Convincing a publisher to read your work is a disheartening task, especially as the rejection slips arrive. Azriel Johnson, the chairman and event organizer for Writing Knights Press, has a deep personal grasp of the difficulties new writers and aspiring poets face. Johnson's own writing career began at age four, when his sister gave him a diary to keep him busy and help him communicate with more confidence. He wrote his first short story at age 10, creating the super geek antihero, Jimmy James. Johnson plans to revisit his Jimmy James stories by giving the character a role in an anti-terrorist task force. Since 2009, Johnson's interest in writing has expanded to include support and promotion of the work of fellow writers in addition to writing, publishing and staging his own poetry, novels and plays.
"I like certain people's writing," states Johnson, "and I asked myself
'Why aren't these people getting more notice?' Writing Knights Press
provides writers with confidence and gets them to be more willing to put
their stuff out there." Through Writing Knights, Johnson provides two
separate platforms for aspiring poets and short fiction writers: Writing Knights Press and a matching Facebook page.
The first Writing Knights event, "Writing Knights Press Presents: A Poetic Night of Musicality" was held at Bela Dubby, located at 13321 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. More than 30 performers have appeared since that first event, according to Johnson. "A Poetic Night of Musicality" was eight acts long, and the most recent three events had a one-hour open
mic before the main performances.
Johnson chose Bela Dubby because he liked the venue. "They were really supportive of both poetry and music," says Johnson. "Bela Dubby
is basically a combination coffee and bar. It's smaller, but feels
really big when you stand there behind the mic. You can get all kinds of
people in Bela Dubby, but they are all chill. Bela Dubby
is open six days a week until about 10 PM EST most nights."
The next Writing Knights event, on December 15th, will be the sixth for
the year. "This month there are a number of performers who have never
appeared on a Writing Knights stage," explains Johnson. "A big part of each
performance is the open mic joust. Each participant has 5 minutes to
show off their poetic or musical prowess and the audience determines the
winner." The performers can sometimes provoke strong reactions, according to Johnson. "I choked on my water during one of the open mic performers so I
mentioned it when I got up to MC the next performer."
Live performances are only half the Writing Knights picture, though. To
date, Writing Knights Press has published 13 poetry chapbooks. Two are due to arrive
in December 2011 and two more are slated for release in January 2012.
"Writing Knights Press is always open to first submissions," says
Johnson. "Interested writers should read through our guidelines on the Writing Knights website, here."