JH Palmer opens up about That’s All She Wrote and the merits of live lit

The second Sunday of every month at Great Lakes Tattoo, JH Palmer and Angela Benander host That’s All She Wrote. The series launched in 2012, aims to bring together writers of all different kinds in a comfortable and accepting atmosphere. In this interview, JH Palmer discusses the merits of live lit, the beauty of curating a series and what we can look forward to for That’s All She Wrote.

jp-monte
Monte LaMonte (c) 2014

Tell our readers a little more about That’s All She Wrote.

 My co-host Angela Benander and I launched That’s All She Wrote in October, 2012, and we describe the show as “a non-competitive live lit venue for storytellers of all stripes.” We don’t do contests, and we generally don’t do themes – we focused on the theme of “home” this month in support of the National Runaway Safeline, who received all proceeds of the November show, and we did a fundraiser for our friend Karen Gerod last year with a focus on the theme of “health,” but other than that we haven’t prescribed themes. Often one will emerge at the table read that we have prior to each show with our readers, and it’s always kind of magical when that happens.

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In your opinion, what makes live lit so great?

Live lit connects people – there’s the reader telling the story, and then there’s the audience, and you never know who’s sitting in the audience – maybe someone who really needs to hear that story. I’ve seen performers and audience members connect after live lit shows – I’ve had people come up to me after a show because of the story I told, it can be pretty amazing. It also makes writing, which is generally a solitary act, interactive – it gives writers a chance to get immediate feedback from an audience in a way that’s not possible in a workshop atmosphere, and gives people who don’t necessarily consider themselves to be writers a chance to tell their stories to an audience. It’s a very inclusive, accessible format.

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Using six words, describe That’s All She Wrote.

 Good stories, fun times, great people.

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How has your work with The Moth influenced this series?

 You got that from my Facebook profile, didn’t you? I didn’t actually work at The Moth, Don Hall put something on Facebook about it and I clicked “accept” and it got added to my work history. A lot of storytellers have “worked” at The Moth according to Don. If there is an influence from The Moth I’d say it’s to make sure that the audience is entertained, and to actually host the show – make it fun, make sure that it’s not just people reading straight from the page without ever looking up and connecting with the audience.

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jh and angela
Allen M. Green (c) 2014

What do you find to be most rewarding about curating a reading series?

 Every month we get together with our readers prior to the show and do a table read – a laid back event where we eat, drink, share our drafts, and have a good time. It ends up being the glue that brings the show together because we get to know each other a little bit, and by the time we see each other at show time we have a little bit of history together and it makes the show more cohesive. It also means that once a month Angela and I get to have brunch – or dinner and drinks, with four other writers in a relaxed setting where we can talk shop, or talk about anything, really. It creates a sense of community that continues way after the show is over. I love that part of curating a series.

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If you could have anyone read at That’s All She Wrote, who would you choose and why?

Betty White, because she’s the greatest. I’d love to hear her tell stories about working on the Dick Van Dyke show, or with Bea Arthur. Can you imagine Betty White up at the mic telling a story at That’s All She Wrote? That would be amazing.

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What do you look for in performers who read at That’s All She Wrote? How do these particular traits factor into who you choose to read at the series?

 We like to have a mix of new and seasoned performers; at our last show we featured two newbies: John Leo and Becca Bowlin, and they were both great. We also like get people who haven’t read with us before – we went 23 shows before we had a repeat performer; Jasmine Davila was our first returning reader – in August of this year. It keeps us from becoming exclusive, allows us to hear from new voices, and opens up the experience to new readers.

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Next month’s show is at Great Lakes Tattoo, what made you choose this location?

 We’ve had to move a couple times; the volatility of the restaurant industry made it a gamble every time we set up shop. My husband works at Great Lakes Tattoo, and they have this wonderful gallery space on the first floor. Nick Colella – who owns GLT, said “why don’t you just do the show here?” It’s working out really well – the sound is better than any other venue we’ve performed in, we’re not stuffed into a back room with diners in the front room who are annoyed that we’re talking into a mic and being loud, the show starts after the shop closes so we’re not disrupting business, and it’s a great space. Also, we store our equipment there, which is fabulous. No more hauling an amp, a mic, and a sound board to the venue every month. We’ve been there since August, and it looks like we’ll be there for good.

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What’s in store next for That’s All She Wrote?

 Folding chairs. It doesn’t sound very exciting but I’d really like us to get some permanent chairs, that’s the only thing we have to haul into the shop every month. Right now we rent chairs from Doolin’s – and they’re awesome, they’re totally old school about everything. I always talk to the same guy, George, and he never gives me a confirmation number, he just – I don’t know, I imagine he jots down the order on a scrap of paper and jams it onto one of those spiked, old timey receipt holders that look like a skewer. I told him I’d be placing the same order every month, so maybe we could set up a long term thing and he said: “just call me about a week and a half before the event every month.” He seriously cannot be bothered, but he’s the best. We rent 30 chairs for $45, which is pretty much what one, or one and a half chairs would cost to buy new. Once we get some chairs we can start thinking about more exciting things, like a podcast. Maybe we can get George from Doolin’s to tell a story someday.

That’s All She Wrote’s next show is Sunday December 14th at 8pm at Great Lakes Tattoo (1148 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642)

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Allen M. Green (c) 2014
Allen M. Green (c) 2014
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