Published on October 1st, 2015 | by Nick Stillman0
A very professional preview of the Creative Colloquy Crawl in which founder Jackie Fender humors her interviewer
I arrived at Hilltop Kitchen early for my interview with Jackie Fender, organizer and founder of Tacoma’s online literary magazine Creative Colloquy. A classic power move, I felt. Very New York. I sat down and made my first note in my notebook – visit New York someday.
The bar was dark and quiet and serious. I ordered an Old Fashioned because it is a no nonsense drink. I wanted to seem confident and for Jackie to see me as a great interviewer. The last time I interviewed her I was in college. A child. Now I had blossomed. Or, I hoped I had. I wanted her to see how much blossoming I had accomplished.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am obligated, here, to inform the reader of a potential conflict of interest: I am a participant in the literary crawl hosted by Creative Colloquy on October 7th. So, keep that in mind during this article and know it did not in any way influence the resulting interview. I am a professional. Not in the sense that anyone pays me, in that sense I’m an amateur. But I walk around with a MacBook and own a coat with elbow pads. So. Close enough.)
Jackie Fender founded Tacoma’s Creative Colloquy in February of 2014. You can read about that here.
Now, after the release of a print edition of creative work CC Vol. 1, and CC Vol. 2 on the way, she has finally seen enough interest to achieve the dream she had since its inception: hosting a Literary Crawl.
“Just so you are aware,” I said after Jackie and I exchanged greetings. “I won’t let my inclusion as a reader affect my article.”
“OK,” she said, undaunted.
“This will all be very above board,” I assured her. “Professional.” I reached over and grabbed my sport coat. I showed her the elbow pads. She admired them.
“I see. Very professional, Nick.”
I nodded my agreement. I try to do most things above board. Rarely do I slip below board. The board, I feel, is there for a reason.
“What is a lit crawl?” I asked.
“What is it?”
“For the record,” I said, indicating my notebook: The Record. I attended and covered Seattle’s Lit Crawl last year, so I didn’t actually need to hear the answer. Essentially, it is a night of bars and bookstores providing mics for authors to read stories to a progressively drunken audience. A pub-crawl with words and booze. Tacoma has never had a literary crawl. Jackie and the rest of CC’s staff wanted to change that.
“Excellent.” I scribbled. “And how much crawling should people expect?”
“Well it starts at six and by the time it ends at nine who knows how many people will be crawling,” she laughed. Her laugh was easy and full. She sipped her Old Fashioned, studying me with bright and attentive eyes. She is an easy interview, I remembered. Too easy. How was I supposed to prove myself? How could I when she ordered a drink as professional as mine?
“We have nine venues spanning from The Harmon Tap Room to The Forum, where you’ll be reading, on Pacific. It should be pretty easy to navigate with the Spanish Steps. There’s a map on the brochures we’re handing out the day of.”
Jackie handed me a pamphlet and I tried my best not to search for my own name in the author list.
“You’re right here,” she said, smiling and pointing to the six o’clock hour.
I reddened and then straightened myself, pretending not to care. I sipped my drink and made a pretend note in The Record.
“So who all is reading?” I asked. I wanted desperately to hear my own name again.
“Well there are over thirty readers. So many great writers. The biggest name would have to be Marissa Meyer. She’s a New York Times Bestseller. But there are tons of names, almost all of them from Tacoma, or close by. Many published authors are reading.”
Talking about a New York Times Bestseller made me shrink and remember that I had eaten Top Ramen for dinner an hour before the interview.
“Why now?” I asked, trying to go on the offensive. “What’s your goal with C3 (Creative Colloquy Crawl)?” I felt good about these questions. They were intrusive and required layers of answers.
“One of our goals was to bring storytellers together,” said Jackie. “Across mediums. Poets and spoken word and the oral tradition. I don’t want people to feel like they have to be voracious readers, or a ‘literary type,’ to feel included and be excited. That’s why we have Drunken Telegraph, and a musical accompanied piece, and some other awesome experimental stuff – we wanted to connect people. And of course for people to have fun. If they end up discovering a local author they love?” she shrugged.
“To connect people,” I offered, not sure what to say.
“Yes,” she laughed again. “That is the literal definition of Creative Colloquy. And I think on the seventh we’ll get to see that happen. When I tried to gauge interest for this, someone asked me ‘why’.”
“Exactly. It was the same with Creative Colloquy. People were asking for it, and no one wanted to start it. So why not now? I think we have the community and the talent for it.”
I asked Jackie how much of an influence Seattle’s literary crawl had on Tacoma’s. Having covered the Seattle Lit Crawl, I know that Tacoma does not possess the same reputation as a hub of literary arts. Most writers I knew wound up in Seattle eventually. Jackie dismissed this idea of competition.
“It’s not a competition.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, playing the role of skeptical interviewer.
“At least I don’t feel it is. I think Tacoma is just as deserving to have a Lit Crawl as Seattle, or Portland, or anywhere. We have some great writers here and over the past year I’ve seen the literary community grow. I see this as a way of building more excitement and expanding our community.”
I asked more questions and took more notes, but really I just wanted to keep drinking and to nod a lot and generally feel like a real reporter.
The check came and I felt warm and boozy. I hadn’t been very impressive, but at least I could pick up the check – another power move. I revisited my first note about New York and underlined it.
I patted the pockets of my jeans. I lifted my sport coat with the elbow pads and checked the Gentleman’s Pocket (the inside pocket). All empty. I rifled through my bag. The Old Fashioneds rose in my throat.
“I can get it,” said Jackie, producing her credit card.
“No, it’s OK, I have my wallet somewhere.” Panic swept through me, cutting the buzz with a blade. “Please, allow me.”
“It’s not a problem.”
The staff returned and lifted the bill, Jackie’s card in tow.
I was mortified. I reached after the disappearing check and a small, pathetic moaning sound escaped my lips. But it was too late, she was gone.
Jackie left and I remained seated. I didn’t feel worthy of a time slot at Tacoma’s First Annual Literary Crawl. I’m always waiting to be called out for being a fraud and to disappoint my parents. One day someone will point a finger at me and say, “Look, everyone! A fraud!” And I will be forced to hand in my sport coat and laptop and never write again.
I was struck with an idea. I called a friend who was watching a stray cat that I had kidnapped and held hostage in my apartment. She came rushing over. I cancelled Jackie’s payment and paid for the bill.
I shrugged on my sport coat and stepped out into a chilly Hilltop evening. The jacket wasn’t warm and the elbow pads were a lie – I didn’t even understand the point of them.
I wasn’t growing up, I thought, not blossoming. I was only getting older. Tacoma, though, was growing around me. I was watching the art scene grow like watching my peers hit puberty – with envy and awe.
But, I reminded myself, I had paid the bill and perhaps salvaged some professionalism. I decided I would arrive on the seventh hopeful and thankful to be part of Tacoma’s literary landscape. The Creative Colloquy Crawl was a first step, the first of many Jackie had assured me, towards the cultivation of a vibrant literary community. And maybe a first step for me, as well. I was ready to blossom.
What: The Creative Colloquy Crawl: A storytelling event featuring over thirty readers.
When: October 7, 6 pm – 9 pm
Where: 9 venues throughout downtown – Odd Otter, The Forum, Embellish, Sanford & Son, B Sharp, King’s Books, Doyle’s, Harmon Tap Room