Milestones like birthdays and anniversaries offer us occasions to pause, reflect, and completely freak out about how quickly time has passed. Four years ago this month, I started what is now known as Writers & Words, a Baltimore reading series. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, Writers & Words began with a single reading I called Whiskey and Words, that I largely set up because I was fresh out of writing school, trying to sell my first book, and had no idea how to actually be a writer.
In short, I wasn’t sure how to connect with the larger Baltimore writing community, and so with the help of a couple friends, I created that connection for myself, my friend group, and now, many other Baltimore writers who have followed.
We’ve come a long way since that first reading on the unfinished second floor of a small whiskey bar, Ian Anderson’s iPhone serving as the only light and a barstool our podium. I remember feeling anxious that night, because although I’d worked so hard to get people in the space, I’d completely forgotten to decide and practice what I was going to read. It was going to be hard to sell that book—the entire impetus for the evening—when I hadn’t prepared to read from said book. I ended up reading a few sections of what would later become Notes From My Phone*, which would later-later be published by the two people who made that first night happen.
When I look back over the last four years now, I’m humbled by how many people have put hundreds of unpaid hours into this series and community, simply because they wanted something like this to exist. I may be listed on our website as the founder of this whole thing, but anyone who’s read for us or attended a reading knows the truth: W&W thrives because of the amazing editors who have given tirelessly over the last four years as well as the 181 unique readers who have read for us since October 2014.
The early years were successful due to two of the hardest working people I know: Michael B. Tager and Ian Anderson (now partners in Mason Jar Press). Without Michael’s hustle and Ian’s charm, this project would have never left that phone-lit room of 2014. We’re also eternally grateful for the readers who shared their talents and time with us that first year, along with our first hosts Blue Pit Whiskey Bar and Artifact Coffee. I still can’t believe you all took a chance on us, but you’ll forever remain a special group of W&W alumni.
During years two and three, I took a much needed hiatus from my own role in the series, and I don’t mind saying that Writers & Words really bloomed in the time I was away. Under the direction of Tager, new editors joined the team—some for a short time and others for the long haul. The words ‘thank you’ seem inadequate to thank these folks now, but I want to, on the behalf of the writing community at large, offer heartfelt gratitude to all our staff, past and present:
- Michael B. Tager
- Ian Anderson
- Amanda Ponder
- Maria C. Goodson
- Cija Jefferson
- Mike Shattuck
- Jessica Welch
I especially want to highlight Maria Goodson, Amanda Ponder, and Cija Jefferson. My goodness, these women! All three have egos the size of peas paired with talent and drive so beyond my own that I’m constantly wowed and humbled to share in the fruits of their labor. Amanda does all of the design for us…for free. Cija takes on the hosting and booze-buying responsibilities, easily making her VIP every second Tuesday of the month. And Maria…people…Maria runs the entire operation. She invites readers, she corrals readers; she keeps us on track, publicizing every reading, and she does all of this while smiling like it’s no big deal. (I take on blog posts every 3-4 years and lead the silly games…clearly my contributions are also noteworthy.)
Although our staff has changed from those early days, our goals and our love for this community has not. Honestly, we’re really just getting started.
To that end, I hope you’ll all consider applying for our 3rd annual writing retreat in The Woods—an endeavor brought to you by W&W and our amazing partners, Ink Press Productions. Sunday—yes, Sept. 30 Sunday—is the last day to apply to this year’s event. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of it, especially if you’re like four-years-ago me, looking to find your place in the larger writing community.
I plug this not only because I’ve been the slacker of the group and have not plugged this as much as I should have, and not only because it’s the very last day you could possibly hope to apply, but because this retreat actually plays a huge part in our future.
As I’ve said, this series has been an operation of love for all of us for four years. That includes our many talented guests who have shared their work and time with us and you without any kind of compensation. (Yes, that even includes those who have joined us from NYC, Philly, DC, and beyond.)
Before we turn five, we’d like to start compensating our monthly readers in some way. This has been and will remain our hope and focus until we accomplish it. W&W profits from The Woods annual retreat goes toward this endeavor.
We have many more surprises in store for this next year, and lots of things to accomplish before we turn five (we’re going to be in kindergarten!), but for now make sure you apply for The Woods and plan to join us for our next reading on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Thank you for continuing to support us. Thank you for supporting our writers. And thank you for bringing your voices into the world through written word, spoken word, canvas, music, and all the other ways you’ve shared yourselves with us.
And, as always, huge thanks to Charmington’s. Don’t forget to tip your barista.
With all love and awkwardness I can offer,
Creative Editor and Founder
Special thanks to all the readers from the last four years. We love you.
Ann Marie Brokmeier
Analysis the Poet
Lisa Van Wormer
Andria Nacina Cole
Leon Thornton, Jr
Deena Zeina Zaru
Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson
Kem Joy Ukwu
Gwen Van Velsor