Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Authors, Readers, and Writers Unite at Word Café

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 3:00 PM

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Nina Shengold had an idea. As the books editor here at Chronogram, she would interview an author (who also tend to be educators) for one of her articles, and drive away thinking, "Man, I wish I could be in their class."

click to enlarge Nina Shengold, left, with Darnell L. Moore, Marlon Peterson, and Kiese Laymon at Word Café in November 2014.
  • Nina Shengold, left, with Darnell L. Moore, Marlon Peterson, and Kiese Laymon at Word Café in November 2014.

She decided to come up with an ad hoc classroom of her own. Thus, Word Café was born, a hybrid class/workshop in which a guest writer reads a selection of their work, Shengold asks more about its content or style as mediator, participants ask questions of their own, and then, the magic happens. A 15-minute midclass break introduces a writing prompt and the opportunity for participants to begin a project to spend more time on at home. They're invited to stand and read what they've written for feedback and praise.

The break, she says, is her favorite part. "There’s something very moving about the kind of communal focus of 30 or 40 people writing intensely in silence...Usually someone gets up after 15 minutes and just blows us away."

Word Café acts as a kind of connecting place, Shengold explains. "Writing is a really solitary thing. It’s for people who do that by themselves at home to get together with other people who do that themselves at home."

In addition to the sessions, a weekly newsletter is distributed with events, publications, and other groups or activities participants are involved in. Shengold describes it as "a kind of bulletin board."

At Outdated: An Antique Café, where the weekly meetings are held, participants are free to grab food or coffee during the sessions, though they're typically too busy to do so during the break. “Last week, not one person moved. I felt bad for the barista," Shengold says, laughing. "Everyone just sat there and wrote.”

Each class is $15, which can be paid in advance online with a credit card or at the door with cash or check. In addition, the featured author's books are available for sale every week, signed by that week's guest. Word Café is sponsored by Chronogram, The Golden Notebook, and Outdated: An Antique Café.

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