St. Petersburg-based journalist Tiffany Razzano expanded her event series to Sarasota's The Reserve to reach a new literary scene
Writers aren’t always the best speakers. We could craft the most beautiful, breathtaking prose that would ignite any reader’s soul, but when it comes to reading it onstage, panic ensues.
That’s why Tiffany Razzano started Wordier Than Thou, a Tampa Bay publishing conference and event series, the latest of which is a monthly open mic night for narrative storytellers at The Reserve.
The Saint Petersburg-based editor at the Seminole Beacon and Pinellas Park Beacon was meeting several community members through her newspaper job, and at one point some sources started inviting her to speak at events — not her forte.
“I'm a terrible public speaker and moderately a control freak,” Razzano says. “Six years ago I found myself asked to events at elementary schools, etc. and it didn't matter where they were, they were all terrifying … I was like ‘this is something I need to get used to and better at.’”
Thus the Storytelling & Prose Open Mic night was born, first in St. Petersburg. Unlike other open mic events, this program is exclusively for narrative storytellers, so no musicians or poets allowed.
Every participant gets 10 minutes to share any longform piece they want. Some read a chapter from a book they’re working on, some share personal essays, and there’s even been a few comedians workshopping story-based jokes, Razzano says, but all forms of narrative are welcome.
Why make it niched? Razzano says she’s filling a void in the Tampa Bay literary scene.
“There wasn’t really something for writers — there’s some slam poetry stuff, but nothing for longer narratives or stories in any form,” she says. “It came out of a very selfish need and I found a lot of people gravitating towards it.”
Many of those people were writers driving up from Sarasota, and that’s when she decided to expand south.
She went through several venues in Sarasota before finding the right one, which she settled on this season: The Reserve.
They’ve had anywhere from 12-40 people come out, but Razzano says she doesn’t feel she’s reaching as many people as she could in Sarasota. She wants locals to know it’s an enjoyable experience whether you’re in the spotlight putting yourself out there or just sitting back and listening.
“If you’re a writer then this is a great place to share your work, whether you have something that you’ve finished and polished or something new,” she says. “It’s a good place to get feedback because you feel the room.”
In an intimate environment with other storytellers and fans of storytelling, she’s noticed how willing audiences are to engage in a conversation about the piece if the writer is interested.
And there’s adult beverages available for purchase, so you know it’s going to be a good time.
“If you like bedtime stories and a drink, it’s good for you,” Razzano says.
As a storyteller herself, Razzano says she’s passionate about hearing new narratives and helping fellow writers hone their craft. But when it comes to explaining this passion, it’s (ironically) hard to find the words.
“I was that kindergartener who said ‘I’m going to be a writer — what else is there to be?’” she says. “I just really love stories … they’re a better way to understand yourself and the world around you.”