Panhandle Creatives Unite

Jocelyn Donahoo reads her work while Sarah Clauson, Say the Word manager.

Jocelyn Donahoo reads her work while Sarah Clauson, Say the Word manager, listens.

It’s becoming obvious that something incredible is happening in our area. A core group of creative people have formed a nucleus of energy that is quickly turning into a literary movement.

It started, in my mind, in Niceville with the Say the Word open mic night. A small group of regulars came to share their writing and celebrate words. They hung in there, faithfully supporting each other, for about two years. Then they started growing.

Other nearby open mic venues started connecting, like the poetry jam that happens in Crestview from 6-8 p.m. every second Tuesday. Then came Stone Soup Jam at LJ Schooners in Bluewater Bay every third Thursday. Meanwhile TV Dinner Theater was and is happening once a month, on a Friday, at Cafe Bienville in Niceville. Then up popped a Twilight Zone discussion group every Sunday at 2 p.m., also at Cafe Bienville. I used to complain that there wasn’t enough to do in Niceville. Now there’s always something interesting going on.

The surge in activity hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Northwest Florida Daily News has done two separate stories on it recently. The spirit of the group has remained supportive and enthusiastic, even as the size has exploded. It’s gone from being a thing to the thing to do.

With such a strong group of writers/producers/photographers/artists/ect. anything is possible. I predict that one day we will look back on this time and see the roots of a movement.

In that spirit, I penned a rare (for me) poem to read at Say the Word yesterday. As always, the entire jam was uplifting, invigorating, inspiring… and wonderful.

It Came from the Panhandle

When I’m old, I want to hear them say

“It came out of Niceville.”

When I’m old, I want to have them tell me

“It came from the Panhandle,

it was large and unstoppable.

It couldn’t be tamed.

It was wild, hot and furious.

It moved us all and changed everything.”

These are the words I want to hear

fifty years from now when I slow down

long enough to listen.

“It came from the Panhandle—

from Niceville, Crestview, Navarre, Fort Walton Beach…

and it changed everything.

It was powerful and creative.

It was impending.

It came from the Panhandle, they will say,

an unstoppable movement of writers, painters, visionaries, singers, jewelers, idealists, producers, visual artists, dreamers, sculptors…creators.

They formed a cooperative movement

supporting each other, building each other

and with that many creative minds combined,

they were powerful

they opened eyes, expanded horizons

and changed the world.

It came from the Panhandle

I will hear them say

and I will simply nod my grey head and smile.

“I know,” I will tell them, eyes misting with memory.

“I know, because I was there.”

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit or
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4 Responses to Panhandle Creatives Unite

  1. Jocelyn G. Donahoo says:

    I love your writing. You have such a gift. I too will be able to remember, smile, and add that I was apart of it, too.

  2. Rachel says:

    Cuz in the Panhandle, when it comes to creativity, we are FOCUSED!

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