Why I Love Writing Marathons

I’m doing it again. Hosting another Summer Writing Marathon. I can’t help myself. These gatherings have been a summer staple for two decades and I can’t imagine a summer going by without one anymore than I can imagine owning a car that isn’t a ragtop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriting Marathons are among my favorite ways to spend a day with other writers. We gather around a big table, or in a grassy park, or once, at the home of one of us where we roamed the property all day, responding to prompts and trailing rose blossoms into the stream (me, ever the romantic). We’ve marathoned at crowded cafes and in spacious art studios, and in the rooms at various writing centers. This summer, on Saturday, August 23, we’ll meet at Inspirations Gallery, at Liberty Station, an ex-Navy Training Center that has been transformed into an arts and culture center with beautiful grounds and creative mojo.

Marathons are generally themed, and this one is Outlaw Voices, Renegade Writers. You can find out more about it here.

What do we do at writing marathons? We write. Prompts and props and creative exercises, some of which participants have a hand in constructing. Our free-write sessions go from five to ten to nearly twenty minutes, with the occasional “quickie” thrown in. (A “quickie” is anywhere from one to three minutes, generally, but there’s no set time.) And after we write, we read aloud what we’ve written, if we want. No requirement to read and no feedback on the writing.

This summer’s marathon starts at 10 am and goes until 4 pm—six hours of writing, with a break for lunch. But writing marathons aren’t a test of creative endurance. They’re a way to immerse ourselves in our writing, to tread new ground, experiment, explore, take some chances, maybe break through barriers and let the words fall where they may.

If you’re in the San Diego area Saturday, August 23, and have a hankering to spend a day with other writers, writing because you love it and its fun and a good opportunity to get some work done on a project, or to just play, I hope you’ll join us. Here’s where you can get more information and register for this year’s Summer Writing Marathon—Outlaw Voices, Renegade Writers.

jr pours M&MsBring your notebook or your laptop (I prefer writing by hand). I’ll bring the M&Ms.

Register here for this year’s Summer Writing Marathon.


Blog Posts, Deadlines & Laundry

Keeping current with a blog while coming into the home stretch on a book deadline is more challenging that I thought. So is keeping adequate groceries in the house. Two nights ago I had popcorn for dinner, last night a bowl of cereal, which I also had for breakfast this morning. I ate the last of the cheese at lunch today, and the only crackers left in the packet are the broken ones. Even that last apple in the fruit bowl was a bit soft and wrinkly. The coffee supply is running low too. That’s when it gets really scary.

I thought I might get out for supplies this evening after I closed down the computer, but I finally unbent my legs from their sitting position and walked a few blocks to my new local cafe (Influx at 30th & Upas) for an iced Americano then picked up a veggie burger to go at Veg N Out, across the street. I figured that counted for exercise for the day, too. Something else that’s gone by the wayside these last several weeks.

I’m also a skosh behind on the laundry. I wore the same yoga clothes from morning until night pretty much every day last week, except when I changed back into my pajamas. At least the laundry basket isn’t overflowing. And I figure if you just sleep on one side of the bed, then if you alternate sides after a week you don’t have to change the sheets? Are you on with that?

Why I’m confessing all this in a blog post I can’t say. Maybe I’m hoping for absolution for this unusual streak of slobbishness by the high gods of literature. Or at least  few murmurs of understanding from my fellow writers. Maybe an offer from someone to bring over a pizza.

The good news is that the deadline for the book is just a few weeks away. Then things will go back to normal—microwave-ready meals from Trader Joe’s and fresh blog posts every time I change the sheets.

Hope all is well with you.

Notes On a Writing Retreat, Part 2

This is the second part of the Q&A with my friend Anitra following my return from my month-long writing retreat in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. While there I worked on my new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next Spring.

Anitra: Did work come out of that concentrated time that might not have in your normal life? Or did it just come faster because you could concentrate more?

Judy: I definitely got more work done in the concentrated time than I would have at home in my “normal” life. I averaged five or six hours at the writing desk each day, in addition to the reading, research, and notes outside of that. The length of time is not so surprising, but the day-in and day-outness of it is something I don’t have in my life at home.

Because I was able to have that time, and because I was isolated—no distractions—the work stayed alive. Mornings began with pages and pages of journal writing with coffee, and thoughts and ideas and doubts and confirmations about the writing and the project itself filled my journal each morning. At the end of the writing day, I often turned to my journal again to write “outside the story,” threads that developed during the writing that I wanted to explore.

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