Writers Will Do Battle as ‘Fight Club’ Author’s Story Nights Come to Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN – Local writers will battle it out in a new series of story nights presented by “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk.

Youngstown is the newest location for one of Palahniuk’s story nights, joining existing clubs in the author’s hometown of Portland, Oregon, and New York. Those clubs also meet in bars, said Kerri Rickard, host of the Youngstown series.

The first of the monthly meetings will take place from 7 to 10 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Cedars West End, 706 Steel St. There is no charge to participate.

Locals who choose to have their reading recorded will be entered in a contest with their counterparts from the other two cities. The stories will be placed on Palahniuk’s substack.com space, where they can be voted on by the public. The first-place writer will win $5,000, with the second-place writer getting $3,000 and the third-place writer getting $2,000. The winner will be announced in late May.

Rickard, of Niles, gets credit for bringing the Palahniuk story night to the Mahoning Valley. The writer had been one of the author’s students on Substack, which provides a new way for authors to publish their work and build a following.

Rickard has befriended Palahniuk, who has always made himself accessible to budding writers as a mentor.

The story nights have the same competitive spirit for which the author is known.

“It’s kind of like ‘Fight Club,’ except for writers,” she said. “They’re duking it out to see who can make the others pass out. … I refer to it as ‘adult speech team.’”

When asked if Palahniuk will ever make an appearance at one of the nights, she passes on a quote from the author himself: “I can neither confirm nor deny that [he] will show up for a story night.”

Each story night will begin with writers putting their name in a hat. They are then selected at random to read one of their original short stories, or an excerpt from a longer piece, with a 15-minute time limit.

Palahniuk prefers short stories.

“Chuck says short stories are hot right now among publishers,” Rickard said. “‘Fight Club’ [which was made into a 1999 movie] came from a short story that he wrote. A publisher read it and asked him to make it into a novel.”

Rickard also noted that Palahniuk has a special interest in stories about serial killers, and asks participants to avoid memoir.

The chance to win cash is an incentive, but the chance to get feedback on a story is the real prize, Rickard said.

“You get to take your story for a walk and see if anyone is interested,” she said. “You can see what it needs, where it gets a laugh” and other ways to improve it.

Palahniuk’s story nights started about six months ago in the other two cities.

Rickard expects the Youngstown series will draw writers from several states.

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Pictured at top: Kerri Rickard, host of Chuck Palahniuk’s story night in Youngstown, and Palahniuk, sporting some temporary face tattoos.

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