Editor’s note: Seersucker co-founder Christopher Berinato is a contributor to Savannah Morning News and DO Savannah.
Tweed suit jackets, suede elbow patches, round metal-rimmed glasses are the uniform. The smell of sweet tobacco in pipes and whiskey in an old-fashioned bath permeates beards and neat pocket squares. Formal laughs and appropriate applause fill the exclusive echo chamber of literature enthusiasts.
For many, that’s what they imagine when I say I’m going to a literary reading. It’s not their fault. It just means they didn’t have the pleasure of attending a Seersucker Live event.
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Before local writer Megan Ave’Lallemant became a board member in 2022, she attended the shows fairly regularly over her decade. “It’s kind of its own animal and it’s a delightful animal,” she says. “I just feel like that’s the best way for me to describe the experience of being at a show: it’s delicious.”
With their thick red frames, bouncy blonde curls and queer identity, Ave’Lallemant brings a vibrant energy that would no doubt disrupt the sepia tones of more sultry literary readings. And should.
Fortunately, Seersucker welcomes people like Ave’Lallemant and myself, a queer black woman whose only requirement is to have a good time. It was part of the vision that local author Zach Powers approached his friend and writer Chris Berinato with all the way back in 2010.
First, to call Seersucker a literary read would be a bit reductive. Even before it was Seersucker, there was a trial event called Motormouth. Powers and Berinato, along with other original board members, invited writers to RPM Autoworx and challenged them to write a car-themed story or poem.
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After the success of this event, they changed the name to Seersucker and evolved the structure. “We decided that we wanted it to be part talk show, part literary reading, part cocktail party,” says Berinato. “We always made sure to do it in bars, or wherever people could drink, because it loosens tongues and makes people a little more receptive.”
I was lucky enough to experience it myself when I attended Seersucker’s Happy Hour for Writers at Lone Wolf. With two glasses of chardonnay in my system, I found myself chatting with another author about how the characters we create take on a life of their own, how writing fiction is really a bit like necromancy. Next, I spoke with a poet about what she had read lately and how she balances her creative life with motherhood.
“I think writing can be very lonely and lonely,” says Ave’Lallemant. “I think the community gives us witnesses, gives us people to celebrate with, gives us people to troubleshoot and empathize with.”
Ariel Felton, board member and social media coordinator, agrees: “I think being around other writers makes me a better writer both in the sense of motivation and to have writing buddies you can share things with.”
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Felton also attended several Seersucker live events while pursuing his graduate studies at SCAD; she was even asked to read from a list of other published authors in 2015.” she says. “Being around people who had published books helped me take my writing career seriously.” And take it seriously, she did, having piled on articles in The New York Times, The Bitter Southerner and, most recently, Gravy Quarterly.
It’s this kind of connection and community that thrived for several years before board transitions and the pandemic put the delightful animal Seersucker to sleep. “Seersucker was a fixture in the literary community for a while, then – I don’t know if I mean towards the end of COVID – whatever that phase was, I just noticed people asking me a lot of questions about it,” says Felton, surprised since she had just become a board member shortly before the pandemic.
It was time for a comeback.
The Board of Directors now consists of Berinato, Felton, Ave’Lallemant, Laura Davenport, Joseph Schwartzburt, Gino Orlandi and Brian Dean. Although there are new faces, Berinato explains that the heart of the shows is much the same. What he hopes to change is the sustainability of the organization.
“We recruited new board members who are a little more knowledgeable about running a nonprofit and the idea that comes out of that is to become a little more organized and sustainable so that board members administration can come and go, and even if me or Ariel still leaves, it will continue forever, hopefully.
After a few preliminary events — a few writers’ happy hours and Seersucker Shots, a little literary read featuring local authors April Tucholke and Nate Pedersen — Seersucker will make its official return Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Front Porch Improv (210 W Victory Dr. ).
The show will be hosted by Berinato and Ave’Lallemant. It will include readings from poet Patricia Lockwood, whose debut novel No One Is Talking About This landed on the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist, from author Taylor Brown, who was named 2021 Georgia Author of the Year , and poet and Front Porch cast member Chris Williams, who will make his fictional debut.
While everyone is excited for The Return Episode, Ave’Lallemant is very happy to wear the signature Seersucker blazer. The tongue-in-cheek reference to the typical stuffy literary uniform pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Seersucker.
But if that’s not enough, follow them on Instagram (@seersucker912) and Facebook, and come experience the fun for yourself.