Preview: Write Club (WRITE CLUB Toronto)

Write Club

A literary death match to tell your friends about on stage at The Garrison in Toronto

When Catherine McCormick threatens to assault you with chicken bones, you pay heed. Write Club Toronto’s Chief Whip doesn’t mess around.

The third Tuesday of every month Catherine McCormick and Alicia Merchant, the demure foil to McCormick’s brazen bullhorn, host Write Club, a live literary event, at the Garrison.  Write Club Toronto is an off-shoot of its Chicago parent event, created by the acerbic and hilarious Ian Belknap.

The next Write Club event is this Tuesday April 16 at 8pm.

Write Club is not your regular reading series. It’s a cage match! It is a live literary combat and fight to the metaphorical death for the reward of a thimble-sized trophy dubbed the Loving Cup of Deathless !#@*ing Glory, and bragging rights for the charity of the writer’s choice.

The format is simple.

There are four rounds with two opposing writers defending two opposing ideas per round. Each writer has seven minutes to defend their idea. The audience picks the winner. Writers compete for cash going to a charity of their choosing.

Writers get their topics about a week ahead of time. On game night, if a writer exceeds their seven minutes, the audience cuts them off by simulating a very loud time-out buzzer.

The audience can only cheer for one writer per round and McCormick is on hand to shame the audience into obeisance. So if you’re in attendance, you vote for your favourite and you vote once. If you disregard the voting rules, McCormick is ready with a drop kick or a piece of fried chicken to set you straight.

Combatants have their work cut out for them and they better deliver because the audience wants blood and McCormick makes sure to ask for it!

Almost anything goes; written defenses are creative and varied but what they’re not is stand-up comedy. Some combatants attack with poetry, others with short story, and others with personal essays. One October combatant wrote a mock law exam question related to liability and an unfortunate medical condition.

A sample of past bouts include: Digital vs. Analog, Emotion vs. Logic, Real vs. Imaginary, One vs. Many, Ghost vs. Alien.

Some of my favourite defenses from the annals of Write Club include a love letter to smoking, a character-based piece on grocery line etiquette (or the lack thereof), an extended history of Steppenwolf and the adventures of an irritable bowel.

The more personal accounts seem to be crowd favourites; if you are a contender, it is always a good idea to stack the audience with your friends. Indeed, that’s the first rule of Write Club: Tell five to seven people about WRITE CLUB.

Not to mention the second rule: Tell nine to eleven OTHER PEOPLE about WRITE CLUB!

As expected, the rest of the rules of Write Club read like the Chuck Palahniuk novel that inspired it.

3. If someone yells “Stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over.

4. Only two WRITERS to a fight.

5. One fight at a time, fellas.

6. The fights are bare-knuckle.

7. Fights will go on for 14 MINUTES EXACTLY.

The eighth and final rule of WRITE CLUB: The audience picks the winner of the fight. Decisions cannot be appealed.

In the days leading up to Write Club, it’s the social media smack talk that stirs the juices of the combatants and audience alike.

On fight night, the smells of blood, sweat and fear combine in the backroom of the Garrison to enhance the boxing match ambience the host ignites with her pugilistic talk.

Write Club is not for the lily-livered or the namby pamby and I am looking forward to this month’s cadre of heavy hitters:

Sage Tyrtle vs. Heather Jackson

Jess Taylor vs. Laura Hartenberger

Heidi Mole vs. Becky Bays

Robert Dayton vs. Sandra Shamas

Once you get the fight in you, it’s hard to get it out. I speak from experience. I’m not just a Write Club fanatic; I’m also a past combatant.

See you next Tuesday!



  • Write Club is on at the Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West) on Tuesday April 16
  • Doors at 7:30pm, show at 8
  • Tickets are $10 and available at the door. CASH only.

Photo of  Catherine McCormick by Alex Nursall


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