Salon Esse: A Retrospective

It really was ten years ago this summer I attended Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and returned to NYC with the idea for a writing salon. No critical feedback, no suggestions. Just read new work to each other on a monthly Friday night. We were compelled to write, but not anxious about having that raw work torn apart. We were inspired by each other’s literary sallies. We listened to non-verbal reactions and made notes for revision. We learned to keep our readings to under 1,000 words for the sake of getting sleep. We crossed genre. We met on rooftops and in gardens in midsummer. We wrote about each other. We hugged a lot. And we always brought something for the table. Eat, drink, listen.

Our first gatherings were on my couches, and soon they spread to the couches of other members around the city. So many members joined and then left, while some are in their tenth year. So many children have been born to members (most of them boys!). Other salons have even popped up around the country, founded by former members and interested friends. And so so so many pieces have been read, there’s no way no to count, though during my tenure I tried.

I left after year eight to move to the sticks. Salon, beautifully, goes on and on. A measure of how a simple literary exercise needs nothing more to be sustainable than love of words and kindness toward each other.

Dana Perry, one of Salon’s keepers, is taking us public next week for a ten-year celebration. I’m working on a new piece, and as with Salon many times before, the imminent gathering compels me to write, to eke out time readying this new piece enough for a reading with my friends, to have the very first show of it as a somewhat shaped thing be for Salon.