Smile Politely

Stories & Beer #1: the recap

“Bring da motherfucken ruckus” the Wu Tang challenged. And when the Wu commands, we listen.


The very hyphenated nature of the city/cities we live in go to show the very dichotomy we constantly find ourselves immersed in, and the too-frequent isolation between the either/or. Champaign v. Urbana. University student v. local. Even within the University, and even more specifically (for our purposes) within the English Department: Creative Writing v. Literature. Fiction v. Poetry. Thus, our ampersanded attempt to break down some of these barriers, to intermingle… Hold on. “Dichotomy”? “Too-frequent isolation”? “Ampersanded”? (Give or take the fact that I may have just made that word up.) Let me take a deep breath and drink a pint of the beer referenced right up there in the title of the event.

OK. I feel a little better.

As was mentioned in the preview article, “Stories & Beer” is our (“us” being Smile Politely and HOBART, forming like Voltron, to continue the Wu referencing) new attempt to combine, more than anything else, stories and… well, um… beer. More an excuse to hang out, have fun, and have a few drinks with some cool people than any kind of attempt at anything that needs more than one syllable to explain. And thus, this last Wednesday, the 17th, the jams were kicked out and the ruckus was brought.

Micah Riecker

Starting strong, Micah Riecker read a brilliant story/excerpt from his novel-in-progress. The novel focuses on an aging magician and a great amount of the power of Micah’s writing (aside from the obvious merit of the actual writing itself) is unveiled (get it? magic! unveiled!) in its attention to detail and evident research involved. How do you start a night strong and set the tone, not only for the night but for the whole reading series that is trying very hard to refuse being labeled a reading series? That’s right: by introducing a reading about a magician with a little magic. Micah’s first (to my knowledge) attempt at performing a trick in front of an audience both wooed and wowed, with equal parts entertaining patter and just enough nervous energy. If you weren’t there, too bad for you, because you missed out.


William Gillespie

Next up? William Gillespie and his piece, “Eating Delillo.” Are you a dork and/or nerd? (There’s a distinction, but that’s a whole ‘nother article…) Do you love books? Of course you are and you do, otherwise what would you be doing reading this recap, right? Otherwise, you’d probably be off watching sports on TV, or at the gym, or at some kind of social function, or whatever it is non-dorky people do. Anyway, if you’re still with me… wouldn’t it be rad if Wheaties featured a writer on the face of their boxes instead of athletes? Or, alternately, how rad would it be if a great writer took that idea and ran with it, except amped it way up and made it even cooler and funnier and more clever and other superlatives, and then read that piece to you while you sat and enjoyed and drank beer? That’s right. Again: Too bad for you if you weren’t there, because this is the kind of goodness you missed out on.


Paul Pedroza

Next up, middle-man, the hump reader in our five-person (yes, we know, five men; better gender disparity next month, we promise!) event, was Paul Pedrooooooooooza! (That was my attempt to fancy this up a little, sports-announcer style.) Paul hypnotized with an excerpt from his story “The Rain Parade,” which was recently published in the literary journal Palabra. “They come because they want to have fun. Year after year, they believe they will have fun. They stay because it’s tradition. Because they know no other way to chase the demons that made their home a desert in the beginning.” Yes.


Josh Bishoff


You want to know an awesome way to introduce a reading? Well, ask Josh Bishoff who started his reading by stating: “This is not in any way autobiographical and… if you run into any of my colleagues – I’m a librarian here at the University – please don’t mention you heard any of this.” Josh then commenced to read a story called “Librarians of the Midwest” which includes lots of sex, specifically, the act of “fingering” and great phrases like “the reverse antelope,” “the boolean operator,” and “Ranganathan carwash.” I’d love to say more, but nothing else I can say could possibly do this piece justice, frankly.


Ted Sanders

And finally, closing out the night, Ted Sanders with a story inspired by the recent discovery of a “stuttering gene.”  Warning that his story featured a stutterer, which meant he was going to have to stutter, and also that his stuttering experience was limited to Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda, Ted killed, and rocked it, and every other idiom for “closing it out in an amazing way” and left everyone in the bar, like Warren from his story, “g-g-giddy” and “f-f-fucking b-b-b-b-beaming.”

Hope to see everyone next month for Stories & Beer #2, when we’ll bring da ruckus all over again.


Photos courtesy of Matt Minicucci


Click HERE for Stories and Beer #2!!!

Stories & Beer is brought to you in part by the City of Urbana Arts Grant and Urbana Business Association.

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