Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It was a write-a-thon to beat all a-thons!

You can read the original review and see some pictures here at

You know that rush, the pure thrill and exhilaration, you get when you’re in a crowd at a concert, right as you and everyone else realizes the band just started playing a song everyone knows and loves, and you just feel that up swell in momentum. Well it’s the same thing when you put a 100+ writers in a room and tell them to “Write Their A**es Off", and I know this because it just happened this past Saturday at the New York Center for Independent Publishing (formerly the Small Press Center) in New York City.

The New York Writer’s Coalition (NYWC), a non-profit organization which coordinates writing and outreach programs for at-risk teens, abused women, formerly incarcerated individuals, the homeless, and other over-looked elements of our population put together the Write You’re A** Off marathon, a seven hour tour de force of keystrokes, pen-strokes, scribbling, illegible handwriting, and lots and lots of coffee. By raising $27,000+ for the NYWC, the herd of writers who gathered in the library at 20 West 44th St, home of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman, earned the chance to dedicate in true writerly fashion hour after hour of their Saturday to the most elusive of creative pursuits. Once NYWC founder Aaron Zimmerman gave everyone a bit of wherewithal regarding the space, poems were written, essays were crafted, and bits of flash fiction were ballyied about.

During lunch, Chris Baty, a man who, as founder of National Novel Writing Month, is to other writers what the Ultra-Athlete is to triathletes, took the stage as the guest of honor. He had been seated in the main hall all morning, at times tuned in through his earbuds to whatever music source he ran with on his laptop, writing away with a practiced objectivity; here was a man who knew writing marathons. He went from determined wordsmith to charming cheerleader with no more than a sip of water. He spoke and people laughed, and made you feel better than you already did about being in the room and taking part in the proceedings. He focused his pep talk around the importance of high-velocity writing, letting everything else slide for 30 days to focus on writing, and marathons of writing. He laid out three important reasons why a person should engage in the occasional furious bout of writing:

1.The more time you give yourself, the less likely you are do it

2.Writers are horrible at remembering how to write

3.Writing is a fantastic social activity

The business of writing that day found people filling the main lobby of the library, a balcony on the second floor, and classrooms on the fourth. They were seated around tables and desks upon which notebooks and laptop computers, pens, cups of coffee, ipods, and the tote bags of goodies all the participants received, part of the reward for raising the $100 in donations required for admission. They wrote and erased, talked, sipped, and snacked their way through paper and ink. Workshops were held throughout the day to offer refuge from the being there of having to inspire yourself. Prompts were announced at the beginning of each workshop and then you were off to the races for 20 minutes. Then guidelines were laid out and if you wanted to read your 20 minutes of brilliance you could, it was your choice. You had already done your part if you'd made it to that point. You raised money for a very worthy cause.