Telling stories is always more fun with an audience. So why do so many writers toil in private? Kathie Collins, 48, thinks it shouldn't have to be that way. She founded the new August Moon Creative Co-op to foster a sense of community among Charlotte writers.
"For a long time, I've had a dream of working in a shared space with other writers and creatives that fellowship, brainstorm and even collaborate," Collins says. "I hope this idea serves the community."
Charlotte has a growing literary scene, with events like the Charlotte Book Fair as well as numerous book clubs and writers groups. But for writers to produce the works that fuel the scene, they need a grounded place of support and the right balance of quietude with energy. Everyone isn't lucky enough to find this at home, and "I got really tired of working in the library and trying to upload work from Panera bread," Collins says.
She sees the co-op as a room of their own, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf, for local writers, and filling that void is the reason she's been chosen as one of CL's People to Watch in 2015.
At August Moon, co-op members can access the cozy studio facility day or night. The room itself, which is located inside the Midwood International and Cultural Center, is furnished with couches, communal work desks and pieces Collins picked up at the boundless Sleepy Poet vintage market.
"Being a poet, I try to whittle everything down to the purest, smallest form," Collins says, so the avid antique shopper wrote the following ode, "Haiku for Procrastinators and Bargain Hunters," to the place:
Cold rain, writer's block —
Muse needs a vintage fix. Off
to Sleepy Poet's!
August Moon's quarters have a separate space for meeting with clients and keycode access after 5 p.m.
"It feels very homey and laid-back. There's a printer, and a small fridge if you want to bring a snack. It's set up to come write an hour or two a day," Collins says. She also hopes members will offer advice and encourage each other.
Collins has seen life on the other side of the page, and she doesn't like it. She recently completed a 200-page poetry dissertation for her Ph.D. in mythological studies. It took her two years to write it.
"The dissertation process is a long process, and I struggled with the isolation of a writer's life. I knew I'd be happier and more productive if I could tap into a collective creative energy," says Collins, who admits one of the reasons she opened August Moon was that she was still recovering from the ordeal. It's easy to get burnt out working solo, so a cushion of support from people on the same journey is priceless.
There is a cost, however, to this panacea: Co-op membership is $125 a month, to help offset the cost of renting the space ($750), Wi-Fi, and other fees — a small price for a sense of community and a quiet, stable place to write outside of home. Also, because at 830 square feet the studio isn't huge, Collins is trying to limit initial membership to get a small core group established. "Ideally, it would be between six to eight people in the co-op, knowing we wouldn't all be there at once," she says.
Collins wants to see the co-op become not just a place to write, but a place to come learn: "I'm hoping that someone will offer some writing workshops; there's a lot of opportunity to be creative and I'd love to see how it evolves."