Girls so lit
Bleux Stockings Society kicks off a literary event for Atlanta's marginalized writersThursday January 14, 2016 04:00 am EST
Atlanta boasts one bustling lit scene. Though long-running sweetheart series such as Song and Scene Missing and Write Club pack out reading events week after week, there's still something — for lack of a better word — missing. Writers Amy Stufflebeam and Ellaree Yeagley noticed this, too. Both Write Club vets, they still wanted more of Atlanta's marginalized writers at the mic. Thus, the two conceived Bleux Stockings Society.
“I started thinking a community with its own show would be the perfect platform for writers — particularly women and non-binary writers — to get their feet wet in a safe, approachable environment,” Stufflebeam says. She explains that the organization took inspiration from a British “conversation-holding” clubs spearheaded by wealthy women, called “Bluestockings,” in the 1700s. The modern Atlanta version — pronounced like “blue” — presents a monthly stage for cis women, trans women, and non-binary people. Essentially, it’s a no-flex zone for writers who don’t identify as dudes to read their work before an audience.
Although there are already plenty of opportunities to read on stage in the city, Yeagley and Stufflebeam say the scene's exclusive appearance is a problem. "The Atlanta lit scene is cliquish; its biggest flaw is that it gives the impression of exclusivity," Yeagley says. "I think it's an unintentional impression, but the end result is much the same." When repeat names appear on bills, reading in Atlanta can come off like a secret club. "I just want there to be an easy way in without it feeling like you need a key card or something," Stufflebeam says.
Stufflebeam and Yeagley work to expel that fear. In the self-described "slight curation" process, no submissions risk getting tossed away forever. Should a piece not make the first round, writers are strongly urged to keep submitting. They will find a way to get interested parties on stage, they say.
The process prioritizes diversity across the spectrums of race, gender, and sexuality. Stufflebeam and Yeagley, two white cis women, are acutely aware of their own blind spots. "I think that's why BSS has a real chance: We want to do right by our performers and audience and understand that we are in no way authorities on the lived experiences of others," Yeagley says, citing Bleux's private Facebook page (around 225 members at press time) as a powerful resource for collecting more voices, opinions, and experiences. "We expect to make mistakes, but we also believe in teachable moments and hope to become better informed and, consequently, better facilitators through the people who are so generously investing their time and talent in the show. There's a certain grace in knowing that things are not static. I keep reminding myself that it takes a village to raise a child, and Bleux Stockings is definitely our collective baby."
Stufflebeam says she fully expects the Atlanta lit scene to embrace the Bleux Stockings. Their first-ever show features the theme "comfort" and, fittingly, they've already felt overwhelming support from established organizations leading up to it. "I think we all know that a show like BSS can only do good things for existing events," she says. "They want new voices, we want to be a jumping-off point for new writers. It's a match made in heaven."
The low price tag and inclusive push of the Downtown Players Club made the venue the obvious choice for Bleux Stocking Society's debut. Eight writers — including Theresa Davis (watching Theresa read live, Stufflebeam says "is like taking a fucking bullet"), Alayna Huft Tucker, and Regina N. Bradley, among others — are slated to read their five- to seven-minute takes on "comfort." It's a good starting format for a show and could serve as the initial tendrils of tinder to fuel a much larger movement. Yeagley is currently working to roll out a series of zines to supplement the readings. Stufflebeam says eventually they'd like to flesh out Bleux Stockings Society to offer writing workshops, Skillshares, and other community-facilitating efforts.
Spirits are high as the crew preps for the kick-off performance but Stufflebeam says they're ready for the inevitable criticism. "Whether we like it or not, the fact that it's not a mixed-gender show gives it a political bent," she says. "I didn't think of it really that way until it was pointed out to me by, of course, dudes. ... I fully expect some backlash."
And long-term? "A year from now, the first generation of Bleux Stockings performers will all be big names with great careers, the patriarchy will be dismantled and heterosexism abolished, to the everlasting benefit of all humankind," Yeagley says. "That's the dream, anyway."