Stories & Beer #5 | Tuesday | 5-7 p.m. | Iron Post | Free

As our final Stories & Beer of the spring approaches, let us take a moment to reflect upon the awesomeness of the last one, before forging forth to preview the next!  And let us start by praising our kick ass audiences.

Since beginning this project back in February, we at Smile Politely and Aaron (over at HOBART: another literary magazine) have been delighted to see how big our audiences have been and, perhaps more importantly, how awesome they have been. That awesomeness has manifested itself in a number of different ways such as hand clapping, beer drinking and the occasional woot(!), but at our last event it manifested itself in fiscal generosity.

If you'll remember, our last Stories & Beer doubled as a benefit for Helping Hands in Motion, a charity that our featured reader Kyle Minor has worked in his travels to Haiti. Our plan here was to get a few local businesses to donate a gift certificate or two and then to raffle them off to whoever showed up. In the end, we were surprised at the generosity of those businesses who did donate stuff (all of whom coughed up way more than expected!), namely:

All of these folks donated way more than was expected, and did so without batting an eye. And what's nice about this is that their generosity flooded over into our audience allowing us to raise a pretty decent sum for a very worthy cause. 

Oh yeah, there was some reading at this thing too.

Our first reader, Sean Karns gave a sample of the work he's been developing here at the U of I as an MFA student. After a few darker selections, he finished up with the light hearted "Sad Donkey."  Behold.

After "Sad Donkey," Okla Elliot rocked the mic with a story about "palindromes and crack cocaine," and then another one about human mating rituals and social networking. 

Then Harriet Green read from an essay explicating her entree into the gritty underbelly of Chicago jazz culture. Twas fantastic.

Then, iPad in hand, Phillip Graham took the stage with a story from his upcoming travel memoir about how he and his family drove a man to real life, no shit, madness.

Finally, to wrap things up, Kyle Minor read some non-fiction from his travels in Haiti, and then a fictional account of a murder that his childhood babysitter was involved in.  The story is written in his babysitter's voice, and his reading of it was without a doubt the most intense seven minutes of Stories & Beer to date. Tremendous.

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So that was then and this is now:

This Tuesday come check out our last reading of the spring, featuring two Smile Politely contributors, two U of I faculty members, one MFA student and a guy from Ann Arbor!

Matt Bell is from Ann Arbor, MI. He promises to read about video games, wolves, or apocalyptic babies, because those are three of his very favorite things.

(Ed. Note: if you compare this Matt's bio here to Amazon's description of his book How They Were Found, and you aren't interested, you suck.)

Matthew DeMarco wants to get out there and just...go, man! Ya dig? He wants to just...go. Just keep walking or running. And burn, yeah, burn it all up, baby. That's the thing, shred it. Yeah, that's hot. Yeah, pretty much, man.

William Gillespie William Gillespie wrote his entire Master's thesis without once using the word "and." He tried to read Finnegan's Wake, believing it the duty of every showoff. He also completed Hopscotch twice, using each of the two suggested orders of chapters. He finished Gravity's Rainbow over the course of two years, and, with the wholesome ingenuous and earnest sincerity that has kept him barely employed, freely admits to not having understood the plot. He read Suttree straight through three times in two months and wrote his final paper for his degree about its narrative structure and why it made him cry.  He is too shy to write a manifesto. William is a firm believer in irony and cannot tell the difference between a resume and a curriculum vita.  

Audrey Petty grew up on the South Side of Chicago. As a kid, her favorite writers were V.C. Andrews, Judy Blume, Mario Puzo, and Gwendolyn Brooks. This summer, she's tending her first vegetable garden, perfecting a mean strawberry-rhubarb crisp, and grooving daily to Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.

John Rubins does not respond to emails asking for his bio.

When Max Somers was four years old he had an intimate relationship with Shannen Doherty (former 90210 star, for those younger or much older than him). Since then, his life has continued at a moderate decline. But boy, he is stoked to read at Stories and Beer.

Be there or be square.

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Thanks as always to the Urbana Arts Grants Program.