I remember the first time I thought about writing with other people. A friend at work had asked me to join a writing group that was meeting once a week in my neck of the woods. The invitation was tempting, but I turned it down.
I was a new mother and as much as I longed to write, I had an even greater need for the kinship and validation that came from getting together with other new mothers. So rather than joining the writing group, I spent my social time in a mother-and-infant group. But I held on to the idea that I would someday write with others.
That day came once Dee turned two. By then I’d stopped getting together with moms and toddlers and decided it was time to feed my soul in a new way. I can still picture Jim standing on the porch with Dee on his hip, the two of them waving good-bye as I drove away to my first weekly writing group session. I felt like I was heading off on a roadtrip.
Which it was, in many respects. I was a member of that particular group for five years. There were about four of us who were hard-core and another two or three who attended occasionally. Most the time we met at the sprawling adobe home of my friend Teresa, whose wonderfully creative writing you can find on a blog called Cuentos. Our group loosely followed the rules of Writing Practice, but with more experimentation. We were open to everything, and everything we wrote we did with complete abandonment.
We used all sorts of prompts: topics written on strips of paper we carried around in a worn baggy. Sculptures. Images cut out of magazines. Free association of words. One of my favorite things we did was a “moveable feast” type of practice where each person wrote for two or three minutes then passed our notebook to the person on our right, wrote for two more minutes, passed, wrote, passed, and so on for a couple of rounds. The resulting collaborative pieces often had us rolling on the floor, and once in a while we’d turn out something brilliant, in an avante garde sort of way.
We also mixed drawing and writing practice. One person in our group loved the concept of keeping the hand moving yet she preferred pastels to the pen. Just like the rest of us, she took off on whatever prompt we threw out, and when time was up and we all read our pieces, she showed us hers.
Another favorite prompt was to take a book off the shelf, open it to a page and read the first line, then write. Or we’d pick out phrases instead of full sentences. I still have some of these phrases written on a piece of paper: listen to me; Winifred on her hip; their spears upright with heads of shining steel; Why so angry with me, friend?
One time we wrote syllables onto strips of paper then randomly connected the syllables together to make new words, which we used in a timed practice. I even wrote definitions for my words. Here, one of them:
Goonaday: In some parts of Northern NM, “goona” is used to refer to “god’s goodness.” Goonaday is synonymous with Sunday.
This fall it will ten years since I began writing with other writers. Nowadays I write with an online writing group that just formed recently and with a local group that meets about twice a month. And through this blog, I write with a growing community of folks who live all over the place, people I know intimately and people I’ve barely begun to know through the Internet. I’m even writing with friends who I never knew were writers.
Teresa, who still has her writing group, is hosting her annual half-day-long writing retreat one Sunday in July. I’m invited, and I plan to be there, to show up for myself and for the other writers. I think it would be a fine way to spend a Goonaday.