Volume 15, Issue 75  |  September 19, 2023SubscribeAdvertise

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Third Street Writers Open Mic Night

By Nancy Carpenter

Say “open mic” and people think karaoke. Or jamming with jazz. Maybe a comedy club to practice a new routine.

In the world of poetry and literature, open mic is reading that requires writers, their written words and a location. These elements came together Thursday, March 23, when Third Street Writers held their spring Open Mic at the LCAD Gallery at 374 Ocean Blvd.

First – the location. The Laguna College of Art + Design has had an educational presence in our community since 1961. Their LCAD Gallery is unique even for us: It provides an active venue for showcasing the work of students as well as well-known artists while increasing awareness of the diverse art that makes up Laguna Beach. They also host cultural events – such as Third Street’s Open Mic – and educational workshops.

Thursday was the last night of Peep Show by Susan Tibbles. She has a talent for seeing potential in everyday paraphernalia that when assembled offer thought-provoking statements. Her raw materials come from kitchens, forgotten drawers, repurposed party favors, found objects – whether trinket or treasure. I recognized several pieces that accompanied past editorials in the Los Angeles Times’ Opinion pages.

Third Street ice cream scoops

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Photo by Nancy Carpenter

“Blah, Blah, Blah, One Scoop or Two?, Panic, One Scoop or Two? Capitalization, One Scoop or Two?” by Susan Tibbles, 2022

As of this writing, the Gallery’s walls are bare in preparation for the next installation. They are mounting the 48th Annual COLOR IT ORANGE exhibition of original works of high school students throughout Orange County. Mark your calendars for the opening reception April 6 at 6 p.m.

And now, the writers. Over the years, I’ve attended and read at open mic events hosted by Third Street Writers as well as other groups, in libraries, galleries and independent books stores, most available to members and non-members. These are rare and coveted venues for sharing poems, essays, short stories, and fiction and nonfiction book excerpts.

Full disclosure, I have known two Third Street Writers members – Rina Palumbo and Michael Schaffer – for six years. I like to think they wonder why I’m not a member. I certainly wonder.

Third Street kicks off the week with Monday workshops from 12-2 p.m. Writers need that sort of discipline. Their membership fee is nominal, they create an environment for sharing, and their website is available for promoting creative work. Members are given priority when registering for sponsored workshops and retreats. Two of Third Street Writers four Beach Reads anthologies – Paradise and Adrift – are available through Amazon.

Their newest project is the online literary journal, Third Street Review, featuring visual art and photography as well as fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. The inaugural edition is easily accessed at Third Street’s website, by clicking here

But my assignment was Thursday evening’s Open Mic. “Spring Cleaning” was the appropriate name for this event, carrying the suggestion that it’s time to dust off projects old or new and, simply, read.

My friend and I arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I wanted time to linger over the art, settle into the creative ambience and meet writers who are otherwise a solitary bunch.

Just inside the door an impressive spread of raw vegetables with dip, cheese and crackers, and some amazing cookies occupied a counter with room for the arrival of beverages and wine. What is it about Madeleine cookies that pair so well with red wine? We talked and nibbled and sipped and talked some more as Third Street’s President Amy Francis Dechary filled the proverbial hat from which the names of those who were reading would be drawn.

Third Street group

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Photo by Amy Francis Dechary

Members of the Third Street Writers who read at “open mic” 

Let the readings begin. These are gifted writers who have each earned an acknowledgment, however modest. So here goes.

Jheri St. James opened with “Bodies of Water” that made Cleveland seriously appealing. Jackie Bayless’ essay “Letting Go Reluctantly” was an ode to her child’s first day of school. Continuing with the water theme, Suzanne Spinelli mashed humor with the terror of Jaws in “The Water is Fine.”

The title alone – “Moon the Jogging Chicken” – by Jenet Dechary was about a son’s ventures and adventures in biology while bonding with a chicken. Miranda McPhee’s “Podiatric Poppycock” was an adventure of a different kind, repurposing orphaned socks.

Writing is harrowing, the reality of that not lost in Gina Harlow’s “Fifteen Minutes.” Amy Swartzstein Capron reinforced the theory that every bride has a story. Uninvited bees made for a memorable day in “Long Live the Bride and Groom.” And who couldn’t relate to Rina Palumbo’s piece titled “Cavity,” another uninvited and unwanted guest homesteading a tooth?

A mid-performance break was an opportunity to sip and nibble, engage with guests and writers, and take a closer look at the underlying social commentary of the art.

Click open story button to continue reading…


Patty Truman opened the second half with “The Butterfly Gift” and “The Virgin Whore,” an interesting pairing indeed. Michael Schaffer spoke to the horrors of navigating the neighborhood streets indefinitely under construction in “Mr. Laguna Drives Again.” Sunbathing might not be much safer, as noted in “A Gull’s Thirst,” Cecile Sarruf’s heartfelt homage to her mother. 

Third Street Review

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Courtesy of Third Street Writers

Inaugural edition of “Third Street Review”

“Mojave” by Sue Heiligman reminded us, it’s not easy traveling through a desert, but enjoy the trip anyway.

Are carnivores supposed to feel good when there’s a vegetarian in the house? Steve Fayne offered an answer in “The Reluctant Vegetarian.” Molly Roberts followed with a trio of poems: “A Saturday Dip,” “Four Hearts” and “Our Love.”

Dennis Lockwood also leveraged the local scene with “Miracle on Cliff Drive” and the power of power ball. Speaking of abundance, the closing piece, “Harvest” by Amy Francis Dechary, reminded us, food should be nothing less than abundant.

Speaking of abundance, following a group picture we continued to linger over the remains of a well-curated spread, a Madeleine or two beckoning, as we asked questions of the writers. I am always curious of the genesis of their inspirations.

When we think art and live events, we default to staged musicals and plays, concerts, song and dance recitals, operas and ballets. They all start with the written word, whether prose, dialogue, or poetry. The creators of those words, reading in their own voices, is a special and intimate experience.

Third Street Writers is planning another reading in late October. “Secrets and Sins” will bring out, well, every writer’s secrets and sins. No firm date has been set yet.

Come if you enjoy reading. Come if you write. Come if you write and want to read. Come if you are curious. Come to enjoy.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

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Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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