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The Secret Love Triangle - Art, Community, and Small Biz

Ann Arbor, Michigan has made it to the top of many lists as the best place to live for women, bicyclists, and even dating. Recently, Ann Arbor has made it to the top of a not-so-noble list: The Laziest Cities list. 

My first reaction was that of disbelief. But, then I read how the list was derived. For instance, locals like to begin their day at an average time of 8:17 a.m., which is later than most cities in the United States. My guess is that Ann Arbor's appearance on this list is a byproduct for some of the other lists it has topped. Locals like to carpool, bike, walk, and jog to work. Also, there is a lot of support for the arts.


Between 2004 and 2005 I witnessed thousands of people lose their jobs and careers after a major pharmaceutical company left town. The estimated loss to the local arts community was nearly $400,000. This is a combination of the loss in funding directly given by the company as well as the decrease in highly paid professionals with time and money to support the arts (such as scientists). 

The first years after the company's closing were the worst. Not to mention other cutbacks across the state. By the end of 2011, our community suffered the loss of Borders as well as a few other community favorites, decreases in funding for performance and theatre arts, art education budget cuts, and more.

As a supporter of local arts, I started to see bigger pushes for small businesses and individuals to contribute - rather than the old model of big corporations doing the heavy lifting. 

Last year, our community welcomed three new small bookstores to the area in 2013: Literati, Bookbound, and Blackstone. They have added just the right mix to the literary community. Through my business, I have worked with each of them on at least one event and continue to be surprised at the unique value each brings to our city.

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Local Poet Frances Kai-Hwa Wang at Open Mic
April is National Poetry Month. For some folks, I suppose that means absolutely nothing. But, for me it means a whole bunch. I have been writing poetry since I was nine years old and it has been a way for me to sort out my emotions and experiences for all these <radio edit> years. For many years, I worked hard at keeping my writer life separate from my professional life. In fact, I have used several pseudonyms, including Les Go. As I worked through my business model, however, I decided that I didn't want to keep these worlds separate any longer. So, in November, Les Go Social became an event sponsor for Bookbound's Monthly Open Mic and Share. Now, I am a small start up with limited resources, but this new merge is giving me faith that there is a model for my ideal love triangle of art, community, and small business.

Below, is an excerpt from the Bookbound Newsletter explaining how it all works:



What: 
Ann Arbor's new Bookbound Open Mic & Share poetry series

When:
The 2nd Thursday of every month at 7pm.

Where: 
Bookbound -- 1729 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor -- in the Courtyard Shops. 

Who:
The General Poetry Community: Poets, Aspiring Poets, Published Poets, New Poets, Experienced Poets, Readers of Poetry, Poetry Lovers, Poetry Enthusiasts, Writers and Poetry Community Supporters.

How:
The event structure is simple: 3 to 5 open mic poets read for about 5 minutes each, then we hear from the featured poet for 20 minutes, followed by time for book signing and conversation. 

Why: 
As a poet, community member, and small business owner specializing in marketing publicity for writers and poets, I saw two distinct needs in our community:
1. Safe venues for poets to hone their craft of presenting, hear their work come from their lips, especially poets who were not connected to a formal program or were a little shy.
2. Places for poets without big book deals or followings to share their work before an audience and extend a low-risk opportunity for bookstores to sell their work.


How does it all work?
I have come a long way since I shared my first poem publicly at a poetry slam. It was such an unsettling experience, I ended up in bed for a day. I couldn't get the cadence of my voice to work like an instrument that wowed audiences...in fact, I couldn't even remember the words! I pulled out my paper and then couldn't keep my place reading on the page. I was so nervous. Eventually, I got (a little) better and even placed in a slam competition. However, I have found that I prefer the nurturing audience that an open mic can provide, without competition. 

So, when I contacted Megan and Peter from Bookbound I explained the cafe open mic model, but with a twist. It would begin with around 3 people sharing poetry in front of the group.  If they did not have original poetry, poetry lovers in the audience or staff members could share a favorite poem recited or read from the poetry books on the store shelves. Next, the featured, published poet would have 20 minutes to read and discuss their work, followed by 20 minutes for people to buy, sign, browse and socialize. The books the author sold would be available that night and on the shelves on a consignment basis that Megan and Peter constructed to be mutually favorable for all parties.

And that, folks, is how the Bookbound Open Mic & Share Series was born!

If you would like to be an open mic poet, please email: info[at]bookboundbookstore.com

If you would like to be considered for the featured poet spot, please email Leslie[at]LesGo4It.com


Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Peace,

Les

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