like the ambiance of doing it at a bar,” says Caviness. “If you’re going to write poetry, do it at Starbucks. Coffee helps. But if you’re going to listen to it, you need beer.”

Wednesday Open Words


Anything goes at this weekly open mic hosted by Curtis X Meyer at Winter Park’s Austin Coffee & Film, where 20-somethings gather to snack on hummus and chips, plus craft beer, wine and coffee. “Everyone gets five or six minutes beginning around 8 p.m. We have poets but also singers, comics, and musicians. Basically I will let people do whatever they want within their time limit,” says Meyer, who typically has about a dozen presenters sign up in person each week and encourages newcomers by offering a free coffee or pastry to all newbies on stage.
Besides frequent themes, Meyer also weaves in quarterly haiku battles. “We are an open mic in the truest sense. It has an ‘anything goes’ vibe. And since Austin is open until 2 a.m.,  there’s no rush. We’ve gone as late as 1 a.m.” facebook.com/wedopenwords

Functionally Literate


This quarterly-ish reading series presented by local publisher Burrow Press sets up shop at various art venues around Orlando and hosts writers from Central Florida and beyond. Three writers, typically from Rollins, UCF or the Kerouac House, read their works for 10 to 20 minutes each as a crowd of 50 to 100 writers, bookworms, and the intellectually curious sip beer, wine and sometimes cocktails, depending on the venue.
“The goal is to pair the best authors we have in Central Florida with visiting authors that we can catch while they’re on their book tour,” says organizer Ryan Rivas, who usually begins this 2-hour event around 7 p.m. “The shows feature established writers, but they are good readers as well so it becomes a high-quality literary event.” functionallyliterate.org

Categories: Nightlife & Bars, Performing Arts