This review of Write Club Atlanta, Sept. 10, 2014, is contributed to Stuff Writers Like from Nico Isaac. You can contact Nico here or follow her on Twitter @WriteIdeaLLC. Click here to read the original.
It’s possible you’re unfamiliar with Write Club, say if you live on an Amish soap farm for example. So, here’s a brief bio: Write Club ATL (there are also chapters in Chicago, LA and San Francisco) takes place on the second Wednesday of each month at the Highland Inn Ballroom. The event pits the best word marvels against each other in a wit vs. wit duel. Inspired by Fight Club, only instead of crushing one’s knuckles on Brad Pitt’s golden, godlike chiseled abs, these combatants pummel literary right hooks into each others pasty, beer-gutted, self-loathing writers’ egos.
The give-or-take 90-minute match comprises…
Each bout consists of two writers, tasked to a create a story on opposing topics (i.e. light vs. dark, good vs. evil, Brad Pitt vs. mortality)
Once called to the stage, a round of Rock Paper Scissors determines who of the two opponents reads first.
Seven minutes are set on the time Timer. The timer will go off at exactly seven minutes. If you are still reading, you will be canned.
When both combatants are finished, the audience votes via applause for their favorite storyteller
A blue-ribbon panel of judges decides who got the loudest ovation, hence the winner
Each winner gives a portion of the night’s proceeds to the charity of their choice, AND is awarded the “Loving Cup of Deathless F’ing Glory.”
Now, not for (almost) anything do I miss Write Club. I mean, there was that one time when I discovered the entire series of Macgyver was just added to Netflix. But, pending the siren call of genius, crime fighters with perfectly coifed 80s mullets, I am there.
And for good reason: Write Club never fails to deliver, and its recent September 14 “Blood Harvest” battle was no exception. Maybe it was the lingering mind-tug of the fullish moon. Maybe it was the oppressive cumulonimbus weight of summer storms pending and passed. But the mood descending the stairwell into the Ballroom basement that night was especially heavy.
Within 10 minutes, the house was its usual packed self. The nerd, indie coterie gathered from far and wide like the Dons at Connie Corleone’s wedding. All prescription lenses and restless legs and fogging windows, tiny multiplying beads containing the collective, ethanol-laden exhale of anticipation, fear, and impending catharsis (or maybe regret!)
The opening music began. Reverend Sister Mojo kicked things off with a moving sermon in memory of the recently departed Timey One, the reigning time clock since Write Club’s inception. In the seven seconds of allotted silence, I recalled my own seven minutes in heaven on the Write Club stage, holding panic-stricken court with that square, mustachioed keeper of fate. R.I.P.
And then! Sister Mojo removed the curtain to reveal Timey Two, Write Club’s new, clean shaven ticker.
Leaping onto stage, sans his usual neatly pressed satin vest, consigliore Nick Tecosky tossed three slips of paper into the hat of doom, one for each of the three bouts. He made his way into the audience and chose one person at random to pull from the hat.
Round 1: Art vs. Commerce
To the stage Dave Bruckner and the Don with a capital “D” himself Nick Tecosky. This, dear readers, was no normal pairing. These two raconteurs have been writing partners for 7 years. Pitting the one against the other, it was akin to Rocky versus Apollo Creed: two champions, once allies, now forced to put aside years of mutual respect, adoration and many, many (many) sand-tussling jogs on the beach at sunset.
One of the tensest rounds of Rock Paper Scissors in Write Club history ensued. First try: both rocks. Again: both rocks. Initially, it was touching, an endearing testament to the strength of the men’s bond and shared inclinations. But soon, it morphed into that scene in all horror movies where the psycho killer refuses to die after multiple attacks — impaled, mauled, lit on fire, shot through the head. You think it’s over; you walk across his/her/its charred body breathing a sigh of relief only for that crispy bloodied arm to reach up and grab your ankle.
AAAAAAHHHHHH! When will it end?!
Four or five (I lost count) rounds in, Nick finally wins. He opts to go second.
And here is my seven-second recap of the seven-minute stories to follow:
Dave Bruckner with ART: This story raised an interesting question: While all of our eyes are watching the performer on stage, who is watching us.
Answer: Dave Bruckner, the Great Oz, the one in control of the artist’s destiny. How? With 37 surveillance cameras strategically planted throughout the Highland Ballroom, Dave has been secretly recording our every shriek of laughter, snort, crotch itch, yawn and shrug—and with this footage, he has designed a formula for a guaranteed-to-win Write Club piece.
All he’s asking in return for this code of eternal conquest is to “eat your firstborn child.” Talk about a bargain-basement deal!
Nick Tecosky with COMMERCE: A mad scientist named Professor Tecosky (hmmm) is minutes away from pitching his latest billion-dollar invention to the powers that buy; a device that enables you to experience “every possible permutation of your being,” past, present, future, on this and any parallel universe, all at once. He tests the device on himself, and collapses under the burden of endless potentiality. He’s a “fireman, an actor, a celebrated romance novelist with a brandy habit…” He shudders to think how a normal, non-genius person would react. He knows the answer: They would implode.
The phone rings; last call. The professor has a difficult decision to make: Bring about the ruin of civilization as we know it— OR buy a boat and sail to Greece.
Time for judgment: By audience applause, the winner of round 1 is Nick Tecosky with COMMERCE. This ruling had nothing to do with the fact that Nick may or may not hold the balance of mankind in his bare hands.
Round 2: Rise vs. Fall
To the stage Chris Alonzo and Topher Payne.
Rock Paper Scissors: Chris wins and chooses to go… FIRST! Proving to us all he’s gone and grown some bronco-sized cojones in the sweet, backwoods Alabama air.
Chris Alonzo with FALL: We always hear about the fall of great men, of healers, and warriors, and leaders. Here, Chris eulogizes the fall of a not-so-great man, a philanderer and drunk and derelict dad—his own father’s childhood best friend, Alejandro “A.J.” Castillo.
It’s the fall of innocence, when a child’s pure and perfect view of the hero dissolves into a monster. And the fall of expectations, when the predictable framework of our life caves in around us and we are left without lines and ties and forwarding addresses.
And finally, the fear that one day, our own need “to be funny and fill a room” will be the thing that brings about our own tragic fall.
Topher Payne with RISE: The counterpart to Chris’s piece in the most literal sense. Here, we’re given a bird’s eye into the final moments of Alejandro “A.J.” Castillo’s life, as he sits reflective in the very bathtub he’s found floating head down in days later. We see in him the rising up of regret for the irrevocable harm he’s caused, the destruction he’s left in his loud and belligerent wake. The rising up remorse for the children he’s abandoned, and the rising up of a desire to “be more than just a horrible lesson.”
He looks up and sees the moldy tiles encircling his tub. He sees where he can start removing the filth. He rises up in the slippery acrylic.
Time for judgment: By audience applause, the winner is Chris Alonzo with FALL.
Round 3: Bend vs. Break
To the stage Ellaree Yeagley and Shannon Turner.
Rock Paper Scissors: Shannon wins and opts to go second
Ellaree Yeagley with BREAK: Ah yes, here Ellaree reads a letter from the recovered journals of famed (British?) adventurer, Sir Collins, who—one can only guess from his frozen remains—broke his neck when his trusted sherpa failed to break his fall off a snow-covered mountain. His “spirited schnauzer,” however, caught a break and managed to survive the ordeal.
Sir Collins’ journals were filled with breaking insights into the fairer sex, gleaned from his 28 marriages, and included copious notes on “breaking savages of their bad habits,” “accidentally causing a syphilis outbreak,” which segued nicely into the “art of breaking bad news.”
Shannon Turner with BEND: This story sent sharp shooting phantom pangs down my gluteus maximuscle. The truth hurts, a lot. Even though we’re not “bent over” our parents knee getting “spanked with an inch-thick wooden panel,” anymore, those of us with that “need-to-please gene” are still getting our fair share of whupped ass.
For Shannon, it’s every time she gets up on that Write Club stage, bending over backwards to please the Heather’s hipster audience only to lose again and again. But not this time; tonight Shannon’s “psychic fear” of corporal punishment is snuffed out by her insatiable thirst for victory, the odds of which (according to Dave Bruckner’s formula) sharply increase by saying one parent-flogging-worthy word in particular:
Time for judgment: By audience applause, the bleeping winner is Shannon bleeping Turner
Jason Mallory on Nick Tecosky’s more-bedraggled-than-usual appearance. “You’ve got a real Scott Bakula Quantum Leap kinda vibe goin on.” (Tweet it!)
Chris Alonzo: “If you don’t like half-drunk eulogies that say mother f’er a lot, then you came to wrong event.” Tweet this
Shannon Turner to Nick Tecosky: “I hope you’re not distracted by my vagina.” (Tweet it!)
Topher Payne on A.J.: “He destroyed his wife a little at a time so it took her a while to notice.” (Tweet it!)
And, my favorite one-liner of the evening, from an unknown audience member: “Did you know Rascal Flatts is in town?” (Tweet it!)
Until next time, Write Club, life is a highway, I wanna WRITE it all night long.