Tuesday, February 28, 2006

For mini WoolfCamps (WoolfCampettes?) - the idea of alternative workspaces.

One of the things I worried about in planning WoolfCamp Winter 2006 was maxing out on space at the house. We came close to that, and certainly exceeded the comfort level for the sleepover (will Debra Roby ever forgive me for stashing her petite self in the corner? can I ever forgive myself?) However, if our camp attendance tipped over, say to 35 folks, I would have considered the following:

1. Find a reasonable vacation rental in Santa Cruz for the weekend.

2. Seek out a set of adjoining motel rooms.

3. Look for a cheap loft, art gallery space for the daytime workshops, and hang out at the house for the night.

But I didn't want to think of a formal meeting space, like a hotel meeting room or something equally stuffy. That would have been costly and not at all cozy and funky.

Fortunately, everything worked out beautifully with our inaugural WoolfCamp location. But, the potential problem got me to thinking about spaces, where we work, where we hang. Let's say we did max out on room at the house, wouldn't it be great if there were cool "alt.places" available for gatherings like ours? A venue more accomodating than a bar or cafe? Some "clean, well-lighted place" with wifi, bathrooms, and a kitchen space maybe with an espresso machine? A place dedicated to writerly, geeky types whose idea of good time means settling down with the laptop and firing binary code out into the World Wide Web?

Artists have had this sort of thing going for centuries. It's an easy deal for artists to set up a studio space, located most often in culture rich urban settings, in structures ranging from luxurious well appointed Soho lofts to hovels in a shipping yard. But for writers? Indeed, there's a bunch of writer colonies and retreats around, but these can be costly and many require an application process which would include reviewing samples of the writer's work (And the thought of that? Makes me puke a tiny bit in my mouth.)

The upshot, it's tough for writers to set up shop outside of the home. And we need to do that, at least I find that I need to do this as I feed off and get energized from everyone's vibe. I think of the years I worked as a consultant in medical/pharmaceutical R&D; as easy as it was to work at home, unwashed and working in my sweats all day, it was great to spend time in the office and feel the pulse of the company. It's not possible to sense this from one's remote outpost.

(And, further to feeding off the vibe, recall WoolfCamp, where we were thriving in each others company. Blossoming! It's appropriate that we choose a flowering fruit tree for our group picture.)

Back to the business of writer's space, and I'm pleased to announce that there is hope - cool places for writers have been showing up around the country. Go check out these heavenly sounding venues:

theOffice in Santa Monica -
theOfficeTM is everything a creative workspace should be and serves as the ideal backdrop for people who want to focus and feel inspired. Amenities include a reference library, state-of-the-art ergonomic furniture... In the library are copies of Dictionaries, Thesauruses, various reference books, plus Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. Tech services include a T1 line for Wi-Fi and plug-in access to your laptop computer... and if you want absolute silence, or want to plug in to your own sound system, Bose Noise Reduction Headphones are available.

The Writer's Studio at the Loft in Minneapolis -
Each studio is a room, complete with a door and 2 operable windows. The studios are on the second floor, on the back, or quieter, side of Open Book, with a view toward downtown and the Metrodome. Each has a beautiful wooden writing table with a keyboard tray, a comfortable adjustable work chair, heating and air conditioning, a second chair for reading /resting/thinking, overhead and desk lighting, a large posting wall with thumbtacks, and a connection for a computer and modem.

Paragraph in NYC
Paragraph is dedicated to providing an affordable and tranquil working environment for writers of all genres. We are open
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year...Paragraph was created by writers for writers, with an understanding that writers work best in a quiet, comfortable space away from the hurry and obligation of urban life.


Oh, to swoon! Unfortunately, other than The Grotto in San Francisco, which is by membership only (and members like Po Bronson, no less), there are no such spaces in our area.

Ah! But there is more hope! Enter a bunch of ever resourceful local geeks with this idea, documented on, of course, a wiki:

Coworking - Coworking is cafe-like community/collaboration space for self-employed developers, writers and independents.

The vision: "Working in community is a time honored aspect of human culture. Working in community increases exposure to new ideas and opportunities to collaborate. Community can make peoples' professional work more enjoyable. People are more likely to bring their heart and their full selves into that which they find enjoyable."

Absolutely! Now, the goal: "...create a shared space with desks and wifi, in a location that is easily accessible, surrounded with good food and other services, and in San Francisco (to start). This space would be rented by members and available for events, etc."

The logistics and issues are laid out in the wiki.

You'll see that WoolfCamper, Chris Heurer is involved (of course! he inspires us in all things "alt"). And you know big old nosy me - I want to get in on this and start up a Santa Cruz Coworking venue.

Wherever this idea lands, events for WoolfCamp Worldwide, Amalgamated, Incorporated, Ltd.* could certainly take place in a nifty setting like a Coworking space.

Check out the wiki, campers. I'll keep you apprised as I venture into this. And let me know if you want to join your mighty superhero powers with mine to help make this cool stuff happen.


*Don't panic. I made up all those scary corporate sounding creds.

14 Comments:

Blogger Jo said...

OMG! My dream come true! I've been wanting to work in a place like that for forever and a day. What you said about "feeling the pulse" of other people working is spot on. Sometimes Badger and I create our own mini-writerutopia, but then we have these pesky children and etc.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

This sounds like a fabulous idea... a studio space for writers!! Let me know when you set one up... I'll help decorate.

6:59 AM  
Blogger elkit said...

That really *is* a great idea. Some of you know that I have participated in National Novel Writing Month several times now, and if it wasn't for the collaborative experience of "write-ins" in coffeeshops, I never would have reached my 50,000 words in one month. I'll start looking at the Silicon Valley with a different eye in my future travels. There's got to be lots of suitable space for something like that.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Lin said...

It is a great idea. I don't know how much chatting goes on at the Santa Monica space, but I think I'll check it out. I really like the idea of dialog between writers, creative brainstorming, but don't know if it works so well between strangers as between friends. I wonder just how generous 'competitors' are.

In this city, where everyone is working on a screenplay (in between waiting tables), the competition is fierce.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous shaunna said...

Lin, if theOffice provides you with a pair of Bose headphones I doubt if you'll hear much conversation. :-)

Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say after seeing it.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

ohmygod...I was just thinking today how cool it would be to have something like this...but not devoted just to writers...with work areas to accommodate whatever one wanted to do...whether it's writing or visual arts or crafts or video or...whatever... Will have to check out the wiki.

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