We had the good fortune of connecting with Alison Harney and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alison, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I felt called to start Writing Room ATL mostly through a personal need to heal. I had earned an MFA in creative writing, published a few poems, written a novel and even signed with an agent. I felt like my writing life was moving along, and after my child was born, I would quit all of my random jobs and really own my career as a writer. As is often the case with creative work, my book didn’t work out like I wanted. I took it very hard. I was not the thick-skinned, resilient artist that the world told me was required for success. I felt both my book and my personal character were failures. Through yoga, therapy, journaling, reading, and conversations I began deeply examining my writing and spiritual life. Why write? How do you make sense of following a dream or an idea when the world has so many practical needs? How do you manage your ego in a writing life? I came to know that, at its best, writing is a spiritual practice like yoga, a practice that you show up for, are loyal to, and that you create a relationship with, allowing for better or worse days/weeks. I also knew that writing and publishing were two separate beasts–writing a mystical creature that surprises, delights and even has the power to elucidate your soul, while publishing demands you stay tough and fiscally viable (that is, if it doesn’t ignore you completely). I wanted to create a space to explore writing in which my definition of success was no longer dependent on publishing or academia, and that fostered the growth of authentic relationships. I started with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I wanted it to be all women. The class filled. I’ve since facilitated several online writing classes, and helped women one on one write their memoirs through editing, encouragement, accountability, and even book design. I have seen how women struggle to prioritize writing, and how everyone has a story they want or need to tell, or has memories they fear losing or not passing along. Often too, women have stories of pain that need an audience, but they don’t need a published audience (don’t even want one because lord help us if the subject were to read it!) An audience of five or eight can be enough to feel validated and witnessed, known. Sometimes people need to be able to tell the whole story, uninterrupted in all its detail without feeling weird about dominating the conversation or turning a get-together toward their own darkness. Writing allows for this. Writing Room ATL has proven to me that writing is a healing, bonding tool. There is magic in healing, and there is magic in creating lines and images that didn’t exist before. I’ve come to recognize that I can talk line breaks and help people carve out time, but I believe the biggest value I offer people is simply caring about what they have to say.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I have been busy recently shaping and designing a memoir and training guide by a woman who became a World Champion sprinter in her 40s after having three children! I’ve also been working with a woman who is telling her story about moving from communist Russia to the US, and her journey to find self-defined joy. I facilitate workshops in which the first few classes are dedicated primarily to writing with only a brief time to share. Then we move into workshopping pieces by participants each week. I keep classes small, and found that if I do six or eight weeks with a fee, people can commit and show up for one another better. I stay busy planning prompts or short topics for these classes, and reading and commenting on participant work. I also do all kinds of random (sometimes boring) proof reading and design jobs to round out my income. And then, there is the novel I’m writing.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots you could take them to?
Is it a pandemic still? I hope not. We would just walk. We would walk Grant Park, to the Beltline through Glenwood Park, grab a coffee and avocado toast at Muchachos. Stroll through Krog tunnel and then stop in at Ponce City Market for wine, an Indian salad if hot out, or clam chowder if it was cold. We would eventually get to Piedmont Park and sit a while. Energy permitting, we would go on to the Botanical Gardens. Then take a Lyft home. We would go to Gardenhood, and buy plants. We would go to Grant Park Market for impossible burgers and buy tall boys to drink secretly in the Oakland Cemetery. It’s hard to imagine being comfortable going inside anywhere…to Highland yoga again, to see a play at the Alliance, to laugh really hard at Lace Larrabee’s stand up shows…but if I could I would.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Kimberly Broerman, founder of Deep Waters which offers spiritual direction, listened and listened to me and helped connect me with women eager to write. Lace Larrabee for offering all women’s stand-up comedy classes that made me also want to create space for women to tell their stories. TJ Mangrum who is an amazing yoga teacher and inspired me to consider the page like the mat. Sarah Price of Neon Cardigan was able to help me get over the hump and make my first class happen by helping with practical business advice.

Website: www.writingroomatl.com
Instagram: writingroomatl

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