Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Writing for a Good Cause

On Saturday, June 9, I spent the day at the New York Writers Coalition 2nd Annual Write-A-Thon. Having raised $461 (raising a minimum of $100 was required, and here's a big public thank you to all my donors!) to support NYWC programs, I'd earned a ticket to a terrific day at the New York Center for Independent Publishing (previously the Small Press Center).

Soon after I arrived, I entered a classroom for a writing workshop. I have to admit that it was strange--though by no means unpleasant--to find myself not in the role of the workshop leader this time! The actual leader, who regularly leads NYWC workshops, took us through two sets of prompts/exercises. In each case, after we'd finished 15-20 minutes of independent writing, we reconvened as a group. We had the option of reading our work aloud for the group's response. It all had to take place within the following guidelines:

1) You can ignore the writing suggestions and and write whatever you want to. You can also keep writing after the workshop leader calls people back to the group. This workshop is for you to use for your own writing however best it serves you.

2) We discourage 'observing' or 'auditing,' so we ask that you at least attempt to write something, or spend time thinking about writing, even if it's staring at a blank page, making notes, freewriting or doodling.

3) You don't have to read aloud what you just wrote. But if you do decide to share your work with the group, please only read what you wrote in this writing time, not something you brought in or wrote earlier in the Write-A-Thon.

4) Only say what you like and what you remember when you are talking about others' writing. The writing we are hearing is all brand new so it's too early in the writing process for critiques or suggestions. It's ok not to respond to every piece.

5) What is written here will be treated as fiction, and will be discussed that way. This means referring to the characters or the narrator of the piece rather than saying something like, 'I like the part where YOU ran away from home at age 12 after YOUR mother yelled at you.'

6) What is written here, and what is said here, is confidential.

After the workshop came lunch (sandwiches, pasta salad, and cookies). Because this was a writers' event, there was also plenty of coffee (and Diet Coke) available throughout the day.

At 1:30PM author Chris Baty gave us a "pep talk." I'd say it worked: I was pepped up sufficiently to decide--and I declare publicly right here and now--that I am going to sign up this year for his brainchild, National Novel Writing Month.

After the talk ended, I settled in with some stories-in-progress I'd brought along, and actually got some long-delayed revising done. That may not seem too impressive, but these days, any uninterrupted daylight attention I give my fiction is indeed precious.

There was something extremely inspiring about sharing the space, the time, and the occasion with so many other writers. There we sat in rooms throughout the building. Some people had brought laptops. Others, like me, scribbled away in notebooks. It may sound corny, but there really is something to be said from the momentum that comes from other people's writing (or typing) within view (or hearing).

The day definitely served me well. And I'm proud to have contributed to the work of the NYWC in the process. I'll be back!

Thanks to GalleyCat for letting me know about this event in the first place!


Alison Ashley Formento said...

Oh, wish I'd known about this--sounds like an awesome day.

Erika D. said...

Hi, Alison. It was really great. Actually, I'd listed it in a calendar of events in the most recent Practicing Writer newsletter. If you're not a subscriber yet, consider signing up (it's free). Best, Erika