Happy Hour Writing Session at GrubStreet

Last Friday, I went to GrubStreet, a creative writing center in Boston that has made a huge impact on the local writing community and individual careers, to attend an event called “Happy Hour Writing Session,” which was exactly what it sounds like. Snacks, drinks, and writing prompts were available to those who signed up and a few who didn’t (including myself—oops). GrubStreet offers classes, programs, and various unique events with a dedicated and experienced faculty willing to help students and visitors fulfill their greatest potential. They encourage all kinds of writers to take the time to work on the projects that they often put aside for work, family, and other personal responsibilities.

I was not expecting the class to be so packed at 6:30 on a Friday evening, but the classroom was nearly full when I got there. Unlike in my creative writing classes at school, where my work is critiqued and commented on by only eight other people who know more about me than they should, I felt surprisingly calmer around this large group of strangers than I had anticipated.

I, however, was one of few people pursuing a degree in writing; most of the others already had full-time careers in fields that ranged from nursing to teaching to analyzing computer data, but were trying to squeeze some writing time in for the week in a space that helped them focus and become inspired. Others were retired and trying to discipline themselves to write more every day. Others were there for the first time just to see what it was all about. Diverse as this group of people was, we were all there for the same reason—to write, to relax, and to make good use of one free hour on a Friday night.

digital composite of hands using notebook with graphics

I sat at a table with three other women. JoAnne was retired and a GrubStreet regular; Bridget was a sixth-grade teacher who just completed her first year and was looking to get some writing done during her much-deserved summer off school; Emily was a retired CEO and a great conversation starter who had a goal of taking some time to write at least three times per week.

For the first exercise, we were prompted to describe a color, and whenever we felt stuck or distracted, we would just have to envision that color and write whatever came to mind. No editing, no primping, no perfecting—just writing. After that exercise, some of us shared what we wrote while others simply explained their ideas without reading their work. I chose sea-grass green.

For the second exercise, each table was given a spice and a perfume strip from a magazine, and we were told to write about what those scents inspired in us. I smelled my table’s spice without looking at the label first and immediately thought of Christmas before I even realized the spice was cinnamon. Our box of Christmas decorations sitting in the basement at home that smells like cinnamon because we have ornaments made of stale cinnamon sticks and ginger cookies with in festive ribbon. As a result, I wrote about my family’s twenty-something-year-old, fake, dwindling Christmas tree had it not been for that smell, which I would have never thought of had it not been for the spice sitting on my table.

Cinnamon Ornaments 7

Finally, we were given our third and final exercise at the end of the hour-long event. We had twenty minutes to write anything using one of several opening lines our instructor had given us for inspiration. I chose to write a passage starting with, “In my second life,” as did Bridget, but we ended up writing completely different exercises. In Bridget’s second life, she was a Broadway singer who could express herself through voice and drama. In my second life, I got my first job at a movie theater was I was sixteen and lived in the same town until college.

It was this duality between our two stories starting with the exact same line that made me realize how different all of us at my table, in the room, in the city, and in the world are. We all have so many different ideas and stories to offer people who are willing to read them, and GrubStreet is willing to help you get to that point.

If you are interested in attending a Happy Hour Writing Session at GrubStreet, see their website and event calendar; don’t forget to sign up!

—Audrey Conklin

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