Writing is a solitary pursuit. It takes a lot of personal initiative and time, and any gratification from external sources doesn’t usually come until the process is through. If you’re a writer of any stripe, you may struggle with the imperative to sit yourself down, ignore distractions and put your fingers on the keys. You may crave the kind of companionship and support that only other writers can provide.
Luckily for you if you live in or near Lancaster, there’s a monthly event that was designed to help writers both get some “ass-in-chair time,” as one of the organizers put it, and meet other people who love to write. It’s called Write Now and it takes place at the Candy Factory, a co-working space at 342 N. Queen St. in Lancaster city.
The group meets on Wednesdays; the next three meeting dates are Jan. 18, Feb. 22 and Mar. 15. The first half-hour of the evening, from 6:30-7 p.m., is devoted to group introductions and mingling. From 7 to 8, everyone sits down to write in silence. It’s not a workshop, so there is no compulsory sharing afterward, and all kinds of writers are welcome. If you’re at a loss for what to write, the organizers will give you a prompt. After the hour of writing, there’s more social time.
The creators of Write Now are Michele Lombardo and Jamie Beth Schindler, two Lancaster writers who chanced to meet a few years ago when their daughters were in preschool together.
A few weeks ago, we sat down with them to talk about how Write Now came to be, and their own writing lives.
The Triangle: So, what motivated you to start Write Now?
Jamie Beth Schindler: Michele and I have very different lifestyles. Michele is a full-time, stay-at-home writer–she was looking for a way to connect with other writers, and I was looking for a way to carve out writing time.
The Triangle: What kinds of writers show up at Write Now? How many people do you usually get?
JBS: It’s usually about twelve people.
Michele Lombardo: They’re a mixture of regulars who have been coming since the start, or at least early on, and new people.
JBS: We get people who are writing food blogs, novels, short stories, memoirs, and poets.
The Triangle: What are each of you working on now?
ML: I have a few short stories that are in various states of revision, and I’m also working on a novel. I’m very early on in this novel–I’ve written a few scenes, but mostly I’m thinking it through.
JBS: I’m currently doing a third total rewrite of a young-adult novel, and I have personal essays that I’m trying to place.
The Triangle: Writing is such a solitary thing–doesn’t coming together to write in a group strike you as a little odd?
JBS: There are definitely people who don’t come to our group because writing socially is not for them. For me, I feel more accountable when I’m writing socially. I’m not going to hop on Netflix, or be distracted by the dishes. I’m just there to write: that in itself is very motivating.
ML: I never get distracted by laundry or cleaning, let me just put that out there. But writing can be very isolating. And the fact that I only have an hour: that’s very motivating. Sometimes it takes me longer to get into my work groove when I’m at home. I think for writers, it’s about that ass-in-chair time. Not waiting for inspiration.
JBS: For me, it’s about being away from my family, having time for writing. And for me, that is precious, precious time.
The Triangle: I have to ask: who are your favorite authors or books, and who do you find most inspiring?
JBS: Girl by Blake Nelson and The Secret History by Donna Tartt both remind me of the stories I wanted to tell. My tastes are eclectic. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. The young adult book The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. Recently, I felt like I was only reading white men, (so I picked up) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
ML: I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Joyce Carol Oates–she’s my girl. When I was doing the corporate thing and didn’t read much, wasn’t making it through a book, she brought me back. Her books are easy to get into and she will bring you back to your love of literature. Aside from her: Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which is experimental and has so much heart. George Saunders, who is smart and funny, and Amy Bender. I enjoy reading magical realism sometimes. It’s light but heavy. And Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles.