Q&A with Kelly Grogan, Founder & Host

What inspired you to start Out Loud?

One of my favorite experiences throughout my MFA was attending readings, and when I graduated, I found that it was something that I missed doing. I did a bit of research looking for local readings (of which, by the way, there are some great ones!) but didn’t find quite what I was looking for – a multi-genre reading featuring a diversity of voices, experiences, and literary styles. I hoped there was a need in the community for our style of event, and figured it was at least worth the experiment to find out.

What has surprised you most about hosting a literary reading series?

So many things have been surprising in the best way. I was happily surprised to learn that there was a need for this kind of event and an appreciation for what the literary community in Santa Barbara has to offer. Every reading draws in more submissions, and greater numbers of audience members.

And then, I suppose it wasn’t a surprise but something I wasn’t prepared for is the depth and quality of every single submission we receive. People from so many different walks of life, with so many different perspectives and beautiful word-plays. The writing surprises me, the stories and poems and essays – the turns they take, the intimacy they build, the sudden punchlines. It’s remarkable to read the myriad ways that people who live and work in this community are putting their thoughts on the page.

Which leads me to something else – it surprised me how very, very difficult it is to turn down a submission. Rejection is a huge part of being a writer, but when I'm the one sending them I hate knowing how much it takes for someone to send their work out and how discouraging it can feel to hear that it’s not right.

That makes for a nice segue into our next question: What are you looking for in an ideal submission? What makes you accept a piece, and what makes you decline?

I’m going to refer you to a coming-soon blog post about this very question—our readers and I have put together a nice little piece about submissions, and it’ll be able to address this more deeply than I can in this small space. Suffice to say, it’s complicated. But one thing is simple: send us your best, your work that best to be read OUT LOUD. And, do not send us anything longer than 5-minutes when read aloud.

What is your own writing process like?

It’s more sporadic than I wish it would be. There’s writing-work and then there’s job-work and in a competition for time and energy the job-work usually wins out. That being said, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time last November and finished a 60,000 word draft of my novel. There were so many remarkable lessons to take from the experience, but the most important is that writing happens when I make it happen. It’s up to me to make it happen.

If you were stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life with one book, what would you want that book to be?

That’s a really impossible question to answer. This might be a bit embarrassing to admit, but let’s say we could get all of the Harry Potter books in one huge edition – that would be a very good one to have. Otherwise, more seriously, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith is one of my favorite books of all time. Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing or Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse—books like those have so many layers of writing magic, I could read them again and again and always discover something new.

If you had to get a quote from a literary work tattooed on you, what would it be?

It’s funny you should ask, I almost got a spur-of-the-moment tattoo of a literary quote with a couple of writer friends from my MFA who were also getting spur-of-the-moment tattoos of literary quotes, but I was so indecisive about the words I would have to read again and again and again that I ended up just getting a little tiny pair of quotation marks.

Any words of wisdom for writers considering submitting to Out Loud?

Please submit! We know how much your work means to you, and it means a lot to us too. And, if you’ve already submitted and been turned down, persevere! Keep it coming! Pester us! We’d love to read more.

Kelly Grogan received her MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles with a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her work has appeared in The Tishman Review, The Forge, Blue Earth Review, and Reed Magazine, among others, and was nominated for a 2018 Best of the Net award. You can read more of her work at www.kgcreativeservices.com.