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So You Want to Start a Writers’ Room?

You may need a room of your own in which to have a nervous breakdown, but not to be a writer. There is so much, however, that writers do need. Above all, we need a zone of peace, often a zone of reliable sameness, a zone where we can tune our brains to whatever frequency catches the words most clearly. Like dogs, most writers are creatures of routine. –Julia Glass, 2003

The Writers Room is a nonprofit, urban writers’ colony located in New York City. In the 37 years since its founding, the Room has provided affordable workspace–24 hours a day, 365 days a year–to some 50,000 emerging and established writers. Over 1,000 books have been written in The Writers Room, as well as hundreds of plays, screenplays, works of short fiction and poems.

The Writers Room began when four authors decided to create a communal workspace for writers, with no restrictions on literary genre or length of membership. They rented a small room with just four desks. Since then, The Writers Room has expanded four times to accommodate the ever-growing demand for its services. Its current Greenwich Village location has 45 desks and serves 300 writers annually.

In a recent survey, The Writers Room found that some 25 writers’ rooms—self-managed communal workspaces for writers—have sprung up around the country, and more than a few of these spaces have credited The Writers Room as their model. For those who may be interested in starting their own writers’ space, Donna Brodie, Executive Director of the Writers Room, and Ann Banks, past President and current Board member, have put together an informal toolkit covering the basics of starting and running a writers’ room. The document covers:

  • how to find space and negotiate a lease;
  • how to recruit and qualify writer-members;
  • how to organize a board; and
  • how to administer a workspace conducive to writing.

They’ve also identified and made suggestions on how to avoid potential pitfalls (such as how to weather the summer membership doldrums) and offered their own rules of thumb.

View The Writers Room Toolkit here.

Interested in finding out if there is a writers’ room in your area? Visit our resources page for a listing.