I often bemoan my lack of large swaths of time to write, having instead to fit in tiny sprints of wordcrafting, between shaking it at toddler dance parties, running to work meetings, and carving out time to connect with my husband. Still, I hesitated at signing up for 826 Valencia‘s 3rd Annual Write-A-Thon, which was also a celebration for the 10 year birthday of the non-profit. I was a bit intimidated, thinking of all those established writers sitting together clacking out their ideas, with little ol’ me among them – would I stick out as the imposter I fear I am in the writing world? In the end I decided to get over myself, heed my own advice to take risks and seize the time to create, and went ahead and registered. Then I sent out daily calls on Facebook and Twitter, ending up raising $410 in six days, all going to the free tutoring, writing classes, and scholarship support that 826 Valencia offers San Francisco youth!
I arrived straight from work, all jittered up on coffee and sugar, sweaty from running Olive up and down my stairs in order to get there in time for the workshop that The Writer’s Grotto was running at noon. My nerves were assuaged somewhat as I sat down next to an old friend, a young man I’ve known since he was a bright seven year old, who is now as tall as I am! Here he is, hard at work, taking the posture I saw repeatedly all over that room — one hand on the head, holding up the weight of all the ideas we were having and shaping:
Fresh infusions of coffee and sugar beside me, I sat down to put one word in front of the other… and kept going, for five hours straight. It was bliss. I was able to write a piece, then re-write it from a different perspective, then write another piece, playing with it by taking out all the adverbs, making it work in new ways. All the while, 826 was celebrating their birthday in different ways, making announcements, bringing out special treats, and, every once in awhile, Dave Eggers would hand out charming cartoon drawings he was doing of the participating writers. His daughter, a Poltergeistian cutie, practiced her letters beside him.
I can’t share all the pieces I worked on over the day, but I’ll give you a little taste — here’s the response I wrote in 5 minutes during the workshop, to one of the prompts in The Grotto’s awesome new book, 642 Things To Write About, which I read aloud to the group and got some lovely feedback on:
The prompt was to imagine you are filling a time capsule to be opened in 500 years, and write the letter to the folks who will open it, describing life as you know it today.
Dear Sir And/Or Madam,
I want to remind you that we once bled. We, the human race, weren’t always so robotic, so sterile, so cut-throat. We used to bury our dead. We once conversed face to face, with nothing more than oxygen between us, our eyes boring into each other’s skulls. I know that you can read about love, but I’ll have you know that it once injured us. We’d sit up for days, not just to make more things or create more ideas or digitize experience, but simply to revel in the beauty of the skin of our lover – its chocolatey sheen as it moved across our own flesh.
A Human from 2012
After five full hours of writing indulgence, I heard my daughter’s voice in the adjoining pirate store (yep, this organization is so rad, they even run a pirate supply store in the front of their building), “Is my Mama in there? IS MY MAMA IN THERE?!” It was a cute yet jarring call back to reality. I checked out, and picked up my literal pirate booty, earned through my fundraising prowess.
Olive was actually quite tantrummy and weird that evening, like she’d all of a sudden realized I was gone, doing something fabulous without her, for five hours straight, and she wasn’t having it. But we had a good time checking out the Pirate Pack 826 outfitted us with!
If you haven’t participated in a fundraiser in a little while, I encourage you take the leap and get involved, soon. It really feels gratifying, to use your skills to support a worthy organization. When I put out the call to my community, and 13 people responded in six days, it was a great reminder of the kindness and generosity of the people in my life. Next year, I’ll have the gumption to start fundraising even earlier, and perhaps I can raise a boatload for the kids of SF’s endeavors in wordsmithing! Maybe some of you will join me on 8/26/13?