From to #WritersPatch to #JustAddTea, #StoryCrafter and the currently-on-hiatus #TipsyChat, #StanzaSpeak to the National Novel Writing Month prep events, I’ve taken part in my fair share of Twitter chats. The thought of adding my own event to the mix had been a blip on my radar for quite some time, but it wasn’t a blip I paid particularly close attention to. It was something like a passing fancy. Like, the thought oh maybe I could do this? would float into my head and float right out.
I feel like I fell into chat hosting on accident. A typo (I may or may not have had wine on the brain and may or may not have tweeted NaNoWineO instead of NaNoWriMo - call it fate, or a Freudian slip, or both) lead to a conversation, which lead to an idea, which lead to a weekly chat during NaNoWriMo. I meant to send it off into the digital stratosphere after November 30. But that didn’t happen. Something changed. I loved hosting the chat. I loved talking to other writers, and I found that over the course of five Fridays we’d formed a little community.
So there was a little tweaking, a little talking among chat regulars, and come January #WriteAndWine was born.
It’s grown into something I can hardly describe. We’re a community, of course. A community of writers from different backgrounds, who work in different genres, and who support each other so wholly and sincerely that my heart feels like it might burst just thinking about it. Each week at least one new writer stumbles on our hashtag and spend an hour chatting with us, and whether or not they return next week it feels a bit special to be a small part of their week - to ask them questions and read their answers and have a chance to learn from someone new.
Over the winter months (for our purposes, that’s January-March), I had the pleasure of hosting eleven chats. We talked about everything from our New Year’s writing goals to how we handle rejection, we chatting about our favorite books and debated what makes a good story.
One of the things I’m most proud of in this chat, though, is that every third Friday of the month is set aside for a mental health check-in. This started when we were still #NaNoWineO. Because the third week of National Novel Writing Month is notoriously the toughest, I decided we should dedicate some time to discussing self care and checking in with one another. Reading what other writers had to say about mental health and self care, such as struggling with finding time for everything or experiencing writer burnout and not knowing how to beat it, solidified for me just how important the mental health component of the chat could be. Therefore, when I changed the hashtag, I promised myself I’d find a way to keep the mental health check-ins a regular part of the chat.
To be told that people look forward to third Fridays, or that they look forward to my little Twitter chat at all, is a feeling akin to being told that people enjoyed my books. I promise that’s not exaggeration. I feel like I’ve built something, with the help of my new #WriteAndWine friends. We’ve dressed up a little corner of the internet all for ourselves, and opened the door to invite others inside. It’s…honestly, amazing.
I wanted to find a way to work #WriteAndWine into my blog, and I’d like to test drive some seasonal recaps of our chat. I’ll talk a little bit about the chats went that month, maybe shout out some cool stuff from our participants, and give a list of freewrite prompts used during the chat (another rollover from our NaNo days is the dedication of the last ten minutes of the chat to writing sprints).
WINTER DISCUSSION TOPICS & FREEWRITE PROMPTS
Over the last three months, #WriteAndWine gathered virtually 11 times. We had 3 mental health check-ins in which we played Peak & Pit (not sure what that is? I wasn’t either, until a coworker started shouting it at the end of every closing shift. Essentially, you reflect on your day and share the best thing that happened [that’s your “peak”] and the worst thing that happened [the “pit”]. Equal parts ice breaker and legitimate conversation starter, it’s been a cool way to reflect on our mental health for the week/month and a great opportunity to celebrate one another’s “peaks” and help each other out of our respective “pits”.) and talked self care and mental health in writing.
We also 8 themed discussions, in which our four questions and our freewriting prompts centered on a particular topic voted on by chat participants. This winter, we talked about:
Writing Goals in 2019
What We Read in February
Camp NaNoWriMo (April Prep!)
And we wrote about:
Times we’ve felt rejected
Improving our characters
Trying new hobbies
Trying new writing rituals
Our goals for the spring
We also threw it back to elementary school and had a little bit of “Drop Everything And Read” time after our bookish chat in February and practiced self care and shouted out some of our favorite fellow chatters during our mental health chats every few weeks.
#WRITEANDWINE “CHEERS-ING” SECTION
Our participants did some pretty cool stuff this winter, too!
Take #WriteAndWine regular Robert Relyea (@robertjrelyea), who has been chatting with us since the very beginning. In January, he completed Balance & Ruin, a dramatic retelling of the popular sci-fi/fantasy game Final Fantasy VI. And you can read it for free! Get eBook and Kindle files of the book on Robert’s blog. He will also have hard copies printed on request if you’re more of an ink-and-paper type of reader. Robert also recently shared some insight on his biggest creative influence in a blog post that is, in my opinion, well worth the read.
Another one of our from-the-start participants, Mykki (@OnThe3Cusp), has been blogging up a storm lately! You can check out Mykki’s latest post on the ins and outs of teaching yourself Japanese here. There’s even a list of study materials, with links on where to get them, if you want to give the language a try, too!
Also on the blogging train is Alex (@AlleyArticle), who has also been with #WriteAndWine from its NaNoWriMo days. Her latest post gets pretty real as she discusses mental health, planning for the future, and her goals for the year ahead. It’s always humbling when bloggers are honest and open with their audiences, and that’s exactly Alex’s style.
WHAT’S COMING UP?
This April, we’ve partnered up with Fly on the Wall Poetry Press to celebrate National Poetry Month in our first ever #WriteAndWine book club event! We’ll be discussing Digging Holes to Another Continent by Isabelle Kenyon, the founder of Fly on the Wall, on our last chat of the month. The book discussion chat will be on Friday, April 26. Then, we’ll be ringing in May with a chat centered on the trials of self publishing on May 3, 2019.