Tuesday, September 28, 2010

That Place at 64 South Street

                                         Picture by Info Usa at http://infousa.com/

When Lana Hechtman-Ayers and I started Wildwords, back in the pre-blogging pre-social networking nineties, we had little idea what it was we were getting into. It began as an idea, floated around over Thursday lunches. Lana and I had joined a workshop group run by Kate Gleason in Peterborough NH and both of us found the workshop's format so compelling that we thought we ought to spread the joy. A similar group closer to home in the Merrimack Valley would be just the thing. We had a lot of conversations about it, most of which went something like "do you think we can do this? I don't know." We discussed it with Kate;"Do you think we can do this? Of course you can."
Over months of wondering and obsessing and with Kate's kind assistance, we developed a workshop model. We had a plan. We needed a home. We set out investigating lots of places: libraries, churches, town halls, cafes, bookstores. And we finally lit upon the Center for Life Enrichment. The center, a group of people of various disciplines dedicated to helping folks lead more fulfilling lives, offered us space, extra chairs, an assortment of teas and a blurb in their newsletter.
As is the case with most new ventures, Lana and I were both excited and scared. "We're really going to do this, aren't we? Yup, we're really going to do this." We decided to test the waters by starting small. We would do a one-time, one day class on a Saturday. If it went well, we would offer  a regular class on Wednesday nights and if that went well, we'd expand to another class on Saturdays. We posted fliers everywhere we could think of: at bookstores, in coffee shops, at laundromats and libraries. We put a blurb in the local paper under 'happenings' . The response was overwhelming. Not only did we fill the room ( maximum capacity twelve people), we had a waiting list.What had started as an idea had become a reality.
 Lana and I thought we were beginning a writing workshop. But what was begun in the smallish room of an old colonial at 64 South Street on that April morning was so much more. Over the next dozen years, a writing community grew and multiple friendships were formed. We wrote  together on Wednesday nights and Saturdays- novels and poems and essays and stories. We shared, not only the stories in our imaginations but the stories of our lives, our hopes and dreams,our  joys and our sorrows. We shared, laughter and tears, and the friendships grew.
Time passed and some of the faces changed. Some of our writers moved to new places,one of our writers, Frank Bogan, died. Lana got an MFA and moved out to Seattle. I finished a few novels and my kids graduated from school.
They say that all good things must end. The Center for Life Enrichment will close the doors of 64 South Street at the end of the month. Wildwords has had its last class.
When Lana and I began this journey all those years ago, I had no idea what I would take away from the experience. It has given me more than I could have dreamed. I am deeply grateful to all of you who have
spent time writing in that little room with the wonky heat and funny- spring chair,  You have carried me along on my own writing journey. I will take a piece of those Wednesdays and Saturdays with me as I continue on my journey, through writing and through life.


  1. A beautiful house, holding such wonderful stories. I'm glad you all have these and the friendships to take with you. It sounds like an incredibly supportive group. All the best to all of you, and to the house.

  2. Thanks to you, Ute, and to Lana, too. Wednesday night Wild Words will always be special to me.

  3. Wow! I didn't know it was closing. Odd too. I had been thinking about the group and the house alot lately. But it will also be special to me. It was where I discovered I could write in a way that didn't always read like a computer manual. Thank goodness! And making friends with all the writers and seeing their writing journey evolve over time has been the icing on the cake. I'll treasure that time with everyone, and especially you, Ute and Lana.

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  6. I drove by the house a couple of weeks ago, reminisced on all of the wonderful Saturday mornings at first for me, and then Wednesday evenings. I saw that it had become some financial institution, and I realized that the charm of the inside has likely been replaced by something far less muse-worthy. You all helped me through some of the toughest times of my life. I will cherish the memories, the friendships, and the writing support ...always. Thank you to you, Lana, and all of the Wildwords writers.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Suzanne. It means a lot to me. I miss the old place--and I'm so grateful for all the wonderful friendships forged there.

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