Searching for a fun night out? Look no further than Fictlicious, a hot new reading series founded by Chicago writer Micki LeSueur. While Chicago abounds with live readings, Fictlicious offers a unique take on the concept, featuring both stories and music created around a specific theme. I spoke with LeSueur about Fictlicious’s inspiration and forerunners without once mentioning I’d recently referred to her as a French mouse. Oops.
Our Town How did you come up with the idea for Fictlicious?
Micki LeSueur For the number of talented writers in Chicago, there are surprisingly few fiction reading events. The ones that exist are great, but we couldn’t find one that meshed with all the different styles of the writers in our group, so we thought, why not create our own? For now, Fictlicious is quarterly and on August 16, we will have our second event at the Hideout. Our first show was in May at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge in Old Irving. We had about 50 people and the writers, musicians, audience, even the bar staff had a blast. Hopefully, we’ll stay around for a long time!
OT Why do you think story telling events are becoming so popular?
ML Salons featuring fiction have ebbed and flowed in popularity, possibly because good writers aren’t always good storytellers and good writers aren’t always good live readers. NPR’s This American Life can probably take credit for putting non-fiction story telling in the spotlight and making it attractive to a large-scale audience through exceptional story telling. Now, The Moth, a non-fiction story slam, is the most successful on-going event I know of, I think because it lifted the idea of competition from poetry slams. The slam component ensures that the storyteller engages the audience as opposed to just providing a stage for the storytellers. I think fiction writers [are learning] how to put on readings from the Moth or we’re all just sick of cable and Facebook and for entertainment, storytelling is about as old school as it gets.
OT What makes your event unique?
ML Fictlicious mixes original flash fiction and music based upon a single theme, different for each event. The stories are created to read aloud and the writing styles are varied – some of our writers read stories that are intricately crafted with layers of imagery and metaphor, while others are just well written yarns that amuse and entertain. We also feature at least three different professional music acts per event, with songwriters ranging from indie pop to rap, each with great stories to tell. We’re the only event that I know of where the songwriters are part of the story telling with music created specifically for the show.
OT What goes into planning/producing a storytelling event?
ML A lot of naïve optimism! I’m fortunate to know incredibly talented writers and musicians who love the concept and are excited to participate. Then it’s finding the right venue, working with the booker for the venue, and next, it’s tending to a lot of details – posters, websites, listing the event, following-up with the venue and artists. Then it’s all about promoting and getting the word out so we can keep it going. I need to make certain the event is rewarding for the artists and a great show for the audience. To keep it viable, once I finish the details for a show, I’m figuring out what to do for the next one. And now that word is spreading, I field inquiries from writers and musicians who want to participate and I need to make sure they’re the right fit.
OT Do you worry the podcast might keep listeners home rather than encourage more audience members?
ML I think it’s the songs and performances we download that are the ones we most want to see live. A podcast also lets people replay their favorite performances of the night and share the stories and songs with people who couldn’t attend. As all the pieces are created specifically for that single Fictlicious show, it may be the only night to capture the work. The way Liam Davis (an amazing local singer/ songwriter/ producer who helps with the music for Fictlicious) puts it, new work has an energy when performed in front of an audience for the first time. It comes through during the show, and it would be a shame to lose it once the event is over. Of course, I want people to come to the show, but if the only way to share the work is digitally, I’m grateful to have that medium as well.
OT This month’s theme is Just Desserts. What can audiences expect?
ML Part of the fun of the event is seeing all the different places the artists take a common theme. For the Super Powers Fictlicious in May, we had songs about manipulative ex-girlfriends, stories of mediocre super heroes and the child of a dysfunctional family who tried to take control of his life. For Just Deserts, I see most of the stories and songs being all about karma, comeuppance and revenge. Or, someone will read it differently tell a story about cake. Possibly served cold. We’ll have to see!
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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