Garrabrant wins story-telling competition

Karen Garrabrant: poet, performer, person.

Karen Garrabrant (senior library assistant) recently won a Write Club contest for a piece about her mother’s death called “Forward.” Write Club is a monthly, head-to-head, story-telling competition that takes place in the Highland Ballroom every second Wednesday of the month. These contests are held in cities all over the US.

It was her first victory in Write Club, competing against five other writers, including former LITS employee Christeene Alcosiba.

In the competition, there are no points, but winners are picked by a panel of three judges based on audience feedback. Contestants only have a week to write a piece based on a pre-selected binary word form, such as “war-peace” or “hot-cold.” Then the contestants have 5-7 minutes to perform the piece before the audience.

For this contest, the themes were “forward-backward.”

“When I was given the theme, I immediately knew I would write about my mother’s death,” says Karen. “I hadn’t written about that singular palpable moment before. The day of the show, March 13, was exactly 5 years from her passing. The unpredictable coincidence of it all made it a perfect choice.”

Karen performing “Forward” before the audience.

Winners receive a donation to their favorite charity. For Karen, her winnings went to support Girls Rock Camp ATL.

Karen has a life-long love for writing and poetry. She works well with deadlines and likes a challenge. “It flexes and focuses my writing,” she says.

The audience is very supportive and she knows that the audience members feel a connection to the topics. “If you can paint pictures in that room, you want to make people laugh and cry,” add Karen. “They like the hard stuff and are with you when your topic is challenging. I have a visual imagination and poetry focuses that. But Write Club pushes me in a new and challenging format.”

Karen has been a poetry slam leader for years but recently has been focusing more on her writing. A poetry slam is a populist form of poetry that involves audience response to poems. “It’s instantaneous,” says Karen. “You are not waiting for a rejection letter for four months. You get the feedback right there.”

She started doing poetry slams in 2003 as a volunteer, then as a host (emcee). She was recruited by other women because they wanted to see women being more involved, especially in leadership roles.

Karen likes the world of performative art because, “People are often marginalized. These types of events allow them to have a voice.”

Karen wanted her voice to honor her mother. Karen’s mother is buried in western MA, where she visited as a kid. She grew up in south New Jersey, about 20 minutes south of Philadelphia.

The following are excerpts from Karen’s award-winning piece:

“I am thankful I have learned unguided meditation, to be in the moment, breathe in and out with purpose, empty my mind and tune in to details. I am grounded. I am centered. It is what this place and these days ask of me.”

“Inside the main room with the atrium window, is my mother escaping, slowly, her body–the body that was my mother’s.”

“I am more aware than I have ever been of how tangible life and our time in it is. I know that the life I had before this will be gone when she leaves, there is no backward. We only live, truly, in one demanding, forward direction. I will not be the same person I was last year. I will not be the same person after these between days are over. Here, I’m absorbing in the most palpable way possible that nothing in my life will be the same after this because my mother will not be alive in it. I will have to find the way forward from this room for the rest of my life.”

To learn more about Write Club, go to Write Club Atlanta.

This entry was posted in Staff Bytes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>