Literary Coffeehouse: The Inspiration and Connection between Literary Fans

Written by Phuong (Kim) Pham

On February 5, 2018, the ACC Creative Writing Department welcomed everybody to their monthly gathering, Literacy Coffeehouse, at the Malvern Books bookstore. The open mic event, hosted by John Herndon, is an opportunity for literature lovers to share their passions, or just simply enjoy their time with the literary community.

The evening started off with cookies to welcome the attendees and the writers discussing their work. After that, the readers began sharing their literary works onstage. One of the hosts, David Thornberry, enlightened everyone with his piece about Stephen Hawking’s disease called “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” which he described in his poem as a “thumb” that “belong to the universe,” a very interesting metaphor. This month’s featured reader was Emilee Araujo, an aspiring screenwriter and Creative Writing major at ACC. Emilee brought out many of her works to the audience, including her screenplay and poems. She also captured the audience by reading her first flash fiction, “Lemonade,” in which she shared a story about her immigrant dad.

Readers, who came from different ages and different backgrounds, were connected through their love of literature Everyone was very open-minded and comfortable sharing their stories in various ways. One of the readers, Heidi Juel, who is also an English teacher at ACC Cypress Creek, shared: “Anybody can come in, and you can see they read plays, poetry, fictions and memoirs… pretty much anything.” As this was the second time Mrs. Juel had been to the gathering, she loved the environment that the event was giving. “It’s a good environment if you’ve never done this before, you just take a deep breath, or whatever works for you, look at what you wrote and pretend that nobody’s out there,” she said. “It’s a small group, everybody’s here because they like what they’re doing.”

Literary Coffeehouse is one of many activities hosted by the ACC Creative Writing Department. It opens around the first two weeks of every month. Next month, the event will be on March 5th at 7 p.m. at Malvern Books. Every student of ACC is encouraged to join, either listen or share the literary works.literary coffee house 2

Essay Contest: Modernizing Chivalry {First Place Winner}

We were on our way to Randall’s one evening, when the all-too-familiar, Austin traffic brought us to a grinding halt. I was humming along with the radio when a “CLICK!” caught me by surprise. My girlfriend had locked the doors of the car, and I couldn’t fathom why. I conveyed my confusion with the lift of an eyebrow. She simply pointed past me at something outside the passenger side window. Following her finger, my eyes eventually made out what looked like a small gathering of homeless men. One of the panhandlers had begun limping towards our car.

“So what,” I thought aloud, “Just tell them we don’t have any money.” (This was true. I’m sympathetic toward those in disadvantaged circumstances, but I rarely carry cash as a debt-laden undergrad with a food-service job.)

“Things are just a little different as a girl,” she offered.

We drove off, leaving the homeless fellow and his tattered, trench coat behind, but the simple truth of her blunt words had sunk in. Even in America, the most modern, and equality-driven of countries, women still have concerns for their personal safety.

There is a commonly-held belief in today’s society, that the notion of chivalry is dead. Perhaps it is, and if we’re talking about it in a classical sense, it should stay that way. Many women would even argue that they don’t want or need a man looking out for them.

I agree. Surely, women do not need a man to protect or shelter them based on outdated beliefs. This would be an acknowledgement of difference or weakness. Women are our equals in every sense of the phrase. It’s time to start treating them as such. CodySmith_EssayWinner

I propose a modernized version of the word chivalry. It is not only an acknowledgement of the true equality of the opposite sex, but a need for actually treating them as such. Recognize that girlfriends, on their way to the supermarket late at night, have concerns about their safety. No, you don’t necessarily have to offer to walk them to safety, but let’s not be the creepy, drunken guy, lurking around or staring at them. Let’s make sure we are not objectifying them in the form of awkward and downright disrespectful pick-up attempts.

I can’t fathom an area more prone to acts of sexist machismo than the bars and lounges of our beloved college town, Austin. I’ve witnessed testosterone run wild. One night, I watched a man persistently harass a group of ladies playing pool at Bender Bar until they grew too uncomfortable and walked away from their game.

It is never acceptable to ruin someone’s attempt at a good time. Don’t be that guy. He is the reason females have to worry about their ability to feel safe and comfortable, and as our equals, this is a burden they shouldn’t be forced to endure. I doubt Mr. Obnoxious would have pestered a handful of his manly peers on the pool table.

