The Writers Lunch

Today I’ll be attending a monthly lunch, where writers meet at a pizza sports bar of central location (easy access via the I-5), moderate prices and unremarkable food. The writer’s lunch seems to be a vital life-line for lonely writers, although in my current case and my day job, I have no lack of society. (I’ve been watching Austin and Bronte dramas lately – thus the language – apologies).

Lunches I have attended are of various size. While attending several Oregon workshops, if I was inclined to stay a few hours on Sunday afternoons, we met at a local restaurant, and often approximately 20 people crowded around the tables. Writers living locally always joined this lunch, and it took place every Sunday regardless of whether a workshop was happening or not.

Valuable information is generally shared. New software for producing ever-grander ebooks and PODs. Website tips. Publishing opportunities, marketing strategies.

The writer’s lunches I attend focus entirely on self-publishing. There is no talk of agents or “New York”. Indie publishing only. No “trad”.

And this got me thinking about writer’s lunches in general.

The Algonquin Round Table (the Vicious Circle) is probably the most “storied”, to make an unfortunate pun. Edna Ferber, Beatrice Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, and Robert Benchley clinked glasses with Tallulah Bankhead and Harpo Marx, among others. They met daily, rather than weekly or monthly—likely they had more to spend than most of the writers I know—at the Algonquin Hotel throughout a ten year period beginning in 1919.

“All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends.” — Dorothy Parker. (Reader add double entendre as needed)

The Bloomsbury Set could roughly be called the British version of the Vicious Circle, as they were a close-knit unit of authors, friend and relatives, who lived in and around Bloomsbury, London during the early decades of the twentieth century. Rather than focused on theatrics for its own sake as the Circlers were, the Set firmly supported the importance of the arts. The best-known member was, of course, Virginia Woolf.

Lovers of Narnia and Middle Earth will be pleased to know that the friendship between C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien helped form The Inklings, a mid-twentieth century literary group who met at a pub in Oxford. All male. All fantasy.

Andy Warhol’s Factory is sometimes added to this category, although I think they consumed more than omelets or ale.

No one claims that healthy eating and doing a 24-hour sprint to a writing deadline are the same thing, and much has been said among writers about the necessity of junk food and often, alcohol.

Much has been written about the solitary writer, solitary by necessity. Writing takes an introvert-type personality with a secret extrovertism, if that is a word. We write because really, we hope someone will read our stuff and have a good time. One could be a singer, but that needs an audience (gulp). One could be a painter and create in solitude, but that also requires an audience—the life of a painter is not that far distant from the life of a writer. In fact, I think the writer has an easier task. Writing is certainly cheaper. It’s just writing, after all. But any art requires practice, learning, skill and a bit of talent.

No artist can work and live in a vacuum. The Internet makes it easier for the introvert to connect with other introverts. But there’s nothing like seeing old friends, writers known for years since meeting in workshops many years past, and finding out what they have been doing—and being able to tell them what you are doing, share failures, praise successes.

And recognize that we may feel lonely but we are not alone.

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The Writers Lunch — 2 Comments

  1. The Algonquin Round Table might have started as a writers’ lunch in the sense you mean, but it became theater, where people actually came hoping to watch verbal slaughter a la coliseum days.

    There were earlier groups of writers, such as those around George Sand in Paris (and some generations later Gertrude Stein and the expats, though they were less lunchers than late-nighters), and the Bluestockings in London. The salons of Paris included some devoted to writing as well as those devoted to politics or the arts. Madame du Deffand’s was all three, but one had to share one’s brilliance with brilliant style. (And some were all style and no substance.)

    Shakespeare knew the writers of his time. I wonder if they shared business meals.

    Coming up to our period, I know of a bunch of them, but the one I wish I could have been a part of would be the Scribblees of Minneapolis. (And I know some of them still meet.)

    • Fascinating, Sherwood, and thanks for this information. Even more to think about!