United States of Writing

United States of Writing is an initiative to expand our core programs to better serve writers coast to coast. This year, we’re piloting United States of Writing in Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans with plans to expand in the coming years.

Follow our literary outreach coordinators—Justin Rogers in Detroit, Lupe Mendez in Houston, and Kelly Harris in New Orleans—as they report on the literary life in three storied American cities.

United States of Writing is supported with a generous grant from the Hearst Foundations and additional support from Amazon Literary Partnership.

Reports From Detroit

10.7.19

This week I took a moment to speak with Rose Gorman, the inaugural Tuxedo Project resident fellow, about the literary landscape of Detroit compared to her experience in New York, where she received her MA in creative writing at Binghamton University. Gorman has lived in Detroit for two years and quickly become an active organizer of book clubs and fundraising events, and is a coordinator for the Michigan Louder Than a Bomb festival.

Gorman has a ton of experience with event programming and, as the former program manager of the New York Writers Coalition, received funding for the Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival through the Reading & Workshops program. When asked about the differences between the literary events and resources in Detroit versus New York, she found it difficult to put into words. “New York is a larger place, and coming from there, Detroit has a small-town feel,” says Gorman. “It can be easier to collaborate with different kinds of artists here, while in New York everyone is already engrossed in so much of the culture that it’s harder to find time to collaborate. Everyone is hustling.”

I identified with Gorman’s experiences with Detroit feeling like a small city. There is an unspoken effort to connect to a larger group of like-minded creatives here. The beauty of Detroit is in the richness of our creative community. We welcome new writers to the city and it’s important that we continue to share experiences, resources, and knowledge with each other.

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
9.30.19

As a writer, I know how quickly our own writing seems to age. It often feels difficult to generate new work. Communing with fellow creatives is sometimes the best way to put pen to paper. With that in mind, I want to highlight a couple spaces for writers that I have found in the area.

Riverwise is a community-based magazine focused on highlighting local activism and personal Detroit stories. Alexis Draper has been organizing the Riverwise Writing Workshop series, which are held all over the city allowing for more accessibility to folks seeking out classes. The workshops range from general creative writing techniques to focusing on discussions about social issues in our community. A recent workshop called “Uncomfortable Spaces” was offered for free at the Artists Inn and was led by local poets Kahn Santori Davidson and Natasha T. Miller.

The Detroit Writing Room is an up-and-coming venue that opened in June offering coworking and event space in downtown Detroit. They have writing coaches that anyone can schedule an appointment with for feedback and editing on business materials or literary work. Many of the writing coaches are local creatives and professionals, including Anna Clark and Ashley Calhoun, both of whom I highly recommend! 

There are so many organizations and spaces that I could mention, but here are just a few more: Bottom Line Coffee House is home to a number of workshops led by local writers and visual artists, and they have great coffee and pastries. The Room Project is a work space for women and nonbinary writers and artists, and this October and November they will be offering creative nonfiction workshops. InsideOut’s after-school program, Citywide Poets begins this October for any teens looking to develop their writing. 

I hope these are resources that you can use and share with fellow writers! 

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
9.23.19

I have been speaking to numerous venue owners in Detroit about what it means to host a series in the city. Open mics allow for a variety of artists to take the stage while I have seen other shows and reading series offer a workshop afterwards. These are the shows that introduced me to the world of poetry. It’s been enlightening to explore all the different literary series offered in Detroit and to see how they impact audiences.

Recently I had a conversation with Dan Wickett, a local poet and event organizer, about hosting the Brain Candy series. The series showcases one poet, one prose writer, a musician, and a visual artist performing together at the local comic bookstore Green Brain Comics. When asked about how he chooses the artists and curates events, Wickett says that his hope is for audiences to find something unexpected to enjoy. “I’m exposing different art forms to those that show up to see a painter or a musician,” he says. “I’m also hoping to develop a community of artists that helps each other, supports each other’s events, and that finds hints of their own work in those around them.”

Brain Candy is presented by Green Brain Comics and the Emerging Writers Network, and has shows every third Monday of the month. For more information on events in your area, and to post your own, visit the Literary Events Calendar.

A reading for the Green Book Comics Brain Candy series.
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
9.16.19

Last week I helped organize InsideOut’s annual Citywide Poets orientation, which preps the writing mentors who will lead after-school sessions in local high schools and community centers in Detroit from October through May. This year the program is bringing together eighteen writers to participate as mentors, including Nadine Marshall, Jassmine Parks, Brittany Rogers, and Devin Samuels.

In addition to our growing numbers, what made this year’s orientation awesome was the place where we gathered, a new community arts center in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood called ArtBlock. This space offers an outstanding first impression with its colorful mural on the north wall of the building. Inside the building, there are three separate mural-covered rooms fit for anything from readings to workshops to parties. ArtBlock is available for community groups and local nonprofits to use free of charge, which was a great help to InsideOut. I look forward to this year’s Citywide Poets programming and to seeing future events at ArtBlock.

ArtBlock mural by artist Fel3000ft. (Credit: Justin Rogers)
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
9.9.19

LaShaun “Phoenix” Kotaran is a longtime figure in the slam community and has recently been chosen to host a new poetry slam series in Detroit. It is exciting to see poetry back in a venue that hasn’t had a poetry event in over ten years—Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This immaculate building offers a dynamic recital hall known as the Cube for performances.

