The Cojournal Project

Writing is a thing that takes time and space, but it’s also fun to write with the knowledge that someone, sometime, in a particular and set-up kind of structure, will read what you write and offer feedback. Really fun, these days, writing and journaling with a small group of people in another project and starting to think about how to open up a space, now, for newcomers to get their feet wet with this kind of co-journaling experience.


Why write with a writers’ circle?

There is a time and a place for writing circles, certainly. I have had my own experiences with them and have different emotions when I think about various ones. My favorite was the West Cork Writers Circle in southwest Ireland, which met at an arts center every Friday night and that was, by far, the best learning chapter for me. Every single person who came was older than me and I got a lot of great feedback when I brought whatever I had done for the homework assignment to the evening of sharing, together.

You took turns setting the writing assignment. I got told to go and read certain authors whose works could be interesting for me, since they had a similar vibe. That’s how I got interested in writing circles, to be honest, and peer-to-peer discovery learning. I had been fortunate to have gotten a chance by that time to already have taken part in lovely experiential learning programs like Governor’s School East in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and the two-year residential school NC School of Science& Mathematics. Listening, looking, studying, living, and discovering: these were the things. It wasn’t enough for me to stay in one place, though, so I studied abroad in Ghana and Japan, before rounding India on a solo tour and going to art school for a short bit in Brooklyn NY. So many things.

Along the way I’d worked and interned and part-time gig’d, and this, along with everything before and since, helped me uncover the various ways you can open up the conversations with all kinds of different peoples. This is nice to get to do. Honestly, it never stopped, these travels and journeys of a personal nature. I was always really interested in going places and seeing things and finding out, for myself, what was what. Sort of how I had landed in Ireland, too. Since 2014: Finland, Latvia, Slovakia, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, and I’m writing this from Southeast Asia, where the nearby countries are where I’ve roamed for a bit, now and then, when roaming was a thing you could easily do.

A WIDE WRITING CIRCLE’S VALUE. But my writing circle, then, contains international correspondences and perspectives that only my crisscrossing and in-person discovering of who we are reading and writing together can and does give, due to all these intentional searching for the very curious amongst us sorts of movements. That’s what’s different about what I like in my circles, from what I see online when I try to join other people’s versions of it. Nothing has been working out online since the pandemic for this purpose, so I think it’s time to invite people back to Cojournaling with me, my way. Think so, yeah. But just four or something like that. I don’t like too many people in my conversation spaces; it ruins something.

My friends at the writing circle in Ireland (what better place to be for writing with others, eh?) had encouraged me to keep going, and in 2012 I published The Elopement, my first book. This was the beginning of sharing, more critically aware of the fact that what your audience says about your writing could potentially shift its direction, and I took the time for the next ten years to really keep writing what I wanted to in order to develop the writing voice that, I felt, was the one I wanted to wear for a while longer and the next time I stepped out into the public. So here I am, again, publishing again on this blog and elsewhere.

This whole time, I’ve had the benefit of a writing circle that encourages and challenges me, and also the people in it trust me to lead. They let me write prompts for them and they reply and share, sometimes in forums, sometimes on emails. Sometimes for years.

We started the cojournal right here, on this blog, way back in 2014. Like every moment where I’ve been lucky enough to get to have feedback in real time in a circle of friends-and-sometimes-colleagues, I encourage and point people to things that might help them develop. We’re growing, and we’re growing together. Sometimes people drift in and out, but that’s the point of it. You develop and when it’s time to move forward, you go on and spread your wings. What our goals are when we arrive are unique to each person, but I love this project because it helps me focus, focus deeply, and focus on the conversations that are the most important to me. The ones that go places. Progressions are nice. These take place, over time. Sometimes, we have breakthroughs. That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Feeling safe enough to try things, to the point where you build that kind of safety net of trust.

‘Roads’ by Quan Nguyen, Papers 2022

Writing interactively in the next chapter of cojournaling, with Papers: The Village

Trusting is one thing but trusting in 2022 is so different from 2012. I want to keep inviting people to join me for things, but I also don’t want to set anyone up for disappointment. That’s why I don’t say I will do X or I will do Y. I just want to invite people to write, write with me and possibly 2-3 others, to the prompts that emerge as dialogues continue.  That’s why I call it an interactive writing space.

Next, we are going to focus on Papers: The Village. Here’s how it works. There are 2 steps.

  1. Application. It starts with this. Kindly apply at this page at my personal site. (You can read more about the evolutions in the interactive writings, there, too. Be sure to choose ‘Papers’ when it asks you which workshop you’re interested in. There is no cost to apply.) Apply here.
  2. Registration. Selected candidates will be invited to register.