Reflecting with Thursday Writers amidst their 30th Anniversary
The Thursday Writers meeting on July 6th met at 5:30pm in Lestat’s Hillcrest Cafe. Sitting in the eclectic space, a group of 14 attendees gathered in a circle to wait for Judy Reeves, one of the facilitators, to begin the meeting.
Upon arriving, group members already know to form the chairs into a circle once they arrive.
“I’m a great believer in working in a circle,” said Reeves. “Circles are one of the oldest forms of group process; they create community and belonging and invite sharing and inclusion. Everyone is equal in the circle; there is no ‘head of the class’ or hierarchy,” said Reeves.
Along with Steve Montgomery, another facilitator of the group, the two have overseen the group’s gradual progression throughout the years. Since the group’s beginnings in 1993, they have started the meeting the same way–by reciting from Natalie Goldberg’s book, Wild Mind. Many of the rules are practical, freeing and self-explanatory, like “keep your hand moving,” while others need some thought on what it might really mean, such as one that said “go for the jugular.” I take each one in as Judy reads them and then concludes by giving us our time limit and prompt for the day.
As I write my own story, I can’t help but wonder where the prompt may take the others. There is a sense of mystery in the quiet scratching of a pencil or soft tapping on a keyboard. Yet no one stops; no one looks up. Each is immersed in the task.
As Judy’s timer rings, the writing halts to a stop. She asks for volunteers, and one by one, people begin to read their work. The satisfaction of each reveal is instantaneous.
One person writes a vignette about Haight Ashbury. Someone else meditates on the resounding effects of the pandemic. Another person recounts their difficulty with having to lay off the tacos. From deeply melancholy to witty and funny, each story weaves in the prompt in specific yet incredibly different ways. The writing is vividly descriptive and specific, each one impressing me considering the short amount of time given to write.
Throughout the years, Judy and Steve have seen the group move around. Whether it be at the original writing center in the Gaslamp Quarter, a rented space in a University Heights Design Center, Lestat’s West Performance Space, or finally its current home at Lestat’s Hillcrest, the group has continued to persist. Although new writers come and go, there is a core group of regulars who attend consistently, explains Judy. Other than the location, the structure has essentially stayed the same: just write something down.
“The idea of not critiquing the work and offering no feedback creates a safety for writers to write what they want to write… Sometimes it turns out to be something beautiful, sometimes the ‘worst junk in America,’ and sometimes just filling the page,” said Judy.
In addition to regular meetings, Thursday Writers have created collections of the writing, including two anthology chapbooks and an upcoming 30th anniversary chapbook. The group also sponsored Banned Books events, held public readings, and created teams to participate in Blazing Laptops, becoming the highest fundraising team for many, many years in a row.
For Judy the essence of her love for what Thursday Writers does comes from her excitement about language: “I like the surprise of what comes with the writing when we trust the pen and surrender to the page: what we learn about ourselves and about others, about the world, and what we believe and what matters to us.”
Having written with a community for nearly 30 years, Judy has found Thursday Writers to be another special place to not only improve her craft but the craft of others.
“Thursday Writers has given me and my writing a place to be, and more than that—a home and so many friends,” said Judy. “I have been inspired and uplifted and entertained and deeply, deeply touched by working with other writers in a community of like-spirited humans.”
Thursday Writers is open to all at Lestat’s Hillcrest from 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM every Thursday with a membership cost of $7.