Creative Havens for Writers


Los Angeles is often incorrectly identified as the creative land of milk and honey. Los Angeles, for many, is the place to be if you’re one of hundreds of thousands with hopes of “making it”. But if you actually reside here you know this is a myth created by people who do not live here, and upheld by those that do. And if you’re a writer you know that unless you’re in the business of writing screenplays, jobs, inspiration, and venues that offer workshops and community are limited.

In this list is you will find gems in Los Angeles that feature a variety of talented writers, celebrate the craft, and work to provide a great community. Whether you are a poet, fiction writer, essayist, or singer you will be inspired (and eventually be the one to inspire) for next to nothing. Don’t live in Los Angeles? Don’t fret, some of these havens are available to stream via podcast and their social media, here is a taste of what is waiting to be heard.

Da Poetry Lounge, every Tuesday at 9pm.

For the poetically inclined; expect finger snapping and spoken word on sexism, racism, sexual assault, sexuality, cultural issues, and current events.

Located in the auditorium of a middle school, Da Poetry Lounge is a humble spot where writers spill their souls. It is said that those who leave without a sense of inspiration probably weren’t paying attention – or are dead inside. This open mic night focuses on poetry and music but with that being said, stories are stories. Regardless of what kind of storytelling you specialize in, a lot can be gained from hearing someone tell theirs – and at $5 for a four hour long show it’s a steal. Da Poetry Lounge claims to be the largest open mic night in the nation, the auditorium (as well as any available stage space besides a slice for the speaker to stand) is filled to capacity every show. If you want to get a seat, arrive early. If you want to sign up to share your own work, arrive absurdly early.

Beyond Baroque, check calendar for events.

A mixed bowl of creativity; free, donation-based, and paid events for less than a movie ticket. Expect workshops, poetry readings, art exhibits, and author readings.

Beyond Baroque is one of the nation’s largest literary centers. There is a real community feel as readings take place in an intimate room and alcoholic beverages are available for a donation. Perfect to get those creative juices flowing. Numerous writers have spoken on this stage before hitting their stride and becoming well known such as Patti Smith, Dennis Cooper, and Tom Waits. And if you’re still yearning for inspiration there is a used bookstore inside with a huge selection to choose from.

ALOUD reading series, check calendar for events.

The literature lover’s TED talk, with most sessions offered for free (but RSVP quickly as they fill up fast).

ALOUD is a summer long literary series of readings, interviews, and conversations that take place in Downtown Central Library. Although this is a seasonal series the organizers make the most of the time available by packing the entire summer full of events. Some upcoming talks are PEN Emerging Voices: A Reading, Why We Write, and Homegoing: A Novel, a conversation with author Yaa Gyasi. I will be attending this one specifically, and just ordered her book. During this series you can be in a room full of writers and learn from published authors about their process of the craft, little else could be more inspiring.

The Moth Story, check calendar for events.

Expect a diverse crowd and stories you have never heard before, told to make you laugh, cry, and see the unification of the human experience through storytelling.

These stories range between 5 and 20 minutes long and although tickets for the live show cost upwards of $39, listening to these stories online is free (all the better for us starving writers) and just as gripping. The writers read on stage with no notes which gives a certain authenticity, and with each speaker raised in various cultural backgrounds and livelihoods you will not hear any repetition in style or tone.

Now go! Be inspired. It is true, the best thing a writer can do to improve their skill is write, but the magic that comes from hearing someone else’s story from a perspective completely separate from your own, and being in a room full of people who enjoy stories, can be the inspiration we need to approach our work with new eyes.

Do you have any literary centers you enjoy going to for inspiration? What other methods do you use to gain inspiration? Have you been to any of these venues? Let me know in the comments below!

Learning Curve

Neon lights in the desert. Joshua Tree, California.

My mum stood in the kitchen like she often did and asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. Being from a second generation Nigerian and Congolese household I knew this was a loaded question. Feet barely touching the ground, my seven year old self sat in a chair with a mouth lacking teeth but full of cheerios, my hair struggling to stay bound in a pony tail. “A farmer!” I said, the idea had been brewing in my mind for some time now and the words were enough to make me beam a toothless smile. But “farmer” was not the correct answer – who knew that when it came to choosing a career profit is more desirable than happiness. “Farmers have to clean up animal poop all day – think of something else.” she said. These harmlessly destructive words left me questioning what that “something else” might be.

I have been in school for years trying to find this out, and finally I have learned that my happiness does not look like large pay checks coupled with even larger student loans. It looks like pen to paper, writer to reader, joint to mouth.

That day in the kitchen was the last time I made a choice based purely out of love; all I knew was animals were great and that was enough. Today I make that choice again, to do what I love despite doubt and overwhelming fear.
So now when I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up I respond, this time with a mouth full of smoke, whatever the fuck I want to be.