The Willamette Writers’ 50th Anniversary celebration at our Writing House this weekend brought out members old and new to discover each others’ latest work. Longtime members Salli Slaughter and George Mason, who have visited over 20 states for their Authors Road project, recently added Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket to their impressive list of author interviews.
We were also visited by the founders of two local literary organizations, People’s Ink, featured in last month’s post, and the executive team behind the new writers’ non-profit 9 Bridges. Elizabyth Harrington, Executive Director of 9 Bridges, describes how the guild went from being a chapter of Coffee House Writers Group to become its own non-profit, and what it offers writers across Oregon, California, Arizona and Montana.
Goodbye Coffee House Writers… Hello 9 Bridges
Writing has held a long-standing reputation as a solitary act. Walk into any neighborhood café and you’ll see fellow writers isolated away from one another, furiously scribbling or tapping our electronic device of choice, while coffee cools and croissants creep towards stale. Like small islands, we writers work the mystery of imagination and bend it to our desire. But the story doesn’t end there. There are lots of obstacles to finishing a story, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction or an epic novel. And writing is only the beginning. Once the words are teased from the hands of the muse and captured, there is much work to be done to polish it into a masterpiece.
This is where 9 Bridges Writers Guild enters the picture. The Oregon-based writing organization works to break writers free from their self-imposed solitary confinement – bringing them together so they may share their expertise with one another. 9 Bridges does this through oral critique groups, focus groups, resources, seminars and social connections.
While 9 Bridges is technically a new non-profit, the group has been in Portland for two years as a chapter of the Coffee House Writers Group. Founded in February 2013 by CHWG executive team members Mark Harrington (CFO) and Elizabyth Harrington (CAO), the Portland group’s energy and sense of community immediately attracted attention and resulted in explosive growth, which soon spread from Portland to other states. In March of this year, CHWG split into two organizations. CHWG retained three chapters in the Los Angeles area while the Harringtons, along with CHWG board member Vargus Pike, formed 9 Bridges as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit and assumed leadership of the remaining chapters.
The core philosophy of the Guild is to build bridges between writers to enable them to achieve personal success, however defined by them. If individual success means learning new skills, 9 Bridges critique groups can help by mentoring through peer review. If success is defined by getting published, 9 Bridges seminars may provide information on the various avenues. Need a beta reader or want to start a focus group? The 9 Bridges community can help find those people. Have something to share? The open 9 Bridges Facebook group gives writers a platform to share resources, ask questions or just stay in touch. Looking to promote a published book? 9 bridges can help through social media.
Because membership is free and there is never a charge for workshops and meetings, the organization has become an important resource – not only for mainstream writers – but also for members of underserved communities. 9 Bridges successfully helps seniors, students, homeless, low-income, and disabled individuals achieve success and inclusion within the writing community. 9 Bridges currently has almost a thousand members in Portland, with another two hundred members divided between Arizona, Montana and California.
As well as helping individual writers, 9 Bridges seeks to build connections to other literary organizations. Their vision is to create one massive community of writers helping writers. No one person or organization is an expert at everything, but through networking, resources that may not be available in one place might possibly be found in another. This growing national organization believes that it is possible for all writers to find their success by working together and building bridges.
Willamette Writers members looking to be connected with critique groups – and critique groups with openings – can connect via WW’s Critique Group Coordinator Doug Lavan by emailing our office.