Shut Up & Write! movement catches fire in Sacramento

Shut Up & Write! has become the mantra of hundreds of Sacramento-area scribes and more than 10,000 people nationwide who converge on coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces several times weekly to, yes, shut up and write for an hour at a time.

That includes local writers from 18 to 85.

“It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of energy in a room with all these people typing on their laptops,” said one of those local members, Cinamon Vann. “People totally respect the format and get really excited; they’ll shush people.”

Vann and fellow professional writer Janna Marlies Maron in 2013 founded the Sacramento chapter of the meetup group Shut Up & Write! which was started in San Francisco in 2007.

“We’ve grown to 763 members on Meetup, produced thousands of pages and hosted more than 500 events including a four- to five-hour mini-marathon session each month,” said Vann, who’s working on a short story.

With all writing genres welcome, 15 writers Sunday occupied one side of the Shine Sacramento coffeehouse in midtown, pounding out memoirs, fantasy novels, true crime, teen adventure, screenplays, a cookbook and even a scientific abstract.

For writers who can shut up for only so long, there’s a companion Writers Who Wine, which meets Thursday nights for libation and conversation.

Sunday’s session – one of six or seven held weekly – began with introductions and tech support from veteran member Nolan Neikirk for anyone having trouble with Wi-Fi connections or other issues. Three members went old-school, writing longhand on yellow legal pads or spiral notebooks.

From 1:30 to 2:30 the few sounds to be heard were the gentle tapping of keyboards and the occasional steam and grind of the coffee machines churning out Love Potion #9, a white chocolate raspberry mocha, or Namaste lattes of Matcha tea, a touch of vanilla and agave nectar. Indie-folk songs, including “Keep It Upstairs” by The National and Josh Garrels’ “Over Oceans,” were a calming backdrop.

“The Sacramento Shut Up & Write groups are super-friendly, super-supportive,” said Elizabeth Paige, who moved to Sacramento from Alameda eight months ago and on Sunday worked on an online class based on her book “Petitations,” about pet-centered meditation.

Kathy Sanders, a retired computer analyst for the state, was working on a memoir about the loss of her kids to tragedy. Dr. Elizabeth Kim, a cancer surgeon, drove from Roseville to write a journal article about disease that affects the breasts. David Morrison, a West Sacramento computer scientist, dug into his fantasy novel, “War of the Five Gods.”

Kat McOmie, a school psychologist from Sacramento, was crafting a story based on the hippie back-to-the-land movement of the ’60s. She shared a table with Rabiia Abdul-Ali, who retired from CalSTRS to write full time. Sunday she worked on a true-crime book. “I find it’s really helpful to be around other writers – it’s a lot easier to sit down and write when everyone else is doing it,” she said.

By 2:30, Kim’s journal article was done, and so were several chapters around the room, including one by 82-year-old Ann Bateman, a retired teacher from Elk Grove whose heroes, teddy bears Oliver Theodore Bear and Herschel Chocolate Bear, go to Alaska to see how global warming is affecting the polar bears and wind up running into Bigfoot.

Shut Up & Write’s Sacramento groups have produced a number of completed manuscripts, including “The Big Bucket List Book: 133 Experiences of a Lifetime,” which was published last month and is available on Amazon. Jennifer Basye Sander – who goes by the pen name Gin Sander – said she drives from her Shingle Springs home several times a week for one of the Meetup groups. “I’ve been a professional writer for years, writing book after book, but the longer I’m away from an office routine, the slower I get. I’m so distracted; I’m a procrastinator, and I needed something to get me started and that’s what Shut Up & Write! does for me.”

Sander, 57, said the group has saved her career. “I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer get anything done at home. I love the idea that nobody’s chatting. It drives me crazy to be around writers who don’t actually write, but just talk about what they’re going to write. From the very name, Shut Up & Write!, you know why you’re there.”

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @StephenMagagnini