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Writing Workshop on a Train

By Harriet Staff

You shouldn’t be bored. But sometimes you need a little something to make the subway commute interesting. Check out this great story in the NY Times about a writing workshop held on the No. 7 train. All of this awesomeness comes from the New York Writers Coalition.

From the article:

On Friday afternoon, about two dozen people met on a platform in the Times Square subway station, corralled by a man wearing a green T-shirt with the words “the system is whack.”

The man, Aaron Zimmerman, is the executive director of the NY Writers Coalition, and he and several volunteers were leading one of several free writing workshops that the coalition was holding throughout the city on Friday, including one in Coney Island and another aboard the Staten Island Ferry.

But this session was being held on a No. 7 train on a round trip to Flushing, Queens. The group boarded the first car of the train and Mr. Zimmerman’s first instruction to the writers was to “ride this to the end.”

Mr. Zimmerman and a volunteer taped the coalition’s poster over one of the advertisements in the subway car and other volunteers offered pens and pads.

He told the participants that they could write anything they wanted.

For people who needed ideas, the volunteers offered slips of paper with suggested themes. Mr. Zimmerman said the writers could later share their stories, but added that if someone had a story “that nobody else, especially on a subway train should hear, you don’t have to share it.”

After leaving Manhattan, the train emerged from its tunnel and rose along elevated tracks into the bright sunlight in western Queens. It was an unconventional writer’s space, with the train rumbling into a new station every few minutes and absorbing a fresh group of passengers, then lurching onward.

Passengers jostled the writers, spoke on their cellphones, dozed with iPod earbuds in their ears. None of it seemed to bother the writers, who scribbled away, seeming to employ the same cone of concentration that an average subway passenger uses to zone everyone else out.

Mr. Zimmerman said the No. 7 line was chosen because its ridership was “as diverse as the city gets.” Indeed, many of the passengers were Chinese- or Spanish-speaking people. During the 75-minute round-trip, an additional two dozen passengers joined in the writing exercise. Some others declined.

Susana Gil, 28, who was returning from Manhattan, where she makes jewelry, to her apartment in Woodside, listed some of her favorite things about the city, including “the parks, the transportation and the people.”

Mike Gonzalez, 28, who works for a rental-car company, took a pad and held it in the same hand as his cigarettes and cellphone.

“I wrote that there’s three million reasons to like New York and three million reasons to hate it,” he said. “And if you don’t like this city, you can always take the next train out.”

More after the jump.


Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.