The Art Inventory

Seattle Writes At Fremont Library, & At Every Branch Of The SPL

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 19 September 2017


Check out the opportunities at the Seattle Public Library this Fall.

Check out the opportunities at the Seattle Public Library this Fall.

On Saturday, September 23rd, from 2p – 4p at the Fremont Branch Library, Seattle Public Library (SPL) will host one of its Fall Seattle Writes programs.  With writer Nancy Rawles leading the class, anyone who has ever put pen to paper – emerging to established writers of all genres and ages – can learn more about ‘The Difference Feelings Make.’

This is just one of dozens of educational, inspirational and motivational classes being offered – for free, and open-to-all – at all Seattle Public Library branches.  Seattle Writes encourages everyone to refine their writing, experiment with new forms and polish that manuscript, by providing concrete, knowledge-driven help on a wide variety of topics pertaining to this basic craft.

Best of all, Seattle Writes will bring two very different but very informative sessions to the Fremont Library, giving us opportunities – like on Saturday – to learn and build on our writing skills.

SPL Reader Services Librarians Andrea Gough and Linda Johns organized this year’s Seattle Writes.  “We have free writing classes with some of the best writing instructors,” explained Johns.  Unfortunately, she has found, library patrons often take notice of this incredible opportunity only after the session ideal for them has already been held.  It’s so important to learn about Seattle Writes (on the SPL website) now, and schedule your attendance now.

Need inspiration to get writing, or motivation to keep going, check out the Seattle Writes programs at  Photo provided by

Need inspiration to get writing, or motivation to keep going, check out the Seattle Writes programs at Photo provided by

“This is a great way to kick-start your experience,” Gough said, “sometimes it is the getting started that is the hardest part.”  Seattle Writes can be the inspiration and motivation you’ve been looking for.  “People who want to do the work,” can find an ideal environment in Seattle Writes’ session, Gough observed, “wherever you are in the process.”

‘The Difference Feelings Make’

The two-hour session with writer Nancy Rawles on September 23rd can benefit all kinds of writers.  “I do think these questions are present for writers of all kinds at every stage of work… if, when, where, and how to include feelings in their work,” Rawles explained, “or to otherwise engage the reader emotionally.”

This class about including emotion in writing will start with instruction by Rawles, with examples from her own work as well as other published writing.  “The consideration of feelings is as necessary as the idea of when to include what the writer or character is thinking,” she explained by e-mail.

Rawles brings an extensive background in all kinds of writing to her instruction, having begun her professional life as a journalist before finding success with her plays and novels.  “I think this topic,” she wrote, about including feelings in writing, “is an apt one these days when so many voters respond to how they feel about a candidate and what they believe to be true, all evidence to the contrary.  Trust has everything to do with how we feel about a person.”

In the Fremont Branch Library, writers can meet to share and grow together, with Seattle Writes.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Jun '14

In the Fremont Branch Library, writers can meet to share and grow together, with Seattle Writes. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Jun ’14

“Feeling can be found in the spaces between the words and sentences,” Rawles explained, “Often, a writer doesn’t mention directly what a character is feeling – it becomes clear in an action, a look, in dialogue and in relation to other characters.  If the feeling is restrained, then it can take on a startling power when released.”

In addition to sharing her lessons in ‘The Difference Feelings Make,’ Rawles will provide writing prompts to attendees, to allow them to write their own work.  Attendees are encouraged to bring pen and paper, or fully-charged laptops, to all Seattle Writes sessions.  In this class with Rawles, attendees will be able to participate in a shared reading, with a discussion, to allow the writers to get specific help with their projects.

According to Rawles, this is, “just an opportunity to explore another area of writing.  All are welcome.”  Those looking to give more depth and expression to their written communication can benefit from attending, along with those seeking simple inspiration to get their writing started.

An Option To Expensive Writing Courses

Seattle Writes began four years ago as an option for writers looking to perfect their craft without spending money they might not have.  “When we started it,” explained Johns, they’d observed the high cost of writing courses, and/or obtaining a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA).  Formal training also takes time, which can be prohibitive to those of limited income, seeking an artistic outlet.  “Writing classes are expensive,” Johns said, “it would be nice if you didn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars.”

