By Sean Tuohy
One of the key elements of writing is that you have to share your writings with others. If you’re like me, you nervously hand your work-in-process to a peer and hope they don't notice all the misspellings. However, there are plenty of other ways to share, such as Annalise Sierra’s The Writer's Block. The Reno, Nev.-based showcase is an open mic for writers to help others share and craft their work.
Sierra was recently able to sit and chat a little bit about her on going showcase and to discuss the finer points of reading your work in public.
Sean Tuohy: Tell us about your background. What is your back story?
Annalise Sierra: Well, I might as well tell you, I was quite the rebellious child. To add to my charm, I happened to be very stubborn with an incredible will to (almost always) break my mother's strict rules for safety. The only peace she ever had from me was when I would get lost in a book or was busy writing poetry.
She taught me to read and write when I was close to 4 years old, but comprehension probably didn't kick in until much later. I was very fortunate she taught me these two essentials at an early age because it helped me search for answers I wasn't sure I was looking for.
I remember when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I decided to start my own business. I was writing poems in rhyme for my neighbors in my apartments. It was a friendly community so I wasn't shy about putting some poetry in their mail slots. I kindly asked for a quarter if they liked my work. I was giving it away for free. That's how you lure them in.
I'll never forget how embarrassed my mother felt when she found out I was asking our neighbors for quarters. She felt embarrassed, but I felt proud. This was probably one of the rare times I actually knew what I wanted out of life. I was sure (and, without a doubt, know) I could write every single day of my life and it would never get old.
ST: Where did the idea for The Writer's Block come from?
AS: I heard there was going to be a writing show at my favorite open mic, RMP (Reno Music Project) Acoustic Open Mic at Wildflower Village. I approached the man who was coordinating the events at the time, Michael Mac Millan. I pretty much threw myself at him (respectfully, of course) and did my best to convince him I'd be the best host ever. He eventually caved, but he claims he caved rather quickly and invited me to the Wildflower meeting the following Tuesday and bam: The Writer's Block was born.
ST: How long have you been running the show?
AS: I am proud to say I've been running this show since the very beginning. March 13, a month after my birthday exactly. The Writer's Block seemed like a late birthday present, but one worth waiting for and a dream come true.
ST: Is it hard for writers to go on stage and share their work?
AS: Hey now, writers are people too! We come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different egos and capacities for how much attention we can handle in a 10-minute set. People who read short stories or parts of their novel seem to go much smoother because you read until your time is up. Poets are a little different. There is something about them. They seem to be shy, and stay shy, no matter how many times they've been to the show. They still blush a little when you compliment their work. It's endearing to hear their words from their lips: personal, touching, raw.
ST: What is the most common type of story read at the event?
AS: Honestly, I don't think we have "common.” Us writers seem to be an unusual bunch. We have a funny man in a red suit and hat, a charming cowboy who is very authentic, a barefoot monk, a cross-dresser who teases us with steamy stories from when he used to be a call boy, a lovely schoolteacher who speaks boldly about love, and a very tall poet on the shy side and surprises me with his dark work. We always have a new crowd to listen in and enjoy our intimate setting of tea light candles and barely enough lights on because I still get shy on stage. The Writer's Block is like a safe haven for writers.
ST: What is the most interesting story you have heard someone share on stage?
AS: Of all the characters I mentioned, the cross-dresser stands out the most. Not because of the obvious, but because he clearly knows how to tease the crowd with a good story. Week after week, he's tortured and teased us with the juiciest parts of the story just when his time was up. He's shocking, unexpected, and sincerely human.
ST: Has there even been a bad reading?
AS: We have never had a bad reading. Writers get nervous sharing their work, but I never felt it was "bad.” I've always felt it made them honest.
ST: What does the future hold for The Writer's Block?
AS: I'm not sure what the future holds for The Writer's Block, but I can tell you I hope this show sticks around and remains a rock for writers who need an escape so they may share their words with a crowd who wants to hear it, and not just because the writers need to release it.
ST: Can you tell us one random fact about yourself?
AS: I am the kind of person who thinks "spicing things up" means reading a book from the last chapter first and going from there. I'd rather know how it ends and see how it came to be. The end isn't always the end. The beginning is.
To find out more about Annalise Sierra and The Writer's Block, check out the official website.