Nestled within an Exposition Park neighborhood, local bar Sandaga 813 is unique, with rich jazz and the smell of incense emanating from its bright red door. On this particular Wednesday evening, Sept. 12, writers from around Dallas gather here to share drinks, conversation and their own creative literary works.
This event, known as Lit Night, was created by SMU professor and award-winning author Sanderia Faye. On the second Wednesday of each month, published authors meet at Sandaga to read their writing. Works typically read include poetry, fiction and nonfiction. On this night, some works provoked laughter, while others left the audience misty-eyed. The goal is to have forged a sense of community and a locus for creativity by the end of each session.
Faye was inspired by the Franklin Park Reading Series in New York after attending in fall 2015. What started in 2009 as a few writers meeting at the neighborhood bar once a month gradually became a famous event with a considerable following among literary circles in New York. Faye wanted to curate something similar in Dallas, being fascinated by the idea of a local bar becoming a massive literary hub for established and emerging writers alike.
“After having that experience, I think in November, I thought I wanted to do something like that in Dallas,” Faye said.
Ann Fields came to support Sanderia Faye and was a member of the audience. This was her second time attending Lit Night. She enjoys hearing the authors read their work aloud, and thinks that the event is a way to meet people in the literary circle or just enjoy bookish discourse.
“It is a great event for writers and people who enjoy literature,” Fields said.
Another element that Faye wanted to incorporate was audience participation, something that seemed to be missing from the Franklin Readings. For each session, she sets aside a 15-minute window where anyone can read, allowing about three minutes per person. Besides creating a sense of community by getting locals involved, Faye discusses the possible career or networking benefits.
“What if there is an agent or an editor sitting in the audience? You just never know.” Faye said. “Three minutes could possibly change your life. Or you could just have a good time reading.”
Linda Jones was among the readers from the audience. Not many read poetry that evening, but Jones was one of few. She read her poem “She Makes Me Feel,” a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin. Though it was not her first time reading her poetry to an audience, it was her first time reading at Lit Night.
“The atmosphere was really welcoming,” Jones said. “I’m definitely coming back.”
As the night came to an end, Faye asked all of those who read, authors and audience members alike, to gather on the stage for a group picture. The readers collected on stage, laughing all the while as they tried to organize themselves for a picture. The crowd dispersed, and among hugs and handshakes, promises to return next month echoed around the room.
Faye shares her hopes for the future of Lit Night.
“Hopefully pretty soon, we will be like the Franklin Park Reading Series,” she said. “We will have a presence in Dallas that if you are interested in literature on a second Wednesday of the month, that you could find your way over to Sandaga.”
For those interested, there are two upcoming dates. The theme for Oct. 12 is creative nonfiction, and for Nov. 12, writers who also teach will read their works.