Over the last six years, Nick Tecosky and Myke Johns have pitted writer against writer in the ultimate spit match. As the leading gentlemen of Write Club Atlanta, the duo has kept writers fighting for the sake of a good argument but also for the love of charity. Each month, the winner from Write Club’s lit battle chooses the cause of their choice where proceeds from the night’s earnings are donated.
We recently shot the shit with Tecosky and Johns to find out how Write Club has stayed true to its boisterous nature, their literary bloodsport for charity, and how the Atlanta community helps keep the crimson coming.
Can you tell us about Write Club’s literary bloodsport and how it gained so much buzz?
Nick: Write Club started in Chicago about seven years ago. I was working at PushPush as a writer and actor in Decatur. The creator of Write Club came down from Chicago to PushPush to do a one man show. He also asked to bring along this thing he was road testing which was Write Club. It was a pretty simple premise – writer against writer. They each get seven minutes on the stage to read a piece prepared with a couple of weeks notice.
Myke: I remember getting an email from Tim Habeger because the heads of PushPush needed an audience and people to participate for this thing. Showing up at that first show I thought, “I don’t know what this is but a bunch of my friends are doing it.”
Just to put you in the space, PushPush has a theater and a lobby. The show took place in the lobby which had a stage but it was mostly mismatched furniture.
Nick: It was like your cool uncle’s basement.
Myke: Like your parents don’t really want you hanging around with him but they can’t really do anything about it.
Nick: It kind of smells like pot and stale beer.
Myke: You’re not really sure if they are supposed to have a bar but they do.
Nick: It’s clearly a bar that they just threw together because they realized they needed to get people drunk to keep them in the room.
Myke: Anyway, I show up and there are maybe 30 people in the audience. There’s this angry Midwestern dude shouting at us about writing. He’s got a clock and a podium and cards and bringing people up who read for seven minutes. We all vote who the winner is. After seeing that first show I totally got it and was immediately kicking myself because I didn’t. I walked out completely exhilarated that this thing exists and also being completely jealous that I didn’t come up with it. It’s such a simple idea.
Nick: When I went up for the first time I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. They had only done three or four shows in Chicago at that point, so there wasn’t a whole lot of material. It was new for everybody. My first piece was arguing for here vs. there. I was channeling Woody Allen for some reason; very nebbish and wearing a tie, curled over and speaking with my hands a lot. I was asked back to perform again when Ian Belknap came down six months later. The next time I had a better bearing on what the show was and did the shoutiest piece, based on the ant and the grasshopper, except the grasshopper had created a capitalist utopia for itself. It was a Marxist rant and that’s when Belknap was like, “oh you can shout, can you take over the show?”
Four months later, we started the show. Wow, that was the longest winding explanation for how we got started…
Myke: By the time our first show had gone up in June of 2011, Belknap had done like four or five shows in Decatur at PushPush and it built a sort of buzz. Enough different people had done it and word had gotten out like, “Hey this is a really cool thing that they’re actually going to do monthly in Atlanta.”
Our first show wasn’t a sold out crowd but there was definitely a lot of people stuffed into that lobby. It was very underground punk rock. I feel like we really lucked into having a built-in audience.
Write Club is in its sixth year. You’re not in your drunk uncle’s dirty basement anymore. Can you talk about your evolution?
Nick: We are still in a basement but it’s much nicer now.
Myke: It’s more of your classy grandpa’s basement. We moved from filthy uncle to classy grandpa. They can serve liquor!
Nick: Their bar is legitimate which is very important to us.
Myke: We’ve definitely evolved over those six years. We’ve moved around from space to space and have really found a home at the Highland Ballroom Lounge. They know us at this point and we are super comfortable there. I can’t think of a better space in Atlanta for the show.
Can you talk a little more about how the charity aspect of Write Club works?
Nick: Donating to charity has always been built into the model.
Myke: And the writers choose the charities. That’s part of the attraction for the show for writers to participate and audience members to come. The audience decides the winner and that winner’s portion of the proceeds go to a nonprofit of their choice. It could be anything from Lost-n-Found Youth to Planned Parenthood.
After all this time, why do you think Write Club has continued to thrive in Atlanta?
Myke: Not to sound braggy but fuck it, bragging. I think Write Club Atlanta has always had the largest draw. We’ve always had larger, more enthusiastic audiences than most any other city that’s done the show. That accounts more than anything for the longevity. Almost every other Write Club has folded but we’re still going because people still want to come and are adamant about it. We took last summer and the summer before off and people got antsy asking, “When are you coming back?” I don’t feel beholden but I do feel a certain responsibility to the audience and to the community to keep it going.
What do you think that says about the community here versus some of these other cities where the interest has dwindled?
Myke: You’re from Ohio. I’m from Michigan. We’re a city of transplants. It’s full of people looking for their people. It’s a city constantly having to rebuild itself because up until a few years ago people would spend a few years in Atlanta and then move to New York or LA or Chicago. Now that the city is thriving, people are deciding to stay here so building things is very important to people. People find something they like and they will rally around that thing and tend to it like a fire. The word on the city seal is Resurgens and it’s not just a word, it’s an attitude in Atlanta. If you want to do something and it turns out it’s good, people aren’t going to get in your way. It doesn’t mean there’s going to be money for it but you’ll be able to find space somewhere and an audience. There’s still an enthusiasm for entertainment that’s not stupid.
Not to wrench our arms out of our sockets and pat ourselves on the back but we also put on a good show. It’s completely unlike a poetry reading in the traditional sense. It’s loud, it’s blasphemous, it’s drunk, it’s entertaining. People want to hear what people who have spent some time thinking about issues have to say.