STORY BY TIM WEBBER
Students and writers from across Des Moines participated in the first ever “Story Slam” at Mars Café on Thursday, Feb. 5.
The event, a fundraiser for Drake University Community Press, featured writers performing both prepared and impromptu works composed within a set time period.
The Story Slam was held in collaboration with 3Elements Review, a literary journal founded by Drake alum Mikaela Shea.
Molly Nelson, whose prepared piece “The Pinball Machine” won first place, will have her work published in the next edition of 3Elements Review.
Ben Broedel, whose prepared piece won second prize, saw the event as an opportunity to test out a different form of storytelling.
“I come to the Mars café everyday because I live across the street, and I saw the poster for it,” Broedel said. “I do stand-up regularly on Thursday nights over at the Last Laugh comedy theater up in West Des Moines, and I saw that this involved just regular stories, so I decided to practice in a new medium.”
Broedel, who moved to Des Moines from Baltimore on a job transfer, used the skills he developed in stand-up to keep the audience entertained with a story about his grandmother’s funeral.
“The dark humor in death is really what it’s about,” Broedel said. “That humor comes from pain and sadness. That’s really the inspiration for the piece.”
The evening also featured writers preparing pieces in 30 minutes around three randomly selected words — “percolate,” “quixotic” and “bacon.”
Skyler Bartels’ humorous piece, “The Dangers of Being Skyler Bartels,” took first place.
Kate Winslow won second place with a vivid detailing of a hunting trip in Alaska.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” said Carol Spaulding-Kruse, director of the Drake Community Press. “I don’t know how much we’ll raise, but I like the energy in the room and I like the awareness that’s being raised, both for us and 3Elements. It seems like a nice atmosphere.”
“There’s a lot of people here,” said Clay Pasqual, a first-year student who watched the event. “It seemed the community really turned out for this, so I imagine they’ll raise a lot of money.
The funds raised by Story Slam will be used to help the Drake Community Press establish an advisory board.
“We needed to raise funds,” Spaulding-Kruse said. “The Drake Community Press has put out our first book, and that was in 2014. We knew that after we had one book under our belt, our goal was to then move out into the community and comprise an advisory board so that we could get assistance in planning the future of the press.”
The event was also an opportunity for the community press to gain publicity.
“Tonight is also to raise awareness about the press because we are new, and we want to create a resource in the community,” Spaulding-Kruse said. “And also, my former student Mikaela — who is editor of 3Elements Review with whom we are partnering tonight — she’s got a beautiful journal. It’s a great resource for Iowans because we don’t have a lot of literary publications in this town, and so it’s an outlet that other people should know about. We thought it was a perfect idea to partner up.”
Spaulding-Kruse said there was a possibility of making Story Slam into a yearly event which spectators and participants alike expressed interest in.
“I would definitely do it again,” Broedel said, “and I would also recommend it to anyone else who isn’t necessarily good at storytelling or if it’s maybe even not something they want to do. It’s something good to do to develop your writing skills and your communication skills. It’s a good way to practice in a new form of art.”
Using the funds from Thursday’s event, The Drake Community Press will host a recruitment event on Feb. 19.