What do you get when you put 40 writers in a room for nine hours, give them as much coffee and M&M’s as they like, bring in a yoga instructor to lead stretches halfway through, guide them through fun writing exercises, and award prizes all day long?
That’s what happened at the recent Blazing Laptops write-a-thon, a fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit organization San Diego Writers, Ink. (SDWI) which offers classes, groups, workshops, readings and other literary events throughout San Diego County. Not to mention the community building and loads of spirited fun that took place as part of this great mission driven fundraising event.
How the Write-a-thon Worked
This was SDWI’s third fundraising write-a-thon event and most successful to date, with over $17,000 raised. Write-a-thon Chair, Judy Reeves, credits the event’s success to the crowdfunding website that allowed friends and family to pledge to the writers directly. Unlike the previous two years, writers could create a personal fundraising website and send out emails and social media posts to friends, family and potential sponsors. Judy believes that most people are willing to support someone they care about which is why any type of peer-to-peer fundraising event can be successful. Sponsorship becomes personalized and is a way for donors to help the organization via an ambassador—in this case, a writer who is willing to collect pledges and participate in a nine hour write-a-thon.
Nine hours may seem like a long time to sit at your laptop until you consider the convivial atmosphere shared by a group of folks aged 15 to 70. Every hour featured an instructor that would lead the group through a 35-45 minute exercise. Some of the activities included:
- Create a character, their name, and a secret that when revealed would change their life forever. Then give this creation to the person on your right and let them finish the story.
- List three adjectives, four colors, and two numbers. Write a poem using all of them.
- Amplify this short scene: A woman brings a man to tears without touching him or saying anything.
- Write a “loop story” where the last word of the last sentence is the first word of the next sentence.
- Begin your story with the quote, “Stop staring at me!”
Exercises were optional. A few writers chose to work on their personal writing, including one woman who offered to include a donor’s name in a poem for a $50 pledge. A $100 pledge bought an entire poem an any topic.
At the end of every exercise, door prizes were awarded which offered a delightful break and transition to the next hour. This year’s prizes consisted of a half hour astrology reading, homemade truffles, free workshops, stationary, gift certificates from independent bookstores, tickets to the theater, writing software, and passes for yoga classes.
When the event was over, certificates were passed out. Writers who had participated in previous years were acknowledged.
Altogether, Blazing Laptops 2010 was a marvelous day of community building, creating visibility, raising money, and having a lot of fun!