Every two weeks, Philadelphia writers convene at Wine-O.
Located at the corner of Fifth and Poplar streets, Wine-O is the quintessential Northern Liberties pub – trendy, upscale dining and drinks with a hip, young vibe. But every other Tuesday night, the residentially located restaurant and bar transforms into a hot spot for language lovers.
Hosted by Abbi Dion, a 2007 alumna of Temple’s creative writing graduate program, the reading series features both fiction writers and poets, as well as a few musicians, although it is not an open-mic night. The series, which began in January 2009, allows scheduled authors the opportunity to share their work in an informal setting.
“It’s not your typical reading,” Dion said. “I moderate and incorporate discussion before and after. It’s comfortable enough that people speak out about the work after, or even during the reading, and it’s not a faux pas.”
With the idea for a reading series in mind, Dion simply needed a location. After visiting Wine-O for dinner, she decided to approached the owner.
“We’ll have anywhere from 10 to 30 people who attend every week,” said Kissy Lazo, Wine-O’s bar manager. “Not only does it draw a crowd for the restaurant and give us exposure, but it’s a very interesting, intellectually inclined environment. [The event] really established a following.”
The vibe the crowd creates is an important aspect of how the reading operates because it is beneficial to the artists themselves, Dion said.
“The din really takes a lot of pressure off the people delivering their work,” she said. “It lets the tension out, and is almost a security blanket. It’s kind of reassuring to be contributing to a general noise.”
“Not that there isn’t good or bad art, but I believe that everyone should have the space to share theirs,” Dion added. “Art-making, which is what writing is, is a collaborative process. The readings are in the interest of helping people become better writers and giving them personal, positive feedback.”
Local Philadelphia writer Benjamin Winkler was the featured writer at last week’s event. Winkler is an editor for local publisher Splitleaves Press. His poetry has been published in several literary magazines, including Apiary, Raft and Otolith.
“I followed a friend here one night, met Abbi – and she’s very supportive of young, local writers,” Winkler said. “I enjoy the informality of it. I can read new work or something that’s been polished. It really just gives you freedom and the opportunity to get your work out there.”
For Dion, the sense of community has allowed her, as well as all those involved, to stay connected to others in the Philadelphia writing scene.
“After I graduated, I didn’t want to fall out of the world of writing,” Dion said. “So you can’t just be waiting for an opportunity to come to you. You really have to be proactive.”
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.