Soon after Kathryn Kruse enrolled in UNLV’s MFA creative writing program, she noticed something was amiss: There were no opportunities outside academia to read her work and hear the works of fellow students. So two years ago, she started Neon Lit, a monthly event held the last Friday of each month during the school year, usually at Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). This month’s Neon Lit brings six writers who are in UNLV’s graduate creative writing program to the stage. The reading will include poetry and fiction. Several writers are collaborating with guitarist Richard Belgard to accompany written pieces.
“It’s really nice to have a space where you can just read. The only point of it is to have people hear your stuff and enjoy it,” says Kruse, 32, who will graduate from the program this year.
The event regularly draws about 50 people. “For a poetry reading it’s pretty good,” says Kruse, who frequently reminds people that they need to arrive early to get a seat. “I’m proud that people want to come out and hear literature.”
When the Chicago native started taking classes at UNLV, she looked forward to dedicating three years to just writing. Prior to that, she’d been a community organizer around health and labor issues, and her work never allowed time for her poetry. But once she started school here, the more she wrote, the more she realized that she wanted a chance to share it with others and hear what kinds of writing other students were producing. She couldn’t just sit back and complain about what Las Vegas was lacking; she wanted to do something about it.
“I can’t help, apparently, to organize stuff,” she says.
Thus, Neon Lit was born. The event is held off campus in hopes that residents and visitors attend along with UNLV students. The CAC turned out to be the perfect spot. It’s centrally located, and, Krause says, “It’s a really nice way to connect with stuff that’s going on with the Arts Factory and all of the visual artists, too.” This month’s readers include Erica Anzalone, Becky Bosshart, Samuel Harr, Justin Irizarry, Bobby Jagger, Mark Lennon and Tim Moungey. For next month’s Neon Lit (April 29), graduating students will read their theses and dissertations.
Once Kruse graduates, the future of Neon Lit will be up to first- and second-year grad students. She’s excited to see what comes of it. “I think it’s been really successful,” she says, “and seems to have served the purpose for us of creating a wonderful space where we can be together and know each other.”