I had a chance to speak to Phoenix about adding this new gig to her extensive hosting career. While Phoenix is excited about the opportunity, she feels that the literary offerings in the city have shrunken, especially since the city’s bankruptcy. “It’s been tough to partner with venues in downtown Detroit and Cass Corridor,” Phoenix says. However, the new slam series at the Cube brings hope of fresh growth. “Detroit Symphony Orchestra is very Detroit, very white and blue collar. It is Detroit grit. This is the perfect space to cultivate culture,” she says.

The first Cube Poetry Slam went down last month and featured incredible local poets and an acoustic set by singer and songwriter Peter Collins who made his Detroit debut. This fall, the series continues with an all-female lineup. I will be watching this series very closely and reporting about it in the near future!

LaShaun “Phoenix” Kotaran and poets read at the Cube. (Credit: Justin Rogers)
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
9.2.19

I recently had the pleasure of attending a new poetry series hosted by Detroit poet Caesar Torreano. Lyrics & Libations is held at Detroit Vineyards, a new venue and winery featuring Michigan-grown wine. This unique venue offers an elegant, spacious feel complete with a bar and one-of-a-kind floating tables. The staff are welcoming and friendly, and the unique wine options keep everyone smiling and warm as they listen to local poets—many of which are established in the community—share their work.

The space offered me the opportunity to chat with artists and organizers who I haven’t crossed paths with in a number of years. Caesar managed to offer the same inspiring allure I recalled from the first time I walked into one of his events over seven years ago.

I highly recommend checking out Lyrics & Libations, which happens every Wednesday starting at 7:00 PM at Detroit Vineyards. There are exciting featured poets to listen to and meet, fine wine, and an open mic for anyone who wants to share and join in. I’ll be back to participate again soon!

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
8.26.19

A large part of the work that I do for the literary community in Detroit is with the nonprofit organization InsideOut Literary Arts. InsideOut is Detroit’s largest and oldest literary arts nonprofit, placing writers in schools across the city and offering an award-winning after-school program known as Citywide Poets. As the coordinator for Citywide Poets, I have the honor of organizing the after-school activities for the program. We offer weekly writing workshops, a visiting writer series, and my favorite event, First Draft Open Mic.

First Draft began by demand from our students who wanted a space to share their in-progress work. The series has continued to flourish and is now closing its second season. The last event held on August 16 featured poetry and music, and a special performance by the 2019 Detroit Youth Poetry Slam team. It is obvious how the youth of the program have taken full ownership of this event series, from hosting to performing. Events like this, along with the work I do for InsideOut and Poets & Writers, all lines up in a way that reminds me that writing is thriving among new, young artists as well as veteran artists. At First Draft Open Mic, there is more that happens than just sharing first drafts, everyone in the space shares a moment of vulnerability and a community is instantly built.

Detroit Youth Poetry Slam team.
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
8.19.19

In just under two weeks I will be holding the first of what I hope to be an ongoing event series, the Detroit Writers Circle. On August 30, I am inviting Detroit writers, reading series hosts, and literary event planners to join me at the Tuxedo Project (7124 Tuxedo Street) from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM to write, share, and discuss the minigrants offered by the Readings & Workshops program. Our writing workshop will focus on poetry, and an open mic will follow. We will close the evening by offering a step-by-step tutorial of the application process for the minigrants. This will be a great time to ask questions and gain clarity about the guidelines.

We will also open the floor for suggestions on events in the Detroit area, including future workshop leaders, potential featured performers, and available venues. I am hoping to see a number of literary entities on August 30! Can’t wait to build community with you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at Detroit@pw.org.

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
8.12.19

Exploring events in Detroit has been exciting this summer. There are a number of lesser-known venues in the city that have recently started hosting literary events. For those looking for a space to write or build community, the Room Project in the North End has been a go-to location for me. A membership includes use of the workspace, library, and podcast equipment. They also have an event space that hosts artist talks, readings, and writing workshops.

For a change of scenery and an interactive experience, Signal-Return in Eastern Market has hands-on workshops in their letterpress print shop as well as a range of public programming including exhibitions, book release parties, and the Motor Signal Reading Series cohosted by Literary Detroit. The series pairs a local writer with a traveling writer in a double-feature reading that includes an intermission activity with the audience.

Visiting these locations has been a pleasant learning opportunity on how to help build up the literary community across the city. Shout-out to other spots I’ve visited that I encourage all to check out: Artist Village Detroit, Book Suey, the Commons on Mack Avenue, and the Corner Ballpark.

Search the Literary Places and Reading Venues databases for spots to visit near you!

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
8.5.19

Welcome to the United States of Writing Blog! I’m Justin Rogers, and I’ll be reporting from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. I am a poet—check out my Poets & Writers Directory profile for more on that—and I work as a youth program coordinator at InsideOut Literary Arts organizing after-school creative writing programs and coaching youth teams for regional and national poetry slam competitions.

As a literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers, I’ve been tasked to further engage with the literary community in my city, let folks know about the tools and resources P&W has to offer (and there are so many), and report back about all that’s happening. Already so many faces have brightened up during my conversations with them about the Literary Events Calendar (where anyone can add events for free) and minigrants offered through the Readings & Workshops program (find out how to apply here).

I’m excited to continue sharing with Detroit the information and opportunities that P&W offers and, on a personal level, to learn more about my city and the literary world at large. Check the blog weekly for my reports from the field. Looking forward to being your guide out in Detroit!

Justin Rogers. (Credit: Lebrun Jackson)
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.