Your Guide to the Literary DMV

Your Guide to the Literary DMV

By Tara Campbell


Welcome to American University, and welcome to the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia)!

We know you’re still plowing through all the new information about AU, but at some point, you’re going to pop your head up and wonder what else is going on in the wider DC area.

We’re here to help, with a primer to various literary resources this area has to offer.


Open mics:

Want to spit some lines or “flash” in public? These organizations are always on the lookout for new readers to step behind the mic. And remember: reading aloud is a great way to polish your work—call it homework!

  1. AU’s MFA program partners with 826DC to help underserved children develop their creative writing and other academic skills. For grownups, they host the lowercase reading series, an open mic plus a featured reader, the first Wednesday of every month—organized by our very own MFA alum, EmilyMoses!
  2. The Inner Loop is a monthly reading series in DC featuring fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Writers submit a short piece for consideration and, if selected, are invited to read for their five minutes of fame.
  3. Busboys and Poets holds weekly open-mic nights for poets, including programming incorporating jazz, featuring youth, and focusing on ASL users and viewers.
  4. Storytellers can throw in their hats with a pitch to read at Story District and Perfect Liars Club.
  5. The Writer’s Center hosts monthly open-mic reading sessions (most months). Consult the center’s calendar for more information (after a hiatus during construction, the first one looks to be in December).



If you want to try exploring more of the DMV while giving back, here are some literary volunteer opportunities to consider

  1. 826DC, the above-mentioned organization that works with kids and creative writing, has multiple roles for volunteers, such as after-school tutoring, in-house field trips in which you help students create their own books, and in-school creative-writing mentorships.
  2. Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT): guides kids through the process of writing, rehearsing and staging their own plays.
  3. Shout Mouse Press: amplifies marginalized voices by working with them to create books that speak to their experiences. Even better: MA Lit alum Sarai Johnson works there!
  4. Reading Partners: Volunteers read with students one-on-one in over a dozen locations in the DC area, and only have to commit to one hour a week—although they would happily have you for even more.
  5. Peer Forward (formerly College Summit) works with low-income teens, helping them develop the skills to enter college, and training them to become Peer Leaders who can, in turn, motivate other students to challenge themselves.
  6. Stone Soup Films (for my filmmakers) works with local nonprofits to help them tell their stories through film.
  7. This opportunity hot off the presses from first-year MFA student Will Schick. Miriam’s Kitchen organizes writing sessions for homeless citizens, and they’re looking for session leaders like YOU. Visit Miriam’s Studio or contact Will for more information.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the DMV literary primer, where we talk book clubs, alternative (and, for the most part, free) writing classes and groups, and conferences of interest to various types of writers.

In the meantime, get out there and explore!


Photo:Brian Tagalog for 826DC826 DC.

Tara Campbell is a contributing writer at Café MFA and a third-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program. 



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