Storytelling events are no longer a rarity in the Valley. In fact, Phoenix is positively booming with events that give voice to established writers and novices alike (see: "Multi-Story Building," Jan. 2017).
Spillers is the fiction writers' answer to all the non-fiction events around town. A quarterly short fiction storytelling event, Spillers features several writers who present a piece, sit down with the show hosts on their award-winning Spillers podcast and include their stories in a chapbook. Also unlike the non-fiction events, there are no specific themes.
Spillers will be hosting its seventh show tomorrow, Tuesday, March 14, featuring five different writers: Susan DeFreitas (author of Hot Season), Urian Garcia, Robert Hoekman Jr. (Spillers co-host), Leah Roper, and Dana Diehl (author of Our Dreams Might Align).
Featured writer Urian Garcia, who will be reading in public for the first time at Spillers No. 7, chatted with PHOENIX about the show and his story about a family facing deportation. The Arizona native mentioned how immigration stories can initiate a precise and curious conversation about the indomitably big topic. “Immigration stories are dense with historical context,” Garcia says. “The identity of immigrants is disregarded. As if to be an immigrant is to be other than human.”
Garcia, who is also an ASU creative writing undergrad, says it's also important to him for readers to know that there's a rich Latin-American literary history. “I went all the way through high school and halfway through college without touching or being assigned a single book about being an immigrant, Latino, or Hispanic,” he says. “I thought these narratives weren’t important to anyone.” Thanks to the Spillers platform, Garcia will have the opportunity to read his narrative with an audience.
PHOENIX also chatted with the founders and hosts of Spillers, Robert Hoekman Jr. and Brian Dunn, about their upcoming event and about the show in general.
[Spillers founders Robert Hoekman Jr. (back right) and Brian Dunn (front right) interview writer Matt Bell on their podcast.]
How did Spillers start?
Brian Dunn: The idea for Spillers sprang from a conversation we had in 2015 about our own fiction writing and how solitary the creative process can be. Non-fiction storytelling events were all the rage in Phoenix, so we decided a fiction storytelling event would give audiences something new and get writers in front of live people for a change. We wrangled four writers to read with us at Spillers No. 1, and the audience response was tremendous. Spillers has grown like crazy since then, and we’ve added event chapbooks and the podcast to the mix. Everything we do is to spotlight the great fiction being written right here in Phoenix.
Tell us about your backgrounds.
Robert Hoekman Jr: We’re both professional writers who mostly sling nonfiction. Brian works at a software company. I write and edit for a bunch of publications and clients. We both also write fiction. Brian is a humorist and has some great credits to his name, like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. I haven’t really tried much to put fiction work out into the world just yet, but I’m working my way up to doing more of it. We’re both working on novels.
We met a billion years ago while working for the same company. When we both got serious about fiction, we thought Phoenix needed an event. The first one was such a hit, we did another. When that one was a hit, too, we decided to amp things up and make it a big deal.
How do you select the writers?
Brian: The story is what matters. Spillers has featured award-winning, nationally-recognized writers alongside writers for whom Spillers is their first publishing credit. All we ask is for the story to resonate. Of course, we also seek out diversity of narrative voice; we want insight into and stories from worlds we don’t yet know. We accept submissions through our website.
What is the impact of the show in the Phoenix literary community?
Brian: How Spillers has been embraced across the board is nothing short of remarkable, and it’s been that way from the start. I’ll never forget the first person I handed a program to in the Crescent Ballroom lounge an hour or so before Spillers No. 1. We’d minimally promoted it, so I started to talk up the event. She cut me off and said, “You don’t have to tell me all this. I came here tonight just to see Spillers.” You can’t ask for a better omen. We’re fortunate to enjoy great relationships with the writers and fiction lovers in Phoenix. ASU’s creative writing department and MFA program are also fans of ours (and vice versa).
Tell us about stellar readers you had in the past.
Robert: One of the best things about Spillers is that we’re able to put young and undiscovered talent on the same stage as veteran, award-winning novelists. We’ve had MFA students from ASU, for example, read on the same night as their own (published) professors. To answer your question, though, we’ve certainly some big guns along the way. T.M. McNally, Patrick Michael Finn, Tara Ison, Matt Bell—these are people who have earned serious acclaim, and rightfully so, and we’ve been honored and ecstatic about the opportunities we’ve had to put them onstage, to shake their hands, to interview them, and really, to learn from them.
I can honestly say my writing—and my thinking—has been more influenced by the people we’ve featured at Spillers than by any book I’ve read.
Can you tell us a little bit about the podcasts?
Robert: We record every story as it’s read—live onstage, and we do all the interviews right after the show, one at a time. Then we release episodes each week between events. Every writer has two episodes: one for the live reading, and one for the after-show interview.
You can find episodes and subscribe to them through iTunes, or listen to them on the website at www.SpillersAfterShow.com
What do you enjoy the most about being the host(s) of Spillers?
Brian: It’s impossible to pinpoint one best thing. We love meeting and working with these great writers and providing outlets for fiction lovers in Phoenix and beyond to appreciate their talent. It’s a ton of work, but every time we’re on the Spillers stage or behind the podcast mic, we’re having a blast.
Why should people not miss the show?
Robert: Spillers is where writers turn into rockstars for a night. It’s far more than a fiction reading. It’s a show. It’s a date-night worthy event that serves up fantastic fiction through bite-sized stories while you hang out with your friends and have a cocktail. What could be better than that?
ABOUT THE EVENT
Tuesday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.
Rear Basement, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Attendees must be 21 or over. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $12 for admission and the Spillers book. For more information about the event visit the Facebook event page or the Spillers website.
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