A Year of Writers' Salon / by Bethany Yankie-Bush

by Bethany Yankie-Bush

When I proposed to start Writers’ Salon, I knew nobody in Durham and was starting to get the panicky sense that, if I didn’t find a place to meet other creative people fast, I’d soon melt into a puddle of existential slime. I’d hosted a creative writing group in college and thought of a decent notion for how to reprise it, so I went about searching for the right space to hold meetings.

We started gathering monthly at Mercury Studio for Writers’ Salon last August and spent most of the early meetings workshopping and discussing this oh so serious business of creative writing. Faces wandered in and out over the coming months, but soon, a core group began to form, representing diverse ages, occupations, backgrounds, and genres.

About four months into our meetings, I admitted to myself that I was hazy on how exactly to create a space where writers could connect organically, outside an academic institution. We were starting to feel stifled by my formula, and I wondered, Is this group actually doing what it needs to do?

Around that time, Writers’ Salon hit a turning point for me. I considered that these evenings could provide more than formal, academic discussions, could perhaps offer opportunities to build personal connections as creative companions.

Now, our salons look like eating barbecue chips and chocolate, working on prompts, catching up on who got published or has a grandkid now. Our different backgrounds have interfaced dynamically in a quilt of perspectives that offers challenging, inspiring feedback.

I’ve found it never serves us well to approach Writers’ Salon as a place to impress fellow writers. Consequently, we feel safe here to pitch ideas for new, unlikely projects, try our hand at unfamiliar genres, be vulnerable about struggling to write on race or sexuality. These salons have become a place to live and write through our experiences with the witness of trusted peers.

As I’ve learned this year, creative community arrives not through some force of willpower or good planning, but through people coming together to care for each other, support each other’s work, listen to each other’s voices.