Two writers launch The Monterey Bay Writers Studio
Rumor has it that long ago, Santa Cruz had a raging literary ‘scene,’ where local writers gathered at pubs, exchanged ideas, and developed their own sub-culture. It seems that that electricity has dimmed somewhat over the years, with writers falling back into their solitary ways. Granted, there are plenty of writing groups in town, including famous poets, acclaimed novelists, steadfast journalists, and the like, but when was the last time they all got together and rebuilt that ‘scene?’
It now seems like a literary resurrection is playing out with two young writers, Lindsey Alexander and Ryan Matthews, at the helm. The couple hails most recently from New York, and they have the education, resources, connectedness, and enthusiasm to gather writers together once again. And on top of their social networking pursuits, they’ve also started an educational institution in town for writers, called The Monterey Bay Writers Studio. Their new business premise kicked off at the beginning of the year, where the pair and a third writer are teaching a variety of classes for writers, all with the emphasis on how to get your work published, as well as offering heavy workshop components. What makes these classes unique is that Alexander has a background of having worked for five years as an editor for Harper Collins, the notable children’s book publisher in New York. She knows the genuine ins and outs of publishing, agent relations, what it takes to get a book published, what editors are looking for, how to craft a saleable story, and so on.
The three classes currently underway are: “Writing for Young Readers: Workshop & Publishing Primer,” “Fiction Toolbox,” and “Conversational Portraits: The Art of Creative Nonfiction.” While all the classes are currently filled, the eight-week session will end in early spring, and they plan to launch another series of classes likely in April. The cost is $250 for an eight-week course.
“Writing for Young Readers: Workshop & Publishing Primer,” covers the “world of children’s publishing.” Class time includes writing assignments, critiques, a section called “publishing assignments,” to learn about how to get published, and more. “Fiction Toolbox,” covers all the basics of fiction writing, including extensive exercises on fleshing out your work. “Conversational Portraits: The Art of Creative Nonfiction,” has its participants complete a series of writing assignments and learn about how to get published in this genre.
In addition to offering an educational component through their burgeoning business/social venture, the couple has wide-reaching goals for The Monterey Bay Writers Studio, including establishing a literary festival here this summer, a reading series (sort of like an open mic or ‘story slam’), and a writing camp.
Be assured, Alexander and Matthews have no intention of undermining the writing groups that exist here in town, they just hope to add to the current mix. And for being so young, they bring solid pedigrees to their pursuits. At 27, Alexander has the aforementioned five years of editing work at Harper Collins under her proverbial belt, along with a master’s degree from The New School in New York; she also still maintains a hefty amount of editing work for Harper Collins, and for various other companies. Likewise, Matthews, 28, works as a freelance editor, and also has his master’s degree from The New School, where the couple met in 2007.
Like any love story, theirs deserves a mention—he, formerly of Seattle, had long fought the path of a writer, trying out different classes in college, trying to find his niche. But he couldn’t escape the allure of writing. “It was the only thing that could hold my interest,” Matthews says. “An idea or character would take shape and I’d race home in the rain in Seattle to try to write something while the spark was there.”
Alexander, on the other hand, has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a junior high school student she began attending writing workshops, and eventually became fixated on moving to New York, which she did after getting her bachelor’s degree. There, in New York, she worked in the publishing trenches.
They met at a writing event not long into their entrance at The New School (a university that’s also known for its association with James Lipton’s The Actors’ Studio television show, and Project Runway’s Parsons the New School of Design). When they wrapped up their graduate studies in 2008, Alexander was ready to move on from being in publishing full-time, and Matthews desired some time to work on a novel. They relocated to Santa Cruz last year in 2009, and in January of this year they held two meet and greet events in town (which were well attended) and launched their classes.
With time, they hope that their contributions will “expand and strengthen the literary arts community here,” Alexander says. “There’s such a vibrant community of writers here.” Now, we wait for chapter two to unfold with The Monterey Bay Writers Studio.
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