Do you love to read? If you do, chances are some of your earliest memories are of someone, probably a family member, reading to you. This is how many of us first learn to love stories, often years before we can read them on our own. Many of us, as parents ourselves, have loved reading to our own children: snuggling in bed with The Wind in the Willows or Winnie the Pooh or Harry Potter, maybe trying on funny voices for the characters—it doesn’t get much better than that. I grew up loving books and shared that love with my own two kids, so when I went to work in the English Department at Weber State, back in 2003, I knew I’d found a group of kindred spirits. What I didn’t know at first was I’d stepped into a world full of real-live writers who were more than happy to read their work to me (and others) at regular public events. Or that I’d find a group who put on Readers Theater every year that would let me try out my funny voices on actual audiences and use some of what I learned in my two years as a theatre major back in the day. If you haven’t experienced the joy of being read to since you were a child, you might be surprised to learn how wonderful it still can be.
In addition to all that, when I started writing personal essays and poetry, for the first time since college, I found places to share them with other writers, right here in my own town. I found other writers who were putting themselves out there, too…where we could listen and read and help each other craft our own unique work.
When we think about what Ogden is best-known for, what do we think of? Is it the Golden Spike which we celebrated this sesquicentennial year? Is it the amazing skiing, hiking, and biking in our beautiful Wasatch Mountains? Is it Weber State basketball? How about Joe McQueen still blowing a mean sax at 100? Certainly all of that and more, but I want to tell you about the amazing literary arts scene in our beautiful mountain town.
Did you know Weber State hosts the country’s premier undergraduate literature conference each spring, featuring nationally renowned novelists and poets, and that most of the events are free and open to the public? This spring, Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff will be here—learn more by checking weber.edu/nulc. Each fall, the Ogden City School Foundation brings a well-known author to town for a fundraiser—this year, it’s Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. And in the month just past, Utah Humanities Book Festival sponsored nine events in
Ogden/Weber County, bringing us a total of 16 authors—again, free and open to the public.
But that’s not all; Weber State brings in several visiting writers each year. Their readings are free and open to all. Parking on campus is even available in the evenings and readings are at 6 p.m. in the Hetzel Hollein Room at the Stewart Library. The next reading is November 12, featuring Michael Mejia, from the University of Utah, and Shanan Ballam, Logan’s new poet laureate. Watch the Ogden City Arts calendar for next year’s events.
Are you a writer? There are regular open mics in Ogden where you can share your work with an audience. Check out PoetFlow at the Lighthouse Lounge on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. or the Voices group at Jessie Jean’s on 25th at 7 p.m. during the gallery stroll each month. Find more info on Facebook. Weber State’s Metaphor, the undergraduate literary and fine arts journal sponsors two open mics a year—one in fall (Nov. 15, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. upstairs at Grounds for Coffee this year) and one during the NULC conference in the spring. Or for original plays, look for the Gallery Players shows 2 to 3 times a year at the Eccles Community Art Center. They produce plays by Ogden playwrights featuring local actors. They also have a playwriting group you could join.
This past August, Weber County Arts supported a two-week-long playwright-in-residence, bringing in a playwright from the MFA program at Columbia University, along with a dramaturg from the same program (Cole Stern, an Ogden native son) to workshop and present an original play, featuring local actors. I was lucky enough to be one of them. During the same period of time, Caril Jennings put on a readers production of “The Investigation: A Crime in Ten Acts” taken from the Mueller Report. I played Robert Mueller. So if you like to read to people, there are opportunities.
Speaking of plays, don’t forget Good Company Theatre, at 2404 Wall Ave. They put on several pieces each year. It is a delightful mix of musicals, drama, comedy, and sometimes original works from Ogden playwrights. Tickets are reasonably priced and available online. And of course, Weber State’s Department of Performing Arts offers several plays each year, again at very reasonable prices. Ogden theater lovers are truly lucky to have so many options.
When we think of writers, let’s not overlook the many songwriters among us. Ogden’s many music venues provide stages for an incredible array of talent. There is music at the amphitheater all summer long and Van Sessions at the Monarch during gallery stroll each first Friday, all featuring Ogden-grown talent. Locals are also invited to perform as “tweeners”—between the main acts—at the annual Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music weekend of music, in June. If you don’t feel ready for prime time but would like to share your songs with like-minded souls, consider FACE—the Free Academy for Creative Expression. They meet each Wednesday from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Golden Hours Senior Center on 25th for a song circle. It’s free and all are welcome. Not a songwriter? You are welcome to play covers. See their Facebook page for more information.
Ogden is not just a great visual-art town or a great music town, though it is both of those. It’s also home to great writers and reading series, so check them out. Whether you just love to be read to or want to flex your reading-to-others chops, Ogden is here for you!