I’ve only lived in Brooklyn for five years, but I’ve seen at least ten different bars close in that short time; and closed bars mean closed venue space. It makes you wonder where anyone is going to learn how to perform if all the bars are disappearing. That’s when you go to the internet and magazines like Time Out to see where all the artists are.
That’s how I discovered The Prosebowl.
I hadn’t been writing in months and I needed something to juice me back up before I dried out forever. Under the free section, of course, is where I found it - The Prosebowl - a semi-competitive live reading of flash fiction from local authors. Right up my alley.
The bowl happens once a month in a place called Pete’s Candy store. It lasts over an hour and you can hear from at least four different readers a night. You only have five minutes to get through your story and depending on the amount of people that evening, there’s a chance you may not read - reminiscent of my time in the open-mic world of standup comedy.
When you get to Pete’s Candy Store you immediately fall in love with the place.
It’s calm, cozy, and covered in nostalgia. You don’t immediately want to get your drink and hide away from the crowd in here because the crowd looks like you - earnest, with just the right amount of modesty. The show happens in the back of the bar, where it looks as if you’ve just entered the caboose of a railroad train car. Chairs line the walls to create an aisle that leads to the stage. A small stage. It could hold a three-piece-band, or maybe a piano, but right now it’s a few simple music stands beside remnants of whatever the last act didn’t take home with them.
When you see the judge’s table, you see the submissions hat and that’s when you know why their stage boasts such an ominous aesthetic - it looks like a magician’s stage. You’ve arrived in the 18th century where flame glows brighter than bulb. There will be magic on that stage again soon and you know this. As you finish penciling in your submission, you fold it once and place it into the hat.
I’ve only attended to the Prosebowl twice. I’ve read two stories of mine from a series I call Drugs. I was given substantial review of my pieces from each judge - what they liked, what they didn't like, how it could be expanded upon. It was confirmation that someone had actually listened. Five minutes on stage in front of a dozen or more audience members and at least three of them listened long enough to tell you about your story. If that was all the prose bowl could offer, it would be enough.
I want to say Thank you to all six judges who reviewed my work. Thank you.
Last month I had the opportunity to join in on The Prosebowl's lighting round. They call up two readers and put them head to head in a tweet-length prose competition. It’s what the entire night has been building toward. Tweet-length must be a phrase all writers cringe at. How foreboding it is to be given a word count - let alone one as impossible and ambiguous as tweet-length.
We read our respective short, short stores and then a literal crowd-o-meeter hands me the win. My prize that night was a bottle of holiday pickles that taste like a craft store’s sale aisle. I loved them. I love them because they were a symbol. They were a trophy that I could ingest.
Collectively, those pickles were the idea that I, Danny Bellini, had come back from my long writing sabbatical.
Thank you, Prosebowl.