SENIOR STAFF WRITER
This time last year, the words “me too” weren’t as hard-hitting. Soon, they would become the words that shake the world to its core, tragically connecting and empowering survivors of sexual violence.
UNO’s literary magazine, 13th Floor, is teaming up with Writer’s Workshop and the English department for the annual 700 Words Prose Slam, taking place April 5 at Apollon Art Space. The event is themed around the Me Too movement, inviting members of the Omaha community to share their story—even if it’s not an easy one to share.
The prose slam was created as a way to collaborate with the public through the arts. Previously held at the Pizza Shoppe until it closed, the event is continuing strong in its new home at the Apollon Art Space. The nonprofit has an assortment of creative purposes for the community, from theater performances to art galleries.
Maritza Estrada is the editor in chief of 13th Floor Magazine. Serving as UNO’s only literary magazine since 2013, the staff is composed of predominately Writer’s Workshop students.
“Some people may be superstitious about the number 13, whereas other people associate 13 with being misunderstood, odd, quirky or unexpected,” said Estrada. “That’s exactly what the magazine is: an outlet for UNO students and alumni to share their work.”
Estrada got involved with the magazine in the fall of 2016. She remembers the year so clearly, she said—starting as an intern after the editor in chief at the time saw potential in her. Now as a senior, she’s thankful for taking advantage of that window of opportunity, otherwise she doesn’t believe she would be as prepared and informed on publishing and submitting work. Through her role as editor in chief, she works one-on-one with interns, edits submissions and is always doing what she can to ensure the magazine stays consistent and alive.
Going strong for five years, 13th Floor publishes one magazine each semester. UNO students and alumni submit pieces to the magazine, with a select few accepted into publishing. Estrada believes having a literary magazine is especially important for UNO as the pieces often comment on what’s happening in the country, potentially serving as bookmarks in history that can be looked at and reflected upon in the future.
“The magazine firmly believes in our motto: I have a story to tell,” said Estrada. “Honestly, everyone has a story to tell and we will continue to remain here for the UNO community.”
The magazine was encouraged by a UNO faculty member to have a themed slam this year, which had never been done before. After numerous stories have come out about sexual violence, the Me Too movement is still going strong. Estrada said the movement has made her more vocal and action-oriented.
Sophie Clark is the lead poetry editor at 13th Floor Magazine. As a writer, she’s encouraged to find her voice among the many who have shared their stories and feel unity in hearing “me too” echoed across America.
“For me personally, this movement has been unbelievably heartbreaking and empowering at the same time,” said Clark. “Our strength lies in our shared experience and with that comes the power of change. I’m looking forward to the prose slam as a reflection of that power.”
Prose and poetry slams focus on the content of a creative piece and how it’s performed by the writer. This year’s slam is judged by UNO faculty from the Writer’s Workshop and English Department. Participants are asked to bring two nonfiction or fiction pieces, 700 words or less for each piece. The slam is conducted in three rounds, with judges scoring each piece after they are performed. After participants get through the first round, the top three move on to the final rounds. Cash prizes will be given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place contestants.
While reading something personal in front of a crowd might seem intimidating, Clark believes no one should be afraid to share their voice.
“All stories will be received with warmth and acceptance,” said Clark. “Find solace in that everyone reading will be nervous. Telling your story will only make you braver.”
The 700 Words Prose Slam is April 5 at 7 p.m. The event will be held at Apollon Art Space, located at 18th and Vinton Street. There is a $5 entrance fee for all participants. The event is open to the community and free to attend.