Growing up, I listened to my two sisters vent their feelings of discomfort toward cat-calling crews of construction workers. Many times, they described going to the local gym only to be met with distasteful ogling. These males may have believed their actions to be socially acceptable, they would be wrong. My sisters’ distress was proof that what is“normal” behavior to one, can have lasting negativity on the psyche of another. I ask, is that the type of social sphere we want our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and perhaps someday, daughters inhabiting? By making women feel more comfortable, safe and valued through modernized chivalry and equality-driven morals, we will foster a society with fewer locked doors and less degradation of our worthy feminine counterparts.

This article has been condensed and edited.

News Brief: Rio Grande Theater Presents ‘Reasons to be Pretty’

Story by Carizma Barrera
Photos by Adrienne Sparks and Carizma Barrera Continue reading “News Brief: Rio Grande Theater Presents ‘Reasons to be Pretty’”

ACC creative writing students get ‘lit’erary at the coffeehouse

Story by Mary Browder • Editor-in-Training

Photo by Jon Shapley • Video Editor

“How do you explain to a six-month-old that we were scared, inexperienced and that his condition was tearing us apart?” said Austin Community College student Kayla Peavler at ACC’s October Literary Coffeehouse at Austin Java. With the help of a microphone, Peaver’s soft, wavering voice pierced through the attentive silence — the heavy silence of an enthralled audience. She spoke evenly, persevering through the story with a mother’s patience, occasionally quivering at points of genuine pain.

My husband blamed me — he was very meticulous when it came to fault. I didn’t take enough care of myself when I was pregnant, too much walking, not enough rest, I saw all that red meat you ate. I snuck a glass of red wine once. He told me Matthew would never be normal, that without hearing he’d never grow up to be the son he always wanted. A son just like him.” she said.

Peaver alternated between lifting her manuscript for occasional glances and signing the parts of the story where she was addressing her son. Her story, titled “Little Rabbits,” described the challenges and frustrations of a hearing mother with a deaf and possibly mentally disabled toddler, particularly after the collapse of her marriage. Yet there were also moments of deep tenderness. Among the most moving points in her story was her slow, patient finger- spelling and mouthing of each sound in the word “mom.” The story climaxes with the mother losing her patience and breaking a dish, a shard of which inadvertently cuts the small child. After she immediately takes him to the hospital to treat the resulting superficial wound, Child Protective Services removes Matthew from her home. Despite the apparent heartbreak, the story ends on a brighter note: Matthew is adopted as the mother begins to come to terms with her inability to give him the life and care he needs.

It wasn’t until after her readings that several audience members realized the piece was fiction. It was easy to assume that the piece was creative nonfiction, or at the very least semi-autobiographical short fiction. Peavler is 23, and could very well have been a teen mother now rail-thin from the passage of time and years of grief. She is not a creative writing major, but nobody in the room would have guessed it. Indeed, this second time Coffeehouse reader majors in American Sign Language (ASL). Her dynamic facial expressions and emotive vocal tone were not only powerful components of her performance, but reflective of an empathy that is essential to her studies, work and eventual career goals.

“ASL interpretation is different from other kinds of language translation. Interpreters aren’t like machines, and good interpreters need to be able to emote and express their humanity,” she said. “The deaf community is all about relationships, whether that’s within a family or between students, teachers, friends or anyone else.”

Peavler takes these relationships seriously — she is also a member of ASL Friends Unite (AFU). Her off-campus work with AFU helps her keep strong ties within the deaf community while she is studying. While most students plan to complete an associates degree within two years, Peavler has taken fewer classes over more semesters.

“I want to graduate with a 4.0…and I will,” she said with a smile to match her certainty.

This performance — her second at the monthly Coffeehouse events— was less about her personal writing than it was about her desire for total immersion within the deaf community. Peaveler has high ambitions and big plans for her life after she earns her interpreting degree at ACC. She plans to apply to Gaullaudet in Washington, D.C., which is the largest deaf university in the nation.

“The school only accepts about 15 hearing students any semester. So that’s a lot of competition,” said Peavler.

Next month’s Literary Coffeehouse is on November 14, and will also be held at the same Austin Java location on 1206 Parkway, near South Lamar Boulevard and 12th Street.