By Lana Fox
When I became the 2012 Nonfiction Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston, I admit I was surprised. In fact, I am often surprised-—and very pleasantly, I might add—-when my sex journalism and erotica are warmly received. But our society is becoming far more sex-positive and less ashamed of sexuality. What’s more, the Writers’ Room is a passionate community that treasures creativity, seriousness of intent and commitment to the craft. Why wouldn’t they welcome a writer who is an activist for social change?
Thankfully, the Room entered my life when I desperately needed a space to write. Having come out as queer, I had left a long-term heterosexual relationship and had moved into a shared house with a group of wonderful friends. This was an amazing home with a rent I could afford, but it couldn’t be a workplace—and given how important home becomes when we go through transitions, I didn’t want to make an office of my bedroom. Besides, as many will know, trying to run a solo business from home when you share a house is no easy feat, no matter how supportive your community is.
But what the Writers’ Room actually brought me was far more than a place to write. Firstly, the sense of commutity is fabulous. When I enter, sign in, and go to choose my cube, I often pass folks that I know, and the fact that we are all writers together gives a communal sense of purpose. What’s more, there are salons, meetings and celebrations at the Room where we can share our work and lives. Being a writer doesn’t mean you are alone.
Secondly, I now have a space that is all about my work. Recently, for instance, I have been researching a feature on sex work (aka prostitution) which is soon to appear in a local magazine. Balancing writing and reporting is a big part of such a project. In a typical week, I might spend Tuesday morning interviewing a sex worker, before meeting an attorney who has defended local escorts, and eventually bringing my recordings to the Writers Room. There, I will transcribe my interviews—with my earbuds in, of course!—and next, I will look for the threads that tie my feature together. In an atmosphere of focus and professionalism I work more intensely than I do elsewhere.
There are less obvious advantages to the Writers’ Room as well. All too often, Grub writers ask my advice on how to deal with society’s misunderstandings of the writing life. Those who commit part or all of their working day to their writing career can struggle to find validation in the outside world. For instance, non-writers will ask who we write for, or where we write, or where we are published and how often. And those aren’t always easy questions to answer, particularly at the start of our careers. But true writers know that being a writer isn’t about where or how you are published. Just look at Van Gogh. Was the man an artist? Of course! Yet how many paintings did he sell in his lifetime? One. Yes, one. If you take your work seriously, you are an artist, regardless of how, whether or where you are published. And you deserve a community that recognises that.
So the answer to how we deal with these non-writerly misunderstandings is that we validate the work ourselves and trust our community to back us to the hilt. If you’re already taking classes at Grub, then bravo! You already have a community! But where to find quiet desk waiting? A professional space where you can feel professional?
Well, you can apply to join the Writers Room of Boston here. The application process is selective, but the Room encourages applications from developing writers who are committed to the craft. Mentioning that you take classes at Grub can demonstrate your seriousness. And if you’re a member of Grub, you’ll even get money off!
So if you do join the Room and you happen to spot a woman who is taking notes on the diaries of Anais Nin or researching the number of sex therapists in the Boston area…well, that’s probably me.