If you are in Coupeville, Washington on a Wednesday afternoon, stop by Local Grown Coffee, the coffee shop at the pier. There you will find Just Write. It’s a gathering of writers, hosted by Andrea Hurst, a literary agent and resident of Whidbey Island. *
A few friends and I stopped by Just Write yesterday, joining Andrea and more than 20 writers for the weekly two-hour session. The group is made up of both published and unpublished poets and writers of fiction and non-fiction.
The espresso dispenser clacked away, the steamer frothed the milk, voices bounced off the beams, Mount Baker gleamed in the distance and a lone sail boat sat at anchor in the glassy waters of Penn Cove.
Did I mention the sun was shining? Sure, the temperature was only slightly above freezing, but I will forgive many things so long as the sun shines. Lordy, a person could get used to hanging around Coupeville.
Several writers shared news of requests for partials, upcoming readings, or the expected date of a book launch, to the cheers and applause of the group. Andrea has created a warm and supportive environment for local writers.
Just Write is not a critique group. It bills itself as two hours during which the group simply writes. No charge to participate. The writers bring computers, pen and paper; they get comfortable in the coffee shop and work on their writing projects. While looking out at Penn Cove and Mount Baker. In the sunshine.
Yesterday, writing was put aside for a portion of the session. Andrea invited Laurie McLean (now of Fuse Literary), to speak to the group about publishing, trends, marketing and more. Laurie has also been participating in the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts’ MFA residency as guest faculty. If you’ve never heard Laurie speak, make a note to do so. She is a Wikipedia of information about all things writerly. But more – she’s entertaining – witty, lively, and clearly in love with what she does for a living.
The experience at Just Write made me think about literary citizenship – the idea that writers and others in the industry should give back, do their bit to support a colleague or the industry. Some writers I know volunteer with small presses, some raise funds for literacy projects, some run workshops in the Downtown East Side.
And, in Coupeville, literary citizenship is doing well at Local Grown Coffee and Andrea Hurst’s weekly gathering of writers. Andrea is also a committed supporter of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA program, where she is one of the leaders of the pitching and publication workshops offered to graduating students. I have first-hand knowledge of her superb coaching abilities.
Just Write offers writers a regular time and place to write, in the company of others. Which, for some of us, is the answer to our lack of discipline and frustration with the isolation of writing. I like the idea of a couple hours each week communing with colleagues, working on projects, and cheering each other on. There’s no scarcity of waterfront in Vancouver, nor coffee shops. Add a coach and this could work, I’m thinking. I just have to convince Andrea to move north.
*Since this post was published, Andrea Hurst has moved away from Whidbey Island.