While our irascible Denver weather settles into spring, few activities are as lovely to enjoy as a free evening at a gallery opening or literary reading. One of the best places to find that experience this weekend is at City Silhouettes, a new writer and artist showcase presented by the Tattered Cover in partnership with author and poet Nancy Viera on Saturday, April 29. Not only will there be eight of the most exciting new faces on the Denver literary scene, but it's also free to attend.
Viera will host City Silhouettes while the writers and poets read and discuss their work at the quarterly event's third installment, which she curates, manages and emcees. Taking after poetry slams, the format is fast-paced and irreverent; each participant gets five to ten minutes to discuss their work and perform in any way they choose. "It goes by really fast, and I like that," says Viera. "I've been to readings where one writer will read for a long time and lose me, and I didn't want that. I wanted something [that's] more of a teaser." The strategy is designed to encourage participants to keep writing, as well as to tempt the audience into maybe picking up a copy of something they sampled.
Ahja Fox and author Steven Dunn, from The Art of Storytelling, to those who have never read their work in public. "I want to highlight people who maybe don't have all the accolades," explains Viera. "I have a person coming to this next one who has told me, 'I am probably going to faint afterwards.' They would never have thought to read in front of people. I was reading their poetry, and I was like, 'You have to!'"
Although the events highlight some great poetry, "it's not just poets, it's all types of writers," Viera clarifies. As a practitioner of multiple formats herself, she aims to draw on the widest possible range of styles available from Denver writers. With her own writing (and now organizing), she's become a familiar face on the literary scene. It was her networking within the community that initially brought her to the attention of former Tattered Cover event manager Adam Vitcavage, at a 2022 signing for author Kali Fajardo-Anstine.
After Viera approached Vitcavage and bookstore management to introduce herself, he noticed that she seemed to know everyone in the room. Then he pitched her a project: "He said, 'You seem like you know a lot of people,'" recalls Viera, "'and I would love it if you would host or curate or do whatever you want with a local author showcase.'" As soon as he suggested the endeavor, "it was already in my mind to make it very diverse," she says. "I was like, 'Okay, this is the opportunity for them, the people that I know, that don't really have a chance to have a place.'" With that as a mandate, the first City Silhouettes debuted in September 2022, with a second show this January.
Viera has a personal interest in bringing talented artists out of their shells; not long ago, she was in a similar position. At the beginning of 2020, she was still unpublished and working on a memoir in her spare time. She had been encouraged in her writing by friends who loved to listen to her tell stories. "Then the pandemic happened," she remembers, "and I had time, and I sat down [saying], 'Just do it. Just write it.'"
She joined an audio-only social networking app (the defunct Quilt) to discuss her writing, and simultaneously began learning about self-publishing. Doing everything herself, she released the autobiographical The Grief and the Happiness in 2021. After that, "I started writing poetry just for the heck of it," she says, "and then people were like, 'We really like your poetry, you should publish a book!' So I was like, 'Okay, I'll do that.'" And she did, publishing two poetry collections: Silhouette (2021) and Chicago and You (2022).
City Silhouettes has given her an opportunity to return the community support she's received through hosting. "I start [the night] off with a poem based on what I know about the writers, and I do an intro and introduce them one by one. That's really fun to me, because a lot of them don't have [professional] bios that they share," she explains. The supportive atmosphere works both ways, with Viera receiving some much-needed help from her participants with event marketing. "What's worked for it," she says, "has been the performers and writers themselves doing a lot of the word-of-mouth posting on social media."
Having brought more than two dozen fresh literary voices to the Denver stage, Viera is eager to keep growing the program. Creatives interested in taking part are encouraged to contact her either on social media or at the event.
"It feels really good to have encouragement from other people," she says. "I feel like I'm everyone's cheerleader in this, hoping that after they perform, they go out and do something really cool."
City Silhouettes, 6 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Tattered Cover Colfax, 2526 East Colfax Avenue. Admission is free.