Budding authors of all ages flooded 826 Valencia’s writing lab last Friday, converging with pens and paper in hand for a fun-filled, eight-hour and twenty-six-minute Write-a-thon. Raising over $6,000 and drawing eighty-two participants, 826 Valencia’s second annual Write-a-thon helped spark creativity in local literary enthusiasts, who wrote in exchange for donations (per story, per page, or even per word!) from friends, family, and coworkers.
Thirteen-year-old Sophie, for example, raised a hefty sum, scribbling away for all eight hours and twenty-six minutes. She tackled a variety of writing projects throughout the day, from a devious narration about a top-secret operation called “The Plan” to a dystopian short story set in a bleak, 1984-esqe universe. In these stories and others, Sophie was inspired by a jar of writer’s block-proof prompts, provided by 826 for the occasion. Prompts ranged from the straightforward (“write about a concert you’ve attended”) to the unexpected (“write a poem about something behind you”), the standard to the quirky and off-the-wall. Five-year-old Addison saw the prompts more as jumping-off points than as concrete instructions, taking the direction to draw a picture and write about it as an opportunity to sketch herself hanging out with some of the other participants.
Meanwhile, members of The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto approached the Write-a-thon as a chance to expand their pre-existing work. One Grotto writer used her time at 826 to polish the final paragraph of her memoir-in-progress, while other members worked on novels. Pitching in generously as a sponsor, the Grotto also offered Write-a-thon participants a hefty ten-percent discount on fall classes and the upcoming Grotto School event, a day-long program of workshops to raise money for 826 Valencia.
In addition to meeting its fundraising goal, the 826 Write-a-thon succeeded in its mission of bringing together writers of all ages and experiences for a truly gratifying communal writing experience. Many participants hailed from the San Francisco area, but writers visiting from as far away as the East Coast, Ireland, and even Taiwan also partook in the event.
“We’ve got to add some Irish blood to this mix,” a participant from Dublin joked when signing up for the Write-a-thon, citing her nation’s reputation for churning out esteemed authors like Seamus Heaney and James Joyce.
Building literary legacies of their own, many Write-a-thon participants generously donated their stories and poems to 826. Spanning across the spectrums of style, format, and theme, this versatile body of work speaks to the diversity and innovation of the group of people who assembled for the 826 Write-a-thon.
Of course the event could not have been such a success without the generous donations of the neighborhood businesses that helped sustain the writers throughout the long day. 826 Valencia is grateful to Ritual Coffee Roasters for the coffee that flowed freely for eight hours, Knead Patisserie for delightful croissants, Sports Basement for the energy bars that kept participants clear-headed and protein-filled, and Miette for the delicious cookies that rewarded writers. Viracocha, just down the street from 826, donated three beautiful vintage typewriters to the day’s efforts as well. These typewriters, which sat in front of the pirate store, kept passerby poets busy for the entire eight hours and twenty-six minutes.
From dedicated young fundraisers putting pen to paper with great zeal to older professional writers typing away on their laptops with the chutzpah of a seasoned literary professional, Write-a-thon participants truly banded together to create a dynamic and memorable day-long writing event. We can only hope for such a great turnout next year!