By Emma Castleberry
In 1993, a group of writers began meeting in the Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville to support and give feedback on each other’s work. They named themselves the Flatiron Writers, and since their first meeting, much has grown out of that small group of dedicated wordsmiths. In 2008, the group won a grant to publish an anthology of members’ work and start a website, and in 2011 they began offering public workshops on writing topics.
Finding affordable space to hold those workshops was always a challenge, so in 2017, two of the group’s members, Maggie Marshall and Heather Newton, formed the Flatiron Writers Room (FWR). “What started as a handful of writers seeking feedback on their work has given birth to a brick-and-mortar space for all things writing-related in WNC,” says Marshall. This literary center provides teaching space and offers workshops, retreats and other events and resources for writers. Members of the writers group serve as an informal advisory board to the FWR.
Newton and Marshall are dedicated to bringing a diversity of high-quality programming to writers in this area. The workshops at FWR explore a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, screenwriting and improv, as well as skills-based training on how to read, submit and pitch one’s work. A recent event brought four well-regarded New York literary agents to the FWR to teach writers about the process of hiring and working with an agent.
The diversity of programming is certainly a highlight of the FWR, but many say its founders are what set the group apart. “The ladies from FWR propelled me to take the time and resources to invest in myself and move my writing forward,” says writer Becca Saul, who has attended multiple workshops and retreats at FWR over the past year. Saul entered some stories in a multi-round competition and found Marshall and Newton consistently checking in about her success. “I appreciate the emphasis on personal attention from the moderators,” she says. “They helped me realize and believe my writing was worth pursuing seriously.”
Sandra Voss made a decision in 2016 to get serious about her writing, so she registered for a Great Smokies Writing Program class, taught by Newton. Since then, she’s attended workshops at the FWR that have taught her how to write book reviews, edit and read aloud her work and submit to literary magazines. Voss was also one of the first to sign up for the co-working space at FWR. “If you are serious about your writing, FWR is the best, most valuable and economical way to support your art,” she says.
While the FWR is not yet itself a tax-exempt nonprofit, the organization fundraises through its nonprofit fiscal sponsor, Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community (AWITSC). This allows donors to take a deduction for tax purposes and benefits both organizations. “We know the value of the programming they do for young writers in our community, placing teaching writers in the public schools and producing a bilingual literary magazine for and by youth of color,” says Newton, who was a founding board member for AWITSC. “We chose AWITSC as our fiscal sponsor because our missions are aligned and complement each other. We serve adult writers; they serve the writers of tomorrow.”
The FWR is currently piloting a co-working program in their space. There is an all-day pop-up retreat scheduled in the space on Saturday, January 12, and the Flatiron Writers group will host its 25th Anniversary Celebration on February 8. The group says there is no magic to their success; they are simply a group of people with a common goal. “For a writing group to survive and thrive, it takes commitment, flexibility, mutual support, a dedication to craft, a sense of humor and some luck,” says Newton. “We believe that offering a physical space for all things literary has a collective positive impact for all literary organizations and writers in our area.”
If you are interested in co-working at the FWR, please email Maggie Marshall at FlatironWritersRoom@gmail.com as soon as possible. For more information, including a list of upcoming events at FWR, visit FlatironWritersRoom.com.