Woog’s World / ‘Write Here,’ write anywhere
The newly transformed Westport Library is a welcoming place. For example, large windows, wide tables and the hum of activity — along with plenty of written material — encourages people of all ages to sit, think and write.
Other spots around town encourage them to write too. Benches at the beach, a Senior Center classroom — those are the kinds of spots where all you need are a pen and paper (or laptop), and a moment or two to look around. Words flow (usually, hopefully) easily.
Most Westporters would not think of writing at the farmers market, though. Or the train station. Definitely not the police station or firehouse.
Most Westporters are not, however, Jan Bassin. In her dual roles as Senior Center coordinator of writing programs and the library’s maker-in-residence, she believes anyone can be inspired to write anytime, anywhere.
This month, she’s inspiring dozens of people to do just that.
Under the library’s sponsorship, Bassin created an innovative community project. “Write Here: Westport” — get it? — began Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 30. Each day, a different spot hosts a one-hour “write-in.”
Everyone of all ages and every writing experience is welcome. First, Bassin introduces the location. She gives a prompt, based on that site. Everyone looks around, thinks, then writes. At the end, anyone who wishes can share his or her writing with the group. There’s a website too (westportwwrites.writeas.org) where anyone can upload their work.
The first “Write Here” was held at the library itself. It was a great way to begin. People feel at ease there; everyone has memories of libraries and stories from there.
Bassin gently coaxed the two dozen attendees to think about their library experiences. They could conjure up memories, reflect on smells and sounds, ruminate on the role libraries play in their lives. Any hesitancy anyone in that first group had melted away as soon as they opened the special notebooks they’d just been given, and began to write.
The next session was held outdoors, on the Library Riverwalk. Again, the setting was conducive to writing. Gazing at the river, watching people and ducks meander by, listening to the noises of downtown Westport — it was all good.
A couple of days later though, a group convened at Town Hall. First Selectman Jim Marpe talked a bit about the place; Bassin gave her prompt, and the writing began.
From there it was off to other, even more unusual places that prompted interesting thoughts, and intriguing writing. One group gathered at the train station — well, actually Donut Crazy, because every writer needs caffeine and food for thought, right?
They headed to the Senior Center, the Westport Weston Family YMCA, the Bartaco boardwalk, the Levitt Pavilion, the police station, and the firehouse, where Lt. Nick Marsan gave an overview of the building and described the special camaraderie that develops among firefighters. The loudspeaker went off three times, lending extra verisimilitude to the afternoon.
More recently, writers headed to Toquet Hall, Wakeman Town Farm, Parks and Recreation headquarters, and the Westport Historical Society. Yesterday they were at the farmers market. Today it’s the Westport Country Playhouse.
Still ahead: tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., the Compo Beach pavilion near Joey’s by the Shore; Sunday at 9 a.m., the Longshore pavilion by the pool; Monday at 3 p.m. at Earthplace; Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Westport Library grand staircase, and Wednesday at 7 p.m., Rolnick Observatory. A closing celebration is set for Aug. 30 at noon at the library. Newcomers are always welcome, any time.
The writing — shared at the end of each session, occasionally posted on the website — is often simple, yet profound. Writing at the Y prompted one person to describe the “strength and beauty” of the building. Another took a different direction entirely, moving from a remembrance of his unathletic youth, to the joy of discovering racquetball and aquatics as an adult, to the comfort he and his wife found there, as she slid into dementia and her fellow exercise class members became her caregivers.
Prompted by the Senior Center, a woman wrote that her worry of being alone when she aged has been eased by watching her husband play bridge there a few times a week. His enthusiasm, she said, shows her she has nothing to fear.
Many people fear writing. It’s daunting, for sure: what to write about, how to begin, what to say.
Yet like the fear of aging, the fear of writing can be unfounded. Especially when, thanks to Jan Bassin and her unique program, you can definitely “Write Here.”
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.