Now in its second year, Jax by Jax is looking to up the literary game in Jacksonville by featuring two dozen local writers in 12 venues across Riverside including Paperwhite Salon, Riverside Liquors, Silver Cow Watering Hole and Sunday Tattoo Gallery to name a few. Folio Weekly caught up with the event’s organizer, author and professor Tim Gilmore, who also pens the FW literary column Let There Be Lit, to learn a bit more about Jax by Jax’s evolution and if Jacksonville really is sophisticated enough to pull off such an event. Among others, fellow writers including Matthew Lany, Jordan Logue, Johnny Masiulewicz, Tiffany Melanson and Emily K. Michael will join Gilmore for Jax by Jax’s second annual festivities.
Folio Weekly: Tell me a bit about how the idea for Jax by Jax came about.
Tim Gilmore: Jax by Jax began in the summer of 2014, when I asked several of my colleagues, friends, and fellow writers to help me consider how we might put on an event that demonstrated to Jacksonville that this city has a strong literary voice. An event that, if Jacksonville chose to listen, would knock it off its feet. Several other people in town were already thinking similar thoughts.
How did last year’s event go?
We put the first Jax by Jax together in about three months, soliciting writers we knew and independent businesses around the axis of Park and King streets in Riverside as venues. I’d initially thought of hosting Jax by Jax downtown in the coffin factory beside the Jacksonville Historical Society’s archives, but that possibility presented some logistical nightmares, and none of us had organized large events before. Jo Carlisle, professor of English at FSCJ and my wife, proposed the idea of using independent businesses as venues and rotating writers. So we decided on Riverside as a large and vibrant community near the center of town, and Park and King streets as a healthy nexus at the geographical heart of Riverside and Avondale.
The tagline of the event is “Jacksonville Writing Jacksonville.” What does that mean to you?
Actually, the tagline is “Jacksonville Writers Writing Jacksonville,” so the name’s a chiasmus. Yours may be better, though, it seems to me. Anyway, a city writes itself into being. You can’t have lived in Brooklyn 160 years ago, but you can live it now through Walt Whitman. If you want to know Dublin a century ago, you go to James Joyce. Joyce wrote of Dublin from afar most of his life, and he both hated his hometown and loved it. Now it’s hard to walk two blocks in the center of Dublin and not see signs, art or bookstores promoting the city’s writers. Dublin’s now an official UNESCO “City of Literature.” If you want in the year 2015, or the year 2075, to know Jacksonville, you should know the city’s writers.
How many writers are featured this year?
The final number is 24 writers, 12 venues. Each writer’s performance lasts about 15 minutes, which allows attendees to chat afterwards among themselves or with writers, or to walk next door to the next venue. Each venue hosts two writers who alternate performances each half-hour.
And how were these writers chosen?
A small number of committee members — including FSCJ professors, local publishers, literary impresarios, and writers — met to discuss Jax by Jax 2015 applications. They considered personal biography and sample writing that focused on local themes or topics, and evidence of literary strength and growth. The focus on Jacksonville as a setting or theme isn’t an exclusive requirement, but a guiding principle. All told, we received more than 60 applications.
Do you feel that local writers are underappreciated or that it’s not widely known that Northeast Florida has such a budding writing scene?
If you’d asked me this question five years ago, I’d have said yes. But Bridge Eight Literary Magazine, Perversion Magazine, Jax by Jax, and so many other writers’ entities have changed the equation. And besides those, the city’s writers have climbed over a tipping point. The question I hear you ask is this one: “Is Jacksonville a sophisticated-enough town to appreciate its writers?” If you come out to Jax by Jax, you’ll vote yes.