How to Host a Literary Cabaret in Six Easy Steps

(photo credit: Elsie Neufeld)
(photo credit: Elsie Neufeld)

Do you miss seeing and talking to your fellow creative nonfiction writers in the long months between conferences? Do you want to develop more awareness of great nonfiction in your own town? The CNFC can help you create your own literary cabaret evening right where you are. We have a modest fund to help with promotion, including the design and distribution of digital flyers or posters, and can contribute toward venue rental, if need be.

Over the past few years, CNFC members have held successful cabarets in Montreal and Calgary and offer the following tips on how it’s done. Thanks to Julija Sukys who wrote the original instructions after hosting the fabulously successful Montreal cabaret, Stranger Than Fiction, in 2013.

Essentials

    1. Find a venue with a sound system, food and drink, and sufficient space for people to sit, mingle, buy books. Encourage everyone to eat and drink to support your venue host.
    2. Send out a call for CNF readers. You may want to invite one or two well-known writers. Decide in advance what your optimum number of readers is — six to eight is a neat number that doesn’t overwhelm the audience. Let them know what the time limit is and that you’ll need to keep them to it. Ask them to send their bios well in advance of reading.
    3. Ask a local bookstore to come and sell the authors’ books. If that’s not an option, ask a friend to help you with the sales and ask the authors to bring their books to the event.
    4. Work with the CNFC to create promotional material. CNFC has a small budget for this.
    5. Send the poster out far and wide, including to your local library. Send a brief notice of the event to your local media as a PSA. Address it to the local “event listings” in your local paper or community notices at radio stations.
    6. Take lots of pictures and write a blog about it for our website.

Additional suggestions:

    • Have a break in the middle so people can buy more drinks and food.
    • Emcee the event yourself. Introduce each reader and hold up your hand (or have some other gentle signal) to let them know when their time is up.
    • Plan something fun — like door prizes. You can ask readers to donate a few books and then think of some fun quiz questions.
    • Optional: Charge a small cover fee at the door then distribute it to the writers at the end of the evening.