Posted in Origins

Origins: My Princeton Summer

Image result for princeton public library
Photo Cred: John Phelan

I’ve written in some fun places, y’all.

Last week, I mentioned an upcoming series of content snippets written for various reasons, in various parts of my past. Next week, I’m going to start with some humorous, prompt-driven, seat-of-my-pants scribbles from a summer writing group I stumbled into in Princeton, NJ, during summer of 2014.

I didn’t, of course, take a cross-country summer sabbatical just to participate in a bi-weekly writing group. Au contraire– that part was quite by accident. In reality, I was jet-setting for science (which sounds way more glamorous than it was, I assure you). Many major institutions have summer programs that take undergraduates from across the country to come work in their labs for 8-10 weeks. It’s a great way to get diverse research experience and, let’s be honest, see some cool places. I had never been to the northeast before I got into Princeton’s summer program. That summer, I went to NYC three times, Philadelphia once, and on more transit trains than I could count. I had also never been on a real train.

Anyway, during the summer, the program put us up in this big house with a bunch of individual dorm rooms, shared bathrooms, and a massive kitchen (during the school year, it’s a co-op for vegetarians who apparently cook awesome food). In that type of housing style, you make friends really quickly.

And one of my closest friends that summer happened to also be super into writing.

This friend had the kind of go-getter attitude and penchant for quirky adventures that led her to seek out the Princeton Writing Group, which, at the time, held regular meetings in the Princeton Public Library. Every other Tuesday, they would meet in a library conference room and, as the name suggests, write things. After a surprisingly small amount of arm-twisting, my friend convinced me to be her let’s-do-this-scary-thing-together buddy.

To be clear, my writing group experience at that time was minimal. It had, additionally, consisted entirely of allotted time slots where people get together, chat wistfully about their characters, and maybe typity type if they feel the urge. Therefore, I was entirely unprepared for what was about to happen. My friend and I walked in a few minutes late, after walking around the library 100 times trying to find the room. A handful of people were there, laptops already open or pens already scribbling furiously. They all look at us like they haven’t seen a new person in the length of time I’ve been alive. I want to run. My friend drags me to a chair. I fumble for my laptop. We trip over words as we introduce ourselves and explain our transient nature.

The leader of the group introduces himself. He then informs us that there is a prompt, and we have about 10 minutes left to write on it.

A prompt.

If you’re not familiar, writers like to pretend we fall into one of two categories process-wise: planners, who live on ideas and outlines, and pantsers, who write whatever comes to mind. I won’t say that I’m on the most extreme end of the planner side of the spectrum, but I will say that my outline for my first year doing NaNoWriMo was over 1,000 words. Yeah, just my outline. No, they didn’t count as part of my word count.

So prompts and quick-writes terrify me, as you can imagine. This writing group was a nice puree of both, served with a sizable dollop of social awkwardness and a garnish of we’re-the-youngest-people-here-by-ten-to-fifteen-years.

Now, I wouldn’t be sharing this now if I didn’t end up actually really enjoying the experience. The group was an hour-and-a-half of prompt, write, share, laugh, repeat. And although I was really self-conscious at first, everyone else seemed to really like us and our work. They made us feel comfortable in their little niche. They were awesome people with really fun ideas and great writing, to boot! My friend and I went every time our schedules would allow– so much so that I kind of fried my laptop trying to get to the library in a vicious downpour Tuesday night. The group wasn’t there, I was soaked despite my umbrella, and the laptop sat in rice for a week to recover.

The point of all this is that you’ll be seeing some of these crazy snippets over the course of the next several weeks. They’re short, wacky, and random as all get-out (that’s a southern term) but I hope you’ll enjoy them! I look forward to sharing the first one next week!

5 thoughts on “Origins: My Princeton Summer

    1. Fun fact: It’s still kicking! I gave it to my mom after I got a new one, and she uses it every so often. But yeah, that’s what made me follow in your footsteps to try NaNoing on paper for a week!

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