Since 2007, brave adults across Canada have shared their own weird and wonderful childhood and teenage writing at Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, a live, onstage storytelling event.
The show’s primary goal is to entertain. But beyond that, the aim is to invite everyone — readers, live audience members, and radio/podcast listeners — to reflect on their own lives, to connect with who they used to be, and to draw a line that connects the past and the present.
Embarrassing, moving, and hilarious, these readings are powerful reminders of who we used to be. They’re compelling stories, at once deeply personal, yet surprisingly universal.
Dan here. Let me tell you a story.
It was Christmas 2006, and my girlfriend Jenna (now my wife) and I were visiting her parents in Kingsville, Ontario. Jenna’s parents asked her to clear out some of the boxes she still had stored in the basement.
Going through those boxes, we discovered Jenna’s early teenage diary, written in those awkward years when she was just on the edge of puberty. With drinks in hand, we spent the better part of the afternoon reading diary entries out loud to one another. Some were funny. Some were bittersweet. But the thing that struck me most was how Jenna’s diary gave me a glimpse into a past I’d never seen before.
We figured that lots of other people probably had their childhood and teenage writing kicking around somewhere — in their parents’ basements, in boxes in the closet, in storage lockers…
So I asked my mom to send me some of my childhood schoolwork. Then we booked a night upstairs at the Victory Cafe in Toronto, invited some friends, and crossed our fingers. People showed up. We had some drinks. We laughed. And we’ve been doing live shows ever since.
From the very beginning, Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids has been a hobby. The live events are a side project, done after-hours, outside our day jobs.
In 2008, we started releasing individual stories as a podcast, which lasted for 18 episodes before running out of steam.
Then, in 2009, I pitched a 10-part summer radio series to CBC. I made a pilot that year, but the series never happened, and the idea was shelved.
Then in late 2013, I dusted off that pilot and re-pitched Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids to CBC. This time, they bit. During the summer of 2014, I travelled across the country, putting on live shows and turning them into radio with my CBC colleague Alison Broverman. We made 10 episodes for CBC. Then the summer ended.
We wanted to keep making episodes, so in December 2014, Jenna and I announced we were going to make the second season of the podcast independently.
Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is a live open-mic event. Reader spots are first-come, first-served. We require all readers to sign up online, in advance. First, check the events page to see if there’s a live event coming soon to your area.
If there isn’t an upcoming live event listed in your area, sign up for the email newsletter. We always send signup and ticket information to the email list first. Then, watch your inbox closely for show announcements. While you’re waiting, you can check out some handy tips for readers, and get practicing!
Warning: Advance tickets sell out quickly. Often within hours of going on sale. Act quickly.
A link to buy tickets is always sent ahead of time to members of the mailing list.
Yes, please. GRTTWaK is an open-mic event, and it only works when people actually bring things to read. Too many spectators makes for a short and boring night. If you read at GRTTWaK, your admission is free.
Spots are on a first-come, first-served basis, and if you want to read, you should sign up in advance online. A link to the sign-up sheet will be sent ahead of time to members of the mailing list, and you can find signup links at the event listing.
Please note that only those who sign up in advance will get free admission, and we can’t guarantee a reading spot unless you sign up. That said, it never hurts to bring some childhood writing along, just in case.
Basically whatever you want, so long as it’s yours and it’s short. Your reading needn’t be funny. It could be bittersweet, or sad, or touching. Here are the three rules that govern what you can read at a GRTTWaK event:
Time yourself. If you have more than 5 minutes worth of material, pick your favourite piece or two, and read that.
Kid = whatever you consider kid to mean. One of the best things about GRTTWaK is the wide variety of things people bring to read. We’ve had stuff from early elementary school all the way up to college age writing. Bring whatever you want.
Good question. Dan wrote a whole thing about that.
There are lots of juvenilia-based events out there, each with their own particular format and execution.
Chronologically, Sara Bynoe’s Teen Angst (Vancouver) was the first show like this that we’ve heard of. Mortified’s another. Cringe (NYC & London) and Salon of Shame (Seattle) and Scribbler Skeletons (Charlottetown) are others. Of course, there are similarities. But each show is unique in its execution.
Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids has been around as a live event since 2007, and as a podcast since 2008. There are older shows, and newer shows, and if you ask me, there’s room for more.
Often, our shows sell out quickly. We know this can be frustrating.
The first place we announce live shows is through our email newsletter. Often, live events fill up hours (or minutes) after they’re announced.
Our ticketing company, Tito, has a “waitlist” feature. If a show is sold out or the reader list is full, you can join the wait list. If a registered reader cancels, or more general admission tickets become available, we make them available to members of the wait list. Joining the wait list does not guarantee you a ticket, not does it give you any special privledges for the next available show.
Reader signup and general admission tickets are first-come, first-served. It’s not ideal for everyone, but it’s the fairest way we know how to do it. We appreciate your patience. And remember — kid writing doesn’t expire, and we’re planning to keep doing shows well into the future.
Yes, we have. Our goal is to book venues that can seat as many people as possible, without compromising the intimacy required to put on a good show. That’s the tradeoff: capacity vs. intimacy.
Many of our readers are not performers, and they’re not used to being on stage. Reading at Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids takes a lot of courage. We’re trying to create the conditions for people to be open, honest, and authentic on stage, and the intimacy of the environment is key.
That said, if you have a great venue recommendation, we’re all ears. Typically, we book spots that have:
Venue suggestions always welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org