Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tennessee Williams Festival 2012: Writing Marathon

One really interesting event at the Tennessee Williams Festival - a new event this year - was the New Orleans Writing Marathon on Saturday. This was led by Richard Louth of Southeastern Louisiana University, who regularly leads this kind of writing experience for his writing students and others.

In creating the New Orleans Writing Marathon, Richard has drawn from the work of Natalie Goldberg and of Ernest Hemingway.

Natalie Goldberg, in WRITING DOWN THE BONES, describes her own writing marathon, where participants spend a day writing in response to prompts provided by Natalie. Natalie will give a prompt, everyone will write for a specified time period, then there will be an opportunity to read aloud. This is followed by another prompt, a writing session, and a read-aloud. This cycle continues throughout the day.

To Natalie Goldberg's model, Richard Louth has added Ernest Hemingway's practice of writing in various Paris caf├ęs and other Parisian venues in A MOVEABLE FEAST.

For the New Orleans Writing Marathon, participants form small groups of 3 to 5 writers and spend the day going to various locations in New Orleans (in our case, the French Quarter) to write and share. The idea is to go somewhere, write for a specified amount of time using a prompt or not, and then read aloud. Then the group goes to another location and does the same. We were provided with a list of suggested locations, mostly coffeehouses and bars in the French Quarter, although someone reminded us not to forget such possibilities as Saint Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and the Moon Walk by the Mississippi River.

I decided not to participate with a group, but to do a solo writing marathon. Here is where I wrote.

  • Croissant D'Or coffeehouse
  • U.S. Mint courtyard behind the Road Food Festival booths
  • Congo Square, where drumming and chanting was going on
  • The Voodoo Temple on North Rampart Street
  • Croissant D'Or again
  • Royal Blend coffeehouse
While I was at Royal Blend, a clown came in with full costume, ordered a sandwich, and sat at a table to eat it. Also, a man and a woman at the table next to mine were practicing reading Tarot cards with each other.

I did the kind of journal writing that was helpful to myself, the most helpful session being the initial one at Croissant D'Or.

I LOVE this concept of the writing marathon. I will think about ways to use it in my teaching and with friends.

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