Letter from Jenna Kalinsky, Founding Director, One Lit Place:
Where it all started
When I first started my writing career, was I ever was spoiled. Living in New York City, I was up to my ears in literary life, overrun with the best and brightest in the field, tripping over them in the street. Another lecture from Toni Morrison? Phillip Roth is reading again? Seriously, does the guy have nothing else to do?
But after a few years, I left the country to strike out anew. I went to Germany where I didn’t know the language, knew no one, and amused myself by counting Brussels sprouts stalks on my way to work.
When I’d started out as a writer, it had been inside of a group of peers and in the company of mentors who were supportive, verbal, stimulating, and, importantly, there.
Now separated from that vital tether, I wrote feverishly as if the act alone would keep me afloat, but all that work without the necessary interplay of conversation, processing, and support made me feel as though I were calling down a hole.
I bought expensive New Yorkers, reading every line two or three times. I carried my copies of Poets and Writers everywhere. My emails to my writer friends I’d left were long and passionate, or some might say desperate.
Then a few years later, I moved again. Then again, and then again. There were brief times inside of this nomadry— conferences, residencies, book-type events—when I was plunged back into what I’d been missing. The conversation. The wonderful opportunity to process ideas and texts. The comfort of knowing someone had my literary back.
I could sense it on the others who also lived on the fringes, who’d moved away or who had had families: we couldn’t talk fast enough. Or enough about enough. It was exhilarating and exhausting and sweet and sad because soon these wonderful events were over and we were back to not feeling that wonderful hydrating drip of connection and intrinsic support for the other that made us feel so alive as writers.
The Seeds of A New Kind of Writer Connection
When I settled in Canada, I began teaching at a university and in its associated adult studies program. It was reassuring to know it was a universal need yet sad to see that same hunger in my students: people who loved writing but who also yearned for a supportive center.
Absent even a central physical location where the students could meet apart from the classroom, they simply kept enrolling and enrolling in the one-off courses on offer in an effort to find that camaraderie and partnership in amongst the study and production.
I loved teaching, and I loved seeing my students find their voices and their passion for writing. But I felt odd as if I were purveying half a situation as full. True harmony can’t come of one; I knew that.
I came up with an idea of creating the thing I missed: a fully realized program and companion literary community. I pitched my plan to the adult ed program director, who wonderfully saw the merit in offering this kind of experience and got me funding. I’d never built a program before, but I dove in. It was wonderful to see things begin to bloom, writers showing up to readings and talks at night, courses that led to more advanced courses, my fellow instructors serving as mentors and editors. I began to feel at home.
Not long after, when the director moved on and the new administration looked at the bottom line, they decided it wasn’t worth keeping and pulled the plug.
Serving and Supporting Writers
That was in 2004. I kept teaching at institutions but also began doing it privately, setting up workshops and seminars that would serve writers in an intimate space that also fostered one-on-one support, peer relationships, and connection. I soon branched off to work with individual writers, coaching them through their writing process and editing their developing projects as they aimed for publication.
When my own client list became long and I met other writers who wanted this kind of intimate writer-coach and editor relationship, I knew it was time to make things happen on my own.
One Lit Place Happens …
I launched One Lit Place in 2015 along with an incredible creative team of writing mentors, coaches, and editors. We serve as literary partners to writers of all levels, backgrounds, and interests and ensure they feel motivated and confident with their work, nurture and encourage their passions, help clear a way forward to help them see themselves as writers, and provide skilled editing so they can send out their best work and publish.
The opportunity to connect, collaborate, and create inside of this relationship helps creative, academic, and business writers become their best selves. They feel safe to take risks, dive deep into their own process, learn and grow, and ultimately thrive. It is thrilling to see our writers rise to their own gifts and inspiration.
We now proudly have dozens of authors who have published books, academic works, business books, short stories, op-eds, poems, articles, and more.
We also have a safe, welcoming space where all writers are welcome to gather: the Writers Lounge. Every day, we get and give help, share in our successes and sorrows, exchange resources, and simply connect and hang out as writers.
My original feeling of belonging and thriving in amongst peers is one I love sharing with our greater community and with our authors doing great work with us every day. We may write alone, but when we work together, we make a very necessary music.
~ Jenna Kalinsky