The College of Creative Studies hosted its second Penny Reading, a monthly event featuring oral storytelling by students, alumni and other local writers, yesterday at the Blue Agave in downtown Santa Barbara.

The series was founded by CCS literature professor Ellen O’Connell and gives both developing and seasoned writers opportunities to present their written pieces, such as personal poems and essays, before a live audience. O’Connell created the series as a way to connect the UCSB campus with its surrounding communities through a love of literature.

O’Connell said students of all academic backgrounds are encouraged to join in the event to share talented work that might not otherwise be published.

“I’m hoping if [students] write and revise with the idea of a public reading, the immediacy of the experience might give them motivation and the reward of sharing,” O’Connell said in an email. “Our dean at CCS always says the students are here to create new knowledge in their discipline. Our students are certainly doing that through their creative writing and now it is time for them to share that new knowledge.”

Community members and students alike benefit from the event’s ability to unite writers from all backgrounds and allow them to interact, O’Connell said.

“[The Penny Reading Series] is a reward for excellence in writing and a place for Santa Barbara to gather and listen to high-quality original work for an hour a month,” O’Connell said. “These students are writing really wonderful things, and deserve to stand up there with professional writers from the community and share their work.”

Douglas Austin, a fourth-year CCS literature major, said the series showcases students’ creative abilities as a way to organize the community.

“We are at a time, in our lives and in our artistic generation, when too much of our work is done in obscurity, and the content of our art reflects that,” Austin said in an email. “We must look to make art that matters, and the Penny Reading Series gives us an excellent forum in which to share our work, and create a positive impact, on each other as well as on our society, which is deeply unwell.”

Some writers, such as third-year CCS literature major Aimee Millwood, presented highly personal pieces about common social issues. Millwood, who shared a memoir piece about her friend’s death in a drunk driving accident at the first reading, said the event gives authors a creative and emotional outlet.

In addition to more serious content, fourth-year CCS literature major Michael Podell presented a comedic work about his sister’s wedding in which he focused on the quirky elements of his various family members. Podell said the series brings the knowledge students gain from CCS’s distinctive learning experience to the larger community.

“I think that the Penny Reading Series is a really important step towards making the College of Creative Studies Literature program more accessible to the Santa Barbara community,” Podell said in an email. “Our program is unique among public schools and draws people from all over the country.”

Interested writers may submit their work to O’Connell for review at The events are held on the fourth Thursday of the month for an admission of $5, including refreshments.