Sunday, June 10, 2007

THE 2nd ANNUAL WRITE-A-THON

Yesterday, with the support of nineteen friends, I participated in the 2nd Annual New York Writers Coalition Write-a-Thon. The purpose of the event was to raise money for the good work of the Coalition. Led by Aaron Zimmerman, the staff annually conducts 550 free writing workshops for the unheard populations in NYC, including at-risk youth and older adults. The Coalition also publishes anthologies of the writings that emerge from these workshops and creates forums for the participants to read their creations in front of audiences. Good stuff.

With $600 in pledges (thank you, sponsors!), I subwayed to The Small Press Center on West 44th Street in Manhattan. Shortly after arriving, I attended a writing workshop led by one of the Coalition Staff. She showed us a bunch of slides that served as visual prompts and then we got to write for 20 minutes based on one or more of those prompts. So I wrote what became Thoughts about Death. Each person in the workshop got to read his or her piece out loud and the other members of the group got to say what they liked or remembered about the piece.
I was blown away by the writing of a teenager in that workshop. A ninth-grader, she was the youngest person at the Write-a-Thon. After the workshop was over, I went back to the main room and sat at a table with her. She showed me more of her writing and I talked a little bit about my blog. We were then joined by another high-schooler and also by a woman who wants to write more but does not have a computer at home.

The four of us had lunch together and then a guy named Chris Baty gave the whole entire Write-a-Thon a pep talk about aiming for quantity and quality in writing as a way of getting both. Chris started this wild thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where participants begin writing November 1 with the goal of writing a 175-page (50,000 word) novel by midnight, November 30th. "The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing nd just create. To build without tearing down."
The highlight of the Thon was participating in the morning workshop, being around other writers, and making friends with young writers.

If you would like to make a contribution to the work of the Coalition, it is not too late! You can visit my sponsor page here, where donations will be accepted through August 11th.
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