The Off Hours readings are among the best attended literary events in Seattle. At every quarterly event, coordinator Lacey Henson Clemmons packs the Sole Repair Shop on Capitol Hill with a lively crowd of the series’ avid followers. This coming Wednesday, July 25th, the summer 2013 reading will feature past and present members of the Seattle-based Jack Straw Writers Program, which coaches writers to be better speakers, and it’s bound to be well worth going.

Unexpectedness rules the day at Off Hours, and the performances I’ve seen there have been surprisingly engaging and unique. From subject matter to form, the readers and hosts push audience expectations, and the result is a lively and often funny night. Not your typical reading series at all.

Henson Clemmons has created this atmosphere deliberately. “The series is meant to embody the celebratory spirit of writers in the off hours,” she says, “Unlike the static, stoic affairs that readings often tend towards, the Off Hours’ vibe is more living room than lecture hall.”

Henson Clemmons took the name of the series from an Ann Carson title, “Men in the Off Hours,” and was inspired by this passage from that work to set the tone of her events:

…what we are engaged in when we do poetry is error,
the willful creation of error,
the deliberate break and complication of mistakes
out of which may arise

It’s clear the audience connects with what Henson Clemmons is doing. She attributes the series’ popularity to its variety and setting. “I never ask the same person twice, and I also have a selected host help me create a lineup,” she says. “I think both these factors make it a really unique event each time, showcasing a wide variety of different work. I also love the Sole Repair Space and think it’s a great backdrop for a reading.”

Why should you come check it out for yourself? “The Off Hours has built of a large crowd of regulars who create the foundation for a really welcoming audience,” Henson Clemmons says. “Guests and writers alike are encouraged to stick around for those parties, and it’s my hope that these continue to be warm, casual events where guests are invited to be a part of the writing community for the night, and where writers can connect with and support one another.”

The Jack Straw line up includes “the Washington State Poet Laureate, a couple award-winning novelists, a hilarious playwright, and a fascinating former New York Times reporter,” and will be hosted by local poet Sierra Nelson. Plus cello music! How can you pass that up?

Jack Straw Writers in the Off Hours
Wednesday, July 25, doors at 7:30pm, reading at 8pm, $5
Sole Repair, 1001 East Pike (full bar)

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