Write Club is Atlanta’s favorite indie literature event

Part performance, part battle, Write Club debuted in Atlanta in 2011

Write Club Atlanta
Write Club is part performance and part battle, with writers facing off in one-on-one bouts with a theme.

Photograph courtesy of Nicholas Tecosky

Topher Payne is the undisputed king of Write Club. The Atlanta playwright and screenwriter has entered 12 Write Club battles, and won 10 times. Payne was drawn to the unique, competitive atmosphere of Write Club, where an audience decides whether his story—and his storytelling—is better than his competition’s. “The people who do this repeatedly, they’re not just combatants—they’re jocks,” Payne says. “Of course, we’re studying each other’s storytelling skills to figure out how to win.”

Payne’s story is just one of many tales of triumph at Atlanta’s favorite indie literature event. Part performance, part battle, the show pits writers against each other in three one-on-one bouts, centered on dueling ideas like “give versus receive” or “war versus peace”; the audience elects a winner for each round.

Write Club began in Chicago in 2010 and then debuted in Atlanta in 2011, where Nick Tecosky did a Marxist retelling of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and loved the fighting spirit between stories. Mykal June, a writer and producer, was in the audience that night and instantly regretted not participating.

Shortly after that, the two writers started hosting a regular local event, courting participants they found at poetry slams or comedy shows across town. It wasn’t hard to convince writers to join. “They’re promised an excited, eager audience, which is not something you get at a lot of readings,” Tecosky says. “We offer an opportunity to really shine.” Regular Write Club participants include slam poet Theresa Davis, actor Suehyla Young, and Jon Carr, executive producer of Dad’s Garage.

The first time Carr competed, in 2015, he was terrified. He performed six minutes about being a Black nerd. “I knew I could be funny, but I didn’t know how vulnerable and sincere I could be until Write Club,” he says. The piece was so successful, he turned it into a play that premiered at Dad’s.

The pandemic put the show on hiatus, but after Tecosky and June realized how much they missed the community, they resurrected Write Club, which has found a permanent home at Dad’s Garage. Write Club producer Dani Herd is also teaching a “writing for performance” class at the theater to introduce more people to the art of live storytelling. “In class, I want to empower students to really explore their own voices and learn how to best work within their strengths,” says Herd.

At its core, Write Club has always been about giving Atlanta a voice. “I view it as taking the city’s temperature,” June says. “It’s putting Atlanta onstage once a month, turning on a microphone, and hearing what the city has to say.”

This article appears in our June 2024 issue.