Shut Up and Write. Photo: Edward Anderson
By Meredith Kurz
Four years ago, my husband and I moved to the Upper West Side, shedding suburbia like a wool coat in August. Since then it’s been one long delicious film reel: Sitting at a restaurant post-Broadway, all the actors walk in en masse, some of the women holding their tossed bouquets; everyone stays past midnight. Walking home afterward, because, hey, it’s only twenty-five blocks or so. Winched into a bleacher seat, watching an open-air play at the Delacorte looking over a castle (a castle!), a nearby pond reflecting deepening shadows in purple with hints of light as the performance begins. Who wouldn’t foist off Grandma’s china and nine-foot velvet Elvis poster for this?
There was one thing missing — buddies. Sure, old neighbors venture in to ooh, aah, kvetch about parking, prices and perverts, then leave, but making new connections requires trial, error, and legwork. I’ve volunteered, campaigned and covered neighborhood news. Good enough. Then, last year I discovered Meetups, a free membership social calendar with 500 plus get-togethers each week. I’ll show you mine, and further down, I hope, I’ll show you yours.
The author’s Meetup “Shut Up and Write” has several metropolitan-wide groups. Ed Anderson, a full-time freelance author, and group co-leader has written over 1500 articles, from a CNN report to true crime coverage to an account of Megyn Kelly’s juicy fall from grace. He introduces newbies into the fold, beta reads snippets if pressed, and reins us in when it’s time to stop socializing and, well, shut up and write. After one hour of silent writing, some of us trot over to the Flame Diner or Fluffy’s for a nosh.
In our group is a screenwriter working on a Hallmark movie, a glass menagerie of playwrights working on everything from a musical to a “Me Too” thing, humor writers who are our most anxious, a graphic novelist (I love to eavesdrop when my attention wanes from my own work, watching him draw a story instead of just writing it), copywriters, travel writers, students writing resumes and their inept friends’ cover letters, a professor writing an academic piece on prisons in New York during the Civil War, children’s story writers, horror story writers (a 20-something Fordhamite explains, “I write cannibalism fiction, but it’s in New Orleans.” I guess that makes it, well, kosher.) Young Adult fiction and yes, I’ll say it, erotica.
I began writing in earnest during a brief two-young-children-at-home span. I wrote a historic play for a local church, then was commissioned to write a children’s play which was performed all over the place; and yes, I earned a sweet $6 in royalties every time it was performed. I wrote a children’s musical about believing in yourself called “Casey at the Bat” which now rests in a grave in the back of my closet. I thought I was going to write a sci-fi novel until I discovered there are only three that I ever really enjoyed reading. Love the science; hate the genre, I guess. I recently was featured in a short story anthology, and short stories and essays are where I’m coziest outside of journalism. If you’ve read what you think are the greatest books in English literature, and then attempt to write, you’re going to feel intimidated.
So if you’re feeling a need to connect to more people who love what you love, or to improve or reassure yourself you’re not a total loser, try a Meetup.
There are Meetups for everything; e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. If you have an interest, there’s a Meetup. You can’t find it? Make one. You can go on a MOMA scavenger hunt or hit a bar with “Dharma Drink:” the hangout for Buddhists (“and like-minded”), or strum with a ukulele jam. People with Pomeranians have their own meetups, and there’s a (Can’t make up my mind. Creepy? Not creepy?) “Photographing Strangers on the Street” class, (like where do you meet? In a hidden alley?) There are the Supper West Siders, the Lesbian Book Club, and if you are too smart for your own good, an Artificial Intelligence “Deep Bayesian Networks” get-together. I’d like to write an article on every single one of these.
If you’ve done an annual review of your social calendar and found it sagging, do something about it! Head over to Meetup.com and change your friendship destiny.