“We did a survey of the area,” explained Gough, “People had little access to free or inexpensive writing courses.”  SPL wants to bring people and ideas together, to enrich all our lives.  “We are still the People’s University,” Gough said, “The library serves readers.  It also makes sense to serve your writers.”

As with all SPL programs, Seattle Writes’ sessions are free to all, with no advance registration required.  Seating is limited – for example, the meeting room at the Fremont Branch can accommodate approximately 70 people.  When the rooms reach capacity, staff will need to cut off attendance.  As Johns observed, “we have had to turn people away just one time,” so it is unlikely that anyone will be turned away.  Yet, those anxious to attend a session can plan to arrive up to 30 minutes early.

Seattle Writes deliberately doesn’t focus on any one particular genre or type of writing.  “We want to support the craft,” Johns explained.  Seattle Writes gives writers, at all levels, an opportunity to grow in their craft.  “It’s for those looking for ways to be accountable,” Johns explained, “and generative.”

“We have tried to structure it so that there is something for emerging and for established writers.”  Johns said.  “We look for diversity in our instructors,” she observed, as the instructors come from different fields and backgrounds, but all are professional writers and instructors.  Johns did acknowledged that there may be more topics on writing fiction, but with such a wide variety of topics and classes available, everyone should find what they need.

“We do workshops on the craft of writing,” Gough said, “and the business of publishing.”  For those already well into their writing project, SPL will also have classes in the modern landscape of publishing, e-publishing and self-publishing.  “We give people the tools,” Gough said.  They also offer some options in basic beginnings, like the ‘Flash Memoir’ at the Northeast Branch of October 1st, and ‘The Sentence Level’ at the Central Library on October 8th.

Seattle Writes has benefitted greatly from a partnership with Seattle7Writers, which helped launch the program four years ago, and has provided many of the instructors.  This year, the SPL has also partnered with Hugo House.

‘Write With Hugo House’

Known as a home for writers, where everyone can go to become a better writer, Hugo House will be sending its instructors out to three branch libraries, including Fremont, for series sessions.  These free, drop-in writing circles will be facilitated by established, local writers, allowing access to instructors and instruction by the well-regarded Hugo House.

Attendees can drop-in at all the sessions at just one branch, or travel among the branches to better work them into their schedule.  ‘Write With Hugo House’ takes place:

  • At Fremont Branch on Tuesdays, 6p – 7:30p, on October 17th, November 21st, and December 19th
  • At West Seattle Branch on Wednesdays, 6p – 7:30p, on October 11th, November 8th and December 13th
  • At Beacon Hill Branch on Thursdays, 6p – 7:30p, on October 5th, November 2nd, and December 14th

Attendees are invited to bring something they are working on, or a ‘blank page’ to start.  They will be given an opportunity to share work and get feedback, or not.  These sessions can increase anyone’s productivity, by providing an encouraging atmosphere, open to all ages and all genres of writing.

Self-Identifying, And Solitary, Writers

In addition to instruction, Seattle Writes makes it possible for, “writers to connect,” Johns explained, “and to support each other.”  For the most part, “Writing is a solitary activity,” Gough observed.  Johns acknowledged, “There is no support, unless they can attend conferences and retreats.”

“People self-identify as writers,” Johns observed.  Gough noted that, according to their surveys, “There are writers in every neighborhood.”  With Seattle Writes, they hope to gather these crafts persons together, to give them a chance to share and strengthen their craft – and their community – if that is what they need.

Seattle Writes can assist, those who want it, in building a supportive community, a wider network and more encouragement.  “It is passive community building,” Gough observed, about Seattle Writes, “It is possible for those who want to meet others to do so.”

Both Johns and Gough were grateful to the partners and sponsors of Seattle Writes that have made this program not only possible but also free.  “The [Seattle Public Library] Foundation is very supportive,” Johns said, and the Amazon Literary Partnership makes it possible for SPL to offer the classes and pay all of the instructors.

Of course, both Gough and Johns explained, they must report back on grants received to fund Seattle Writes, so those who want to see more of these free programs are encouraged to fill out comment sheets and engage with the library staff.

Seattle Writes began September 9th, and classes will continue through December, with times, dates and topics varying.  Visit the Seattle Writes website, at, to find the full schedule, and plan to attend your ideal class, in non-fiction, self-publishing, poetry, ‘Fear & Writing’, or the ‘First 500 Words’, for illuminating your writing experience!




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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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