In downtown Bellingham WA, on bustling Holly Street between Cornwall and Bay Street, you will find the Clover Building—whose ground level houses a bridal shop and a printing shop. If you’re a writer, you must grow immediately bold and enter, because inside, amidst an array of private offices, counseling rooms, even an ayurvedic wellness center, you will find the Independent Writers’ Studio, a third-floor haven for writers of all sorts with one thing in common: they come to the Studio to study and write with Mary Elizabeth Gillilan.
Most Monday afternoons and Wednesday evenings, and many other times, you’ll head up the tall flight of stairs (or you can hop into the elevator) to find Mary in her white chair, book in hand, or at work at the large polished-wood table that doubles as her desk and a gathering place for writers.
The author of Tibet, a novel in journal form, and garnering awards for her writing and editing—including a Governor’s award for editing a history of Washington State—Mary has been leading writing groups for more than thirty years. At the I.W.S. gatherings, she gently and quietly guides both emerging and seasoned writers in their craft, offering advice for how to hone a line or bring a character’s motivation into focus.
This night was my second visit to the Studio and my first time at an I.W.S. night. By the way, your initial visit is free and if you decide to continue (as I know I want to!), there’s a modest fee for a month of workshops that now occur Mondays and Wednesdays. And London bus–style, you can jump on or off when it suits you and your writing, although the writers I met at this visit were all long-time habitual attendees. After a timed writing to some optional prompts, on the lineup this evening was a coming of age story set in Alaska and a tale about a pair of high school sleuths. As the newbie, I was invited to read my pages, too, so that added some cheap sex in a car. You know that high you get from coming together with other writers and sharing and discussing your work? So I’ll just say, great high! Continue reading