At 5:30 p.m., the writers in Lestat's West put down their pens. There are nine of them, sitting at desks arranged in a circle between the Lestat's stage and empty rows of chairs. A pen, a pad and a candle in a red-glass jar adorn each desk. Sitting at a gap in the desks, Judy Reeves smiles at the group around her and invites volunteers to read.
Reeves hosts the “Thursday Writers” session every week, starting at 5:10 p.m. and open to anyone who shows up.
She comes with a prompt—this week it's “sleeping in”—and the writers work for 15 minutes. There's no restriction on style, but there are rules: No laptops, no stopping, no over-thinking, no judging and no apologizing are just a few. Reeves asks one writer if she cares to read, and the writer begins by saying, “It's boring.”
Oops! Penalty! By group rules, the writer must now compliment Reeves' spiky blonde hair as a forfeit. But whether she reads aloud or not isn't the point. The point is to be writing.
“My idea of a successful writer is a writer who writes,” Reeves later told CityBeat.
The Thursday Writers are just one facet of San Diego Writers Ink, a nonprofit dedicated to the art of writing. Reeves is the executive director of the group, her second attempt at forging a San Diego writing community. In 1993, she formed The Writing Center, but the group grew too fast and relied too much on Reeves personal financial donations to survive. In 2001, she persuaded another group to try again, and in 2004, it incorporated as a nonprofit. In that span of time, it's established a host of programs, from reading groups to writing courses to featured writing series. But perhaps most of all, its organizers have created a space where writers can come to actually produce something. That space is at The Ink Spot, a room in The Art Center on 13th Street. The group is looking to expand to a second room.
One of Writers Ink's better-known successes is author Amy Wallen. She started her first novel at a writing marathon hosted by The Writing Center. Then she honed the character and the story at the Brown Bag Writing Group, a program that operates just like Thursday Writers, but at lunchtime. When The Writing Center folded, she and Jill Hall, now the president of the Writers Ink board, kept Brown Bag going. The classes helped Wallen get the novel completed, and in 2006, MoonPies and Movie Stars was published by an imprint of Penguin USA.
Before that happened, Reeves asked Wallen to host an open-mic reading series for prose stylists. The program originally focused on local writers, but, recently, National Public Radio decided to start broadcasting a version of the series, hosted by Wallen, that will focus on nationally known writers. Wallen also serves on the Writers Ink advisory board.
They've built a great writing community,” she said. “I've been to other cities, and San Diego has one of the better writing communities.”
Which, of course, is the point.
Check out www.sandiegowriters.org.
It's free and fun: No one is pretending San Diego is the literary capital of the world, but the annual City Book Fair reminds us that there is a bit of a book-wormy scene. It's only year three, but already the Book Fair is increasing the notoriety of its author lineup, adding names to its book vendor list and spreading out to include a documentary film screening. Authors Juan Williams, Mike Davis, Carolyn Forché and others will appear on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 3 and 4, at City College's Saville Theatre, 1313 Park Blvd., Downtown, but check www.sdcitybookfair.com for signings and screenings happening before the main event.
Out of obscurity: Sam Warren was kicking it at his beach-house bed and breakfast in Playas de Tijuana when it happened. Warren and everyone at his place that day were arrested and thrown into the pit of hell (aka Tijuana jail). Three years, three months and three Mexican prisons later, Warren survived to tell the story, Tales from the Tijuana Jails. The local author and purveyor of San Diego WriteWay, a free e-zine for San Diego writers and publishers, will discuss his new book at 7 p.m. Oct. 3, at the LGBT Center, 3909 Center St. in Hillcrest, and at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Downtown Public Library, 820 E St. www.bookwarren.com/tales.
The art of books: The UCSD Libraries and San Diego Book Arts are co-sponsoring a Fall Festival of the Book. You've already missed about half of the goings on, but you can still catch the San Diego Book Arts Second National Juried Exhibition on view at the Geisel Library at UCSD, through Oct. 31; a screening of Seeing the Forest for the Trees, a documentary film about book artist Mary Ellen Long, at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Geisel Library; and Lost & Found, an exhibition of art in book form by students and an opportunity to go through rarely used books in SDSU's compact-shelving Library Addition Basement from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 17. www.sandiegobookarts.org.
He's a big deal: Billy Collins served not one but two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States. If that doesn't impress you, google him and read a poem or two—his everyman poetry and prose will surely win you over. Collins is just one of the big-name authors coming to good ol' D.G. Wills Books, 7461 Girard Ave. in La Jolla this fall. At 5 p.m. Oct. 19, he'll be signing and reading Ballistic, his new collection of poetry about love, death, solitude, youth and aging. www.dgwillsbooks.com, 858-456-1800.