Start with the name, Wordier Than Thou. It’s just jokey enough to let you know that while its mission – to encourage and promote the work of local writers – is a serious one, the Pinellas-based literary nonprofit isn’t averse to a good laugh now and then, to tiptoe around what founder Tiffany Razzano calls “that stuffy, literature-with-a-capital L thing.”
Though its numerous public events, she adds, the group’s mandate (after putting the spotlight squarely on Tampa Bay scribes, of course) is to “not take it all so seriously. We want it to all be fun and approachable.”
Wordier’s greatest hits have included literature-based pub crawls, comedy nights, banned-book burlesque shows, haunted houses with original horror plays being staged in each room, and – new for 2019 – comedy roasts of dead authors (“mostly because they’re the ones who can’t complain about it,” Razzano laughs).
Jack Kerouac got the Dean Martin routine back in January; the next roastee, in September, will be Ernest Hemingway.
Often, it’s all about the lit, not the laughs. Camp Wordier is a series of nighttime writing classes and workshops for adults. For Pride Month, Razzano and company put their energies into Word OUT Tampa Bay, a three-day celebration featuring LGBTQ+ writers and readers. Next February comes the third annual Tampa Bay Publishing Conference.
The new year will also bring the Florida Writers Project, the organization’s first foray into publishing.
This week, Emerald City Comics in Clearwater will play host to the annual Nerdier Than Thou event (“A fantastically nerdy literary con”), a series of panels and discussions featuring members of the Florida Horror Writers Association and Tampa News Force, along with a collection of comic book writers, authors, journalists, paranormal experts and more.
See the full July 20-21 schedule here.
“It’s a good way to get local authors out into the world, where they might not normally have a space,” explains Razzano. “To me, it all boils down to storytelling – comic books, nerdy sci-fi-shows, good literature. There are some very obvious connections. The way we’re approaching it is that it all just happens to be from a very literary bent.”
In the spring of 2012, Razzano was editor of the weekly Seminole Beacon newspaper (she still is, as a matter of fact). Wordier Than Thou, she explains, “came from a purely selfish place, to be totally honest. When you’re a community journalist you’re invited to speak at all the Rotary Clubs and the schools and things like that, and I hate public speaking. I’m absolutely awful at it.”
She dreamed up a long-form open mic night; a sort of public-speaking practice run for writers whose work was longer or more involved than poetry (there’s the second meaning of the name Wordier Than Thou). And she did it for herself – created an environment in which she had complete control.
It wasn’t about community-building, not at first. But that’s what happened.
“What I saw,” Razzano explains, “was that there was a need for it. Other writers were saying, ‘There’s nothing like this – something that brings literary folks together on a regular basis.’
“Seven years ago, there really wasn’t too much going on. The visual arts, obviously, were growing and were vibrant and more cohesive, but there wasn’t anything really connecting the writers in the community. So the timing was right.”
The stage and microphone at thestudio@620 are opened up once a month for short story and prose writers. On Wordier open mic nights, you can read pretty much anything (pretty much) as long as it’s original, and as long as you can do it in 10 minutes or less. There’s one at 7 p.m. Tuesday (July 16); get the info here.
Razzano, who writes creative nonfiction in her (virtually nonexistent) spare time, heads a small board of like-minded directors. But she is the center of the Wordier universe.
She considers it her second job. “As a journalist, I’m always on deadline, and I don’t get as much time as I’d like to write my own creative works,” she says.
“This winds up being just a fun, creative outlet for me, and I get to support my friends, I get to meet people and I get to get folks excited about reading. And excited about reading books by authors in their own community! It just doesn’t get better than that.”