If you believe the statistics, chances are that 60 percent of you reading this right now are working on a book. I am; my editor recently published one
; it wouldn't shock me if most of the City Weekly
staff has an idea cooking in the kiln. The dream of making the "Great American Novel" is one that is steeped in our culture's history going back to the days of Twain, but an idea sometimes isn't good enough to get the creative juices flowing. Many need help, and they usually seek it out in writing groups like the ones we have scattered throughout the city. One of the most recently-formed groups is Just Write SLC, which meets every Saturday at Watchtower Cafe to collaborate and discuss with the hopes of getting their novels finished. Today we chat with founder Kristin Thorpe about her own works and starting up the group, as they celebrate their one-year anniversary. (All pictures provided courtesy of Just Write SLC.
Just Write SLC on Meetup
Gavin: Hey Kristin, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I moved to Salt Lake City from San Francisco about three years ago. In the Bay Area, I worked for technology start-ups, so I could see first-hand a lot of the technology that we will be seeing in the next 10 years. I write science fiction short stories, and I’m currently working on a science fiction novel. I have a Bachelors in Philosophy from the University of Utah, and specialized in the philosophy of ethics. I’m the founder/organizer of Just Write SLC, a group of over 1,000 writers online; 15-30 of us meet weekly on Saturday’s at 1 p.m. at Watchtower cafe.
What first got you interested in writing as you grew up?
I think it started with having really unusual dreams. Dreaming was such a vivid, immersive way of being entertained, I wanted to share some of these stories with other people. Most of my early writing was just retelling these dreams and learning what translated on the page and what came across as flat.
What are some of your favorite books and authors that you've looked to for inspiration?
I’m obsessed with Philip K. Dick, in particular Ubik
, Dr. Bloodmoney
and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
. One of my writer/producer friends in L.A. read one of my stories and said that it reminded him of PKD. That was years ago, but I’m still bragging about it. It’s probably only as true as my other celebrity likeness, looking like Jennifer Connelly, but I’m going to still boast both statements. I’ve taken several writing workshops both in person and now online through Decant Studios with the San Francisco Mission District rebel and author Joshua Mohr. I’ve read all of his books, and I think he is brilliant. He is definitely an influence. I’ve also learned a great deal about the craft of writing through Chuck Palahniuk’s online literary community Litreactor. I’ve had my work critiqued there anonymously with very helpful feedback and comments. It’s a fun group; a night owl badge appeared magically as I was working on a short story through their site at 2 a.m. I’ve read most of his essays on writing found here
and I find them to be very helpful. In particular, I really love the writing rigor of minimalism. So, based on this article
I really need to read Amy Hempel. Let’s also throw in Orwell and John Markoff as influences.
How was it for you starting out and writing on the side while working?
I recently read a Rumpus interview of two authors talking about the writing process. One of the authors referred to taking five or six years to finish one novel as courageous. That description resonated with me. I know full-time authors that are able to publish a new novel nearly ever year. I feel like I’m on the five or six-year track currently, and I do lose a little bit of sleep worrying about whether the story can stay in my head that long. My full-time job definitely means that I have fewer hours that I can dedicate to writing, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. So much of writing is a mental game, maybe I just need more aggressive word count goals for myself.
Did you attend any writing groups beforehand, or were you mainly writing on your own?
Absolutely! I attended many writers workshops through the Writing Salon in San Francisco with Joshua Mohr and Karen Bjornby
. I found critique partners that I’ve had for years now through those workshops, and founded a writing group at a local library with one of the other writers in that class. I also wrote regularly through the Shut Up and Write San Francisco group in their Mission District Meetup. Shut Up and Write San Francisco was very helpful to me in meeting regular writing goals, and so they were a huge inspiration for me in creating this group.
What made you decide to start up Just Write SLC?
I spent about a year in SLC just trying to get a feel for what groups already existed and what the literary culture was like here, but I didn’t find anything that would connect me with other writers and give me consistent weekly writing sessions, so I built something. In the meantime, I was able to discover Poetflow
in Ogden and Booked on 25th, I greatly respect and appreciate both organizations and read at Poetflow
when I can.
How did you go about getting the word out to fellow writers to join you?
As someone with a background in marketing and recruitment, I’d love to take more credit for this than is due. I list the group through “Meetup” and they do an excellent job of bringing together like-minded people. Meetup is known certainly nationally, but also internationally. We’ve had visiting
writers and authors from Australia and the U.K. join us, and I love that our regulars come to Utah from all over the U.S. Honestly, a lot of the rest of it was really luck in meeting the right people. Mike and Cori at Watchtower Cafe for example. I really lucked into meeting them. I had been checking out all the local cafes in the area as potential spots to host the group, and as a science fiction writer, the name “Watchtower” sounded to me like something out of 1984
, so I was already intrigued. As someone who considers herself a geek imagine how my eyes lit up as I walked into SLC’s geek haven for the first time! Not only were they willing to host us, Watchtower has been kind enough to help us get the word out through social media too. Watchtower Cafe has three times the number of Twitter followers as my writer's account
, so their mentioning JustWriteSLC has been a big help. I am so grateful to Watchtower for being the force it is in the local creative community and for including us in that momentum.
What were the first few months like getting the group stable and working together?
It was a little rough at first. There were a few times where I found out the day of that our venue was not open that day. That was before I discovered and fell in love with Watchtower. More on that here
Over time I've popped in and seen the group grow to large crowds. How is it managing all those people at once?
I am now a middle school teacher, and you don’t get that job unless you are able to wield the glare of death when need be. Our group is my tribe, my creative community; the people are really respectful.
You recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the group. What was that experience like?
I went to New Orleans for the first time this year, so the Mardi Gras section of the store was really calling my name. I brought us glittery cowgirl hats, party hats and noisemakers. We had 30 people RSVP’d with extras on the waitlist, and a signup sheet for anyone who wanted to share out about what our community has meant for them and their writing this year. It was fun to celebrate being a part of this amazing creative community of writers.
What do you hope to achieve with the group as it continues to evolve?
Future critique partners, and a local literary community with a sense of humor.
What can we expect from you and Just Write SLC over 2017?
A consistent place to work on your writing projects and a supportive community to cheer you on as you struggle through the mental game of writing.