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A celebration of child and teenage awkwardness

By Kelsey Sunstrum on January 28, 2015



Lisa Frank diaries filled of pages and pages of melodrama, all written in a pink gel pen. A school project detailing your hopes and dreams for adulthood. Letters written between classes to your friends, rife with angst and spelling mistakes. Juvenilia comes in all shapes and sizes, but maintains a few commonalities: it’s endearing, revealing, and more often than not, hilarious.

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (GRTTWAK), hitting Ottawa this weekend, is a celebration of juvenilia. An open mic night, as well as a podcast, the event consists of individuals reading aloud their works from their childhood or youth. Moving and sometimes gut-wrenching, the evening incites catharsis and nostalgia.

Dan Misener, public radio producer and tech journalist, was inspired to set up the open mic night after a holiday visit to his in-law’s in 2006, where he and his wife uncovered her diary from ages 12, 13, and 14 – probably the most uncomfortable period of time for any teenager. They read them to each other and relived all her best, worst and most awkward moments from those years. It dawned on Misener that most people also have boxes of these childhood relics hanging around, just waiting to be shared. And so in 2007 the first GRTTWAK open mic night was held.

GRTTWAK has expanded greatly since then, travelling across Canada to crowds of people just dying to share their own childhood masterpieces. What is it about these mementos that have drawn so many people to the events? Misener attributes the success in part to the ability they have to enable one to grasp the universality of experiences and emotions between us. Sure, breaking up with your first boyfriend was devastating, but we’ve all been there – let’s laugh about it now!

Do you remember the days before we were able to craft our perfectly quirky yet cool personas? I barely do either. Childhood, puberty, becoming a teenager – all these awkward, tumultuous life periods that thankfully have barely registered online. Dan Misener also points to the authenticity the evening affords to explain its popularity. In our tender childhood years, self-censoring was a foreign concept. Reading these unfiltered sentiments is absolutely delicious.

GRTTWAK will be in full swing this Sunday evening at the Bytown Tavern. I’m very sad to report, however, that tickets are currently sold out. Fear not, friends! Check out the GRTTWAK podcast (iTunes) to get your fill of the fun, and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know when it will be returning!

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids – Bytown Tavern, Sunday, February 1, 2015, 8 – 10 pm, $10.