I’ve never bought into the idea that writers are solitary creatures. Introverted, yes. Solitary by virtue of needing to get the work done, certainly. But writing is, at its most basic level, the desire to connect. Our first weekend-long Don’t Write Alone event was a celebration of that fact, of the magic that can happen when writers, agents, and editors come together to exchange ideas and talk about process.
On Friday night, Scott Cheshire interviewed Paul Auster, who talked candidly about rejection and the stamina it takes to sustain a lifelong writing practice. We invited the 82 writers registered for the weekend and their plus ones, along with Catapult friends and instructors. The NYU Creative Writers House was packed. Paul Auster was wise and self-deprecating and funny. Scott Cheshire asked everything we’ve always wanted to know. Afterwards, we drank wine and ate cheese and it was all a little sweaty —thanks to summer in New York and feeble air-conditioning in the old brownstone —and kind of too nice for words.
On Saturday morning, Victor LaValle kicked things off with a talk on creating present action in prose, and I don’t think there was a writer in the room who didn’t reconsider some element of their work in light of Victor’s lessons. Next, Mira Jacob talked dialogue — about all the ways character is revealed by what we say or choose not to say, by gesture and subtext. As ever, she was fierce and smart and so funny that one student later asked me if she did standup. At our lunch panel, publishing luminaries Cal Morgan , Kevin Nguyen , Monika Woods , and Yuka Igarashi talked about how they find new voices and ways writers can connect with their future publishers.
While all this was going on, writers trickled up and down the stairs to meet with agents and editors — Danya Kukafka, Anna Stein, Marya Spence, Jenni Ferrari-Adler, and Emily Cunningham for one-on-one pitch sessions and Q&As. So much gratitude for the publishing folks who came by on Saturday just to talk to our writers—a reminder that for the people who work in this industry, the work is truly about the thrill of finding new voices. Next Porochista Khakpour tackled the subject of inspiration and staying motivated—offering up practical, relatable advice with her characteristic grace. Before rolling over to a bar a few blocks away, we ended the day’s programming with a reading and conversation with two debut novelists— Patty Yumi Cottrell and Angelica Baker who shared their publication stories and gave us a firsthand look into what it’s like to debut.
On Sunday afternoon, at the closing hour of Don’t Write Alone, we gathered together the writers who were left, still chipping away at their word documents. We pushed some chairs and couches together in the living room, and one by one, the writers got up and shared a little bit from their works-in-progress—mostly things started over the course of the weekend. Hearing their voices, their sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always sharp and promising work—well, I couldn’t imagine a better end to our first Don’t Write Alone weekend.
Magic, indeed. See you there next summer?