Flatiron Writers Room launches a co-working space

BUILDING CREATIVE COMMUNITY: Maggie Marshall, left, and Heather Newton formed the Flatiron Writers Room in 2017 as an offshoot of the Flatiron Writers group, which Newton helped launch in 1993. Photo by Thomas Calder

So your plans to write the next great American novel didn’t quite pan out last year. You penned a beautiful opening paragraph and jotted down some intriguing (albeit vague) ideas for the project’s next 250 pages. But then your pipes froze in the winter, your allergies returned in the spring, summer called for travel, autumn buried you in leaves and just when life was finally slowing back down — the damn holidays arrived!

Sound familiar? If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. “For working adults, it’s always hard to find the time to write,” says Heather Newton, co-founder and program manager of the Flatiron Writers Room. Since 2017, Newton and fellow co-founder Maggie Marshall have worked to change this all-too-familiar script through workshops, writing-related gatherings, lectures and author events.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, the Flatiron Writers Room will continue its mission with its annual Pop-Up Writing Retreat. The all-day event includes writing prompts, consultations with Newton and Marshall, a midday massage, the chance to network with fellow local writers and, most importantly, an uninterrupted period of time to write.

“We don’t give [participants] the Wi-Fi password,” says Marshall. “We ask them to turn off their cellphones and hide them. We enable them to write any way we can.”

In addition to the Pop-Up Writing Retreat, the Flatiron Writers Room has planned events throughout 2019. In January, local author and journalist Dale Neal will launch a six-week short story workshop. Later in the month, New York Times best-selling author Beth Revis will lead a fantasy and sci-fi class.

“Workshops give you a kick-start of inspiration,” says Newton. “And when you’re meeting with a class for six weeks, it holds you accountable. … I think that’s probably the main challenge that people face — just making space in your life for the writing.”

For Dorrie Sieburg, a former workshop participant, the Flatiron Writers Room also creates opportunities to connect with fellow creatives in an art form that can often be solitary in nature. Events such as the upcoming Asheville Literary Coalition social, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Flatiron Writers Room’s West Asheville location, helps foster relationships outside the workshop. “The support and encouragement you get along the way is a huge part” of what the organization brings to writers, Sieburg says.

This desire for a network, notes Newton, has played a key factor in the group’s latest endeavor: a co-working space exclusive to writers. “A very small percentage of writers are going to get published with a big publisher and make a lot of money,” she explains. “The rewarding thing about writing for most writers is the community and chance to meet other people who are living a creative life. It’s such a lonely thing to do it by yourself. It’s important to be able to commiserate with other people and to have their support.”

Set to launch in March, the organization’s three-room West Asheville co-working space will accommodate up to 12 writers at a time. Along with desk space, free Wi-Fi and limitless coffee, membership will also include discounts on future workshops. The cost is $95 per month for a three-month membership or $85 per month for a six-month commitment.

“A lot of writers really thrive when they have some kind of writing community to rely on,” Marshall says, “whether it’s getting feedback from other people or just for moral support.”

Newton agrees but adds that the co-working space also mirrors that of a gym membership. “The thought being if you pay for it, maybe you’ll actually go and do it,” she explains.

For Sieburg, who may join on as a co-working member, the idea is intriguing. “If you can have a place that is just there for creative thinking, that is the best thing you can do for yourself,” she says. “You just never know what it’s going to open up to you or what it will lead to or what it will spark in you. You’ll be surprised by what things can come from that and where you can find your creative voice.”

OK, so now that you’ve allowed that beautiful opening paragraph of the next great American novel to garner inspiration over the course of the previous year, there remain only a few things for you to do to ensure a successful and creative 2019. No. 1, make sure you let the faucets drip during the colder months. No. 2, get your allergy medicine ready in advance. No. 3, book yourself a world-class staycation. No. 4, leave the leaves to compost. No. 5, get your holiday shopping done early. And last — but certainly not least — just keep writing and building your community.

The Flatiron Writers Room is at 5 Covington St. For more information on the Flatiron Writers Room co-working space and for a  schedule of upcoming classes and events, visit flatironwritersroom.com

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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