Outside, rains rolled in to hammer the pub’s street-side windows, but the inside remained warm and friendly as a packed house gathered for Storytelling Night at Riley’s Pour House. The night’s theme: The Writing Life. Special quests for the evening were members of Write or Die, Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program, and contributors to the book Many Genres One Craft, the multi-award winning book on genre writing edited by Heidi Rubi-Miller and Michael A. Arnzen.
The roster also featured Shelia Collins, author of Warrior Mother, Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and the Rituals that Heal, and was rounded out by some Riley’s regulars, among them Owen Kilbane and Shag (who, like Cher, Sting, and Bono, needs no last name) and a wonderful storyteller named Maggie (whose last name I did not catch at the event, though I will be glad to add it here if someone posts it below).
The night got rolling with a story by Larry Ivkovich, who has been writing genre fiction for over thirty years and whose credits include over twenty short stories published in various online and print publications. His debut urban fantasy The Sixth Precept (IFWG Publishing) is currently available in print and ebook formats. His fantasy novel, Blood of the Daxas (Assent Publishing), arrives later this year. His story for the night, “Writing – An Altered State,” showed how to everything has its own season – a time to write and a time to heal.
Joe Coluccio came next. He attended New Experimental College in Denmark, served as an early program director of WYEP-FM, and founded the comedy group Lackzoom Acidophilus (which had a Saturday night show on WYEP and a weekly Sunday morning program on WURP-AM). He serves as president of Parsec, Pittsburgh’s premier SF organization, which each year hosts the Confluence SF convention.
Joe informed the audience at Riley’s that he has been writing all his life. He then went on to share a piece of that life and the insights drawn from it — a story that centered on a prophetic dream. As a special bonus, you can listen to that story by clicking the player at the end of this post. (I’ll be posting more audio from the night soon, so keep checking back.)
Their piece for the night, titled “Let’s write the Synopsis,” considered how sometimes writing with a collaborator can be a bigger challenge than writing alone.
Sheila K. Collins followed Karen and Kevin. She is a dancer, social worker, university professor, clinic director, writer, and improvisational performance artist. She currently directs the Wing & A Prayer Pittsburgh Players, an InterPlay-based improvisational performance troupe that assists human service agencies in serving noble purposes in the Pittsburgh community. Sheila writes about the power of play, dance, and the expressive arts in her book Stillpoint: The Dance of Selfcaring, Selfhealing. Her most recent book,Warrior Mother, Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and the Rituals that Heal, came out in 2013. True to her performance artist roots, Sheila delivered her story with a combination of song and narrative, making for a dynamic delivery and one of the highlights of the evening.
Sheldon Higdon, our next guest, graduated from the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program. He is a fiction writer with over 40 publication credits, an award-winning screen writer, and a book reviewer.
His story, “Sources Tell Us,” started in a cemetery, passed through some surreal and unexpected places, and ended with a newspaper account in which a couple of mysterious sources relate their crazy experience for the inquiring readers of a small-town newspaper.
Just returned from the World Horror Convention in Portland, where her critically acclaimed collection of poetry Hysteria was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, Stephanie M. Wytovich shared a story about some nights she spent in abandoned prisons and mental hospitals — all in the name of research, of course. Currently serving as the poetry editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press and book reviewer for Nameless Magazine, Stephanie is currently one of the rising stars of the horror genre, a quality that was evident to those lucky enough to catch her performance at Riley’s.
Always a hit at the Storytelling Nights at Riley’s are the regulars who show up, sign in, and take their turns at the microphone. This night featured first-rate performances from Owen Kilbane and Shag (who brought a wonderful does of humor to the night’s proceedings) and Maggie (who delivered an emotional story about loss and cleansing). We hope all three will return for next month’s session.
Our headliner for the evening, Michael A. Arnzen, was born in Amityville, New York – home of the infamous “Amityville Horror House.” He has been telling creepy stories ever since. Over the past twenty years, he has won four Bram Stoker Awards for everything from novels to short stories to poetry. He teaches at Seton Hill University, where he is currently a Professor of English when he isn’t otherwise writing his dastardly tales.
His story for the night — “What Possessed Me to Write Horror?” — made for a memorable conclusion to the night’s celebration of story and performance.
Please join us again next month, June 24, when Riley’s will present Performance Stories: Tales from the Theatre, with special guests from Pittsburgh’s Throughline Theatre.
Sign-ins are welcome.
If you’ve got a theatre story, whether it be from the stage or the balcony, bring it with you and be ready to share. Or simply come to listen. By doing so, you’ll be helping establish a new venue for the spoken word. Until then, remember the advice of Mike Riley. “Have fun while you can!”
Now here, as promised, is an excerpt from the evening’s performances.
The host of Storytelling Night at Riley’s: Bram Stoker Award finalist Lawrence C. Connolly is the author of the Veins Cycle books, the first of which, Veins, has just been released in a special Kindle edition from Fantasist Enterprises. The third book in the series, Vortex, will debut in print and ebook later this year.
Pour House Windows from rileyspourhouse.com.
Storytellers by Karen Yun-Lutz.
The 21st Century Scop by Tom Monteleone