We Did It! What I Learned Doing The Improbable Places Poetry Tour

Novelist and extraordinary friend, Harold Taw, reading in his pajamas!

Wow. The inaugural event of The Improbable Places Poetry Tour + 1 surpassed my wildest dreams. We read poems (+ one short story) in our pajamas, read poems (and one short essay) bouncing on the Author Suite's bed at the Alexis Hotel, and celebrated in style. The quote of the night belonged to one attendee, "I never expected to have so much fun at a poetry reading."

So what made this a different kind of poetry event? Well, what didn't make it different?

Elizabeth Austen, Susan Rich, and Kelli Russell Agodon doing glam shots before the show

1. Everyone tells us to wear comfortable clothing when we read, but no one tells us how perfect it is to read in our pajamas. This not only made us feel very much at ease --- it interested the audience!

2. Be part of something bigger than just one night. Thanks to the sensational arts scene in the city of Seattle, I was able to write a grant to Arts Crush and be part of an entire arts month. This made it possible for the poets (and novelist) to be paid for their time --- something I whole heartedly believe in --- and for food, drink, and publicity. Thank you, Arts Crush! We couldn't have done it without you.

The after party where over half of the audience followed us into the elevator to come mingle in the Alexis Hotel, Author Suite

3. Have an after party along with the poetry! Thanks to dear friend and San Diego poet, Angie Vorhies, who offered us her bedroom, the "author suite" for the after event. Over half the audience came with us for light refreshments and an encore reading.

4. Location, location, location. I think this is a good part of the magic. We chose a well located downtown hotel that already caters to book lovers with its highly rated Library Bistro and Bookstore Bar. The Alexis Hotel was kind enough to donate The Gallery Room for part one of our reading. Thank you, Alexis Hotel!

Susan Rich and Harold Taw getting ready to start the day

5. Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. I can't emphasize this enough. While I may have written the grant for this event and conceived of the idea (with great inspiration from Colleen Michaels original The Improbable Places Poetry Tour at Montserrat College in Massachusetts) --- this was truly a joint effort. It was Elizabeth Austen who secured our venue, Harold Taw who took care of all publicity including making flyers and postcards at the last minute, Kelli Russell Agodon who made sure the day was beautifully documented and Angie Vorhies who made the party happen. Thanks also to Jeff Wasserman for doing a last minute elevator tour of the hotel and assisting with a dozen last minute details. It takes a village to pull off a great event.

6. Expect the unexpected. That's what I think we did right here. From reading in our pajamas to inviting everyone up to a party to doing one last encore reading directly from the bedroom (there were French doors opening out to the large living space) audience members seemed genuinely delighted. For many people, attending poetry events is not a something they do everyday or even every year. Most of the audience were not poets. Hopefully we sent out a message that poetry readings can be filled with powerful poetry and fun --- not to mention being inclusive enough to invite a prose writer along.

Pretending she's not nervous but she is
7. Keep the momentum strong! And to that end, we have just put together a Face Book event page for The Improbable Places Poetry Tour +1 so that you can check out more photos and keep up-to-date on where our improbable poets travel to next. Here is the link -- if you have a Face Book page we'd love to have you join us!

Notice Angie's tee shirt "I'm with the Banned" just in time for Banned Books Week!

8. Build in time for celebration -- whatever feeds your soul the most. As much as I loved the event, I loved the after the after party just as much. Once the room was cleaned and the tables and chairs put back in their corporal places, six of of us sent for room service and talked well into the night about poetry, films, hotel rooms, and laughed a great deal. Bathing in the glow of what you create is crucial, at least for me. Once all the zillion details have come off without a hitch, the real fun can begin for the organizers who no longer have to organize a thing.

Kelli Russell Agodon reading from the bed - her first time reading in her pajamas in public

9. Write new work to match the venue. I almost forgot this one as it seems so obvious. Our event was called "Bedroom Suite" and we all chose pieces (some brand new, some very old) that fit with a hotel bedroom including love affairs, manservants, monsters in the mini fridge, and what books to bring on vacation.

Elizabeth Austen reads from Every Dress A Decision - Finalist for the Washington State Book Award 2012 

10. Be inclusive in every way. We asked our audience to suggest communities that we might bring The Improbable Places Poetry Tour to next and two people suggested great venues. I think for the next event it might be fun to invite people to send in poems for a sort of open mike segment. I love the idea of including as many people as possible in new and creative ways. If you have an idea, let me know by posting a comment below or sending me an email at srich18ATgmail.com

The sleeping poets and Harold Taw after a hard day's night


  1. What fun that must have been!

    1. Dear Maureen,
      Indeed, it was! A great project in any city or town, I think!

  2. Susan, looks like an almost fantasy night of poetry. What fun! I'm especially impressed with the crowd. Well attended.

    1. Thanks. Michael!

      Since we were part of a citywide arts event we had audience members that were new to the poetry scene. A wonderfully mixed crowd.

  3. What an awesome idea! Sounds like the most fun reading ever. I'd love to try it someday.

    Mary McCray

  4. It just looks and sounds like so much fun - would love to think it could catch on here in UK!

  5. Hey Avril,
    I thought about it for over a year before we made it happen in Seattle. At some point I thought, why not? Let me know if you decide to give it a try. It could be in a flower shop, tattoo parlor, elevator, warehouse --- anywhere that is improbable!

  6. Wow, Susan. Looks like the event was a huge success. Nice to see the Improbable tour making people happy on the West Coast! XO


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