Hosting a write-in

I’m in a writing group that meets regularly in a cafe.  We get a lot of work done and like meeting for lunch there.  But once in a while, we all like to meet for longer, outside of our regular space, to discuss writing, do exercises and share a meal together.  That’s when we organize a write-in. It is like a mini-retreat, but we don’t have to leave the city or bring our sleeping bags.   This list is what I recommend for having an awesome writerly time.

Notebook, pen and the essential cup of tea.

1. Pick a location at someone’s house that has access to a nearby park, beach or lake.  That isn’t so hard to do in Seattle.  Our write-ins always include a mid-day walk.

2.  Discuss beforehand who will bring what foods for late morning, lunch and dinner.  We had planned on doing a potluck lunch and a take-out dinner but our potluck lunch was so delicious and we had so many leftovers, that we had it again for dinner.  The menu:  a rich generous quiche from a nearby cafe, a beautiful layered salad, a minted fruit salad, bread, cheeses, and shortbread.  Sparkling water and rose and white wine complemented the meal.  At our latest write-in, we got to eat outdoors due to the rare lovely weather.

3. Designate someone to bring the chocolate.

A great potluck meal adds to the feeling of a mini-retreat.

4.  Okay, I know this isn’t just about food, let’s see.  If we decide to do writing exercises and prompts, often one of us or our group leader will bring a selection to do.  This last time we chose to spend the bulk of the day writing independently on our own projects.  It is hard not to talk to each other–we love our group–so it helps to split up into different locations.  Some wrote at the dining table, some at the kitchen bar, some on the couch and some downstairs.  Our hostess was very kind in sharing her lovely house.

5.  We agreed to meet about 11am and we left as the sun was going down, about 9:30pm.

6.  After our morning writing and lunch, we all went for a walk on the nearby beach.  This is a time to talk together and to talk about any problems we’ve been having with our novels or essays.

7. Then its back to the writing, with a comforting spot of tea.  Almost none of us could settle down to write without something in our cup.

8. A really fun part of the day came as we were eating dinner.  A friend had brought a numerology book and we all answered questions to find out about ourselves.  It was fun to sit outside, eat our meal and think about something quite different.  I think any dinner game that asks thoughtful questions is a good way to reconnect.

9. For dessert, bring either a selection of your own writing to read and/or bring a selection from one of your favorite writers.  It is delightful to hear a selection from Charles Dickens, Nick Hornby, Jane Austen or Jane Smiley while enjoying all that chocolate.  This is also a great time to get feedback on a scene that you’ve worked on during the day.

Shadows lengthen and we get ready to read our writing around the table.

10.  Go home feeling great.


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