SWA Hosts 12-Hour Writing Marathon

Madeleine Sardina and a sleeping Amaya Hoke in the early hours of the morning. (Photo by Chantelle Mitchell)

Last spring, Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Student Writers Association hosted its first ever 24-Hour Writing Marathon in Fogelson Library. The turnout was impressive, with SFUAD students from multiple majors joining in for a day’s worth of creating and sharing art of all sorts: writing, painting, sketching, etc. This semester, SWA leaders Kylie Yockey and Madeleine Sardina decided to cut the marathon time in half. At 9 p.m. on Oct. 7, students and alumni gathered in the library with sleeping bags and coffee and set out on their 12-hour writing journey.

With the number of students on campus being significantly smaller than it was during the previous marathon, the event had a more intimate atmosphere. The participants all stayed within the same area amongst the bean bags and blankets, sharing the pizza, coffee and hot cocoa provided by SWA. This semester, all of the attendees were current Creative Writing and Literature students or SFUAD alumni. The night began with everyone excitedly catching up and talking about what they hoped to work on for the next 12 hours. Some senior CWL students hoped to tackle some revisions for their senior books and work on graduate school applications, while some alumni were just excited to be back in a writing environment after graduating.

Every two hours, Yockey and  Sardina facilitated raffles and open mics, and also provided optional writing prompts for the group. The conversation and energy levels during the event came in waves. At one moment, the library would be silent save for the sound of fingers tapping on keys or people giggling at their screens as they took Netflix breaks; at the next, writers would be discussing anything from their first kisses to choosing good names for fictional cities.

During the intermittent open mics, writers shared their writing with the group. “I was working on my Pride and Prejudice adaptation,” says Melissa Dow, CWL senior. The final for this semester’s Jane Austen class is to write an adaptation of one of Austen’s works. Dow showed great excitement and shared a lively excerpt with the group. The writing marathon proved to be beneficial to her by the end. “…Even though I was exhausted from start to finish, it was a lot of fun. I made a lot of progress,” Dow says.

Kylie Yockey falls asleep in the midst of writing. (Photo by Chantelle Mitchell)

Andrew Koss, SFUAD alumnus, read a piece he had started during the last marathon. “I wrote a few different things during the event, mostly poetry or prose poetry. I’ve been doing that a lot since I graduated, which is weird, because I didn’t really write much poetry during my time at SFUAD,” Koss says. “I continued a prose poetry piece I started at last year’s writing marathon. It’s a super personal piece, which also has a kind of hidden hermit crab format. I hope to continue it without waiting for another all-night marathon to work on it.”

As the sun began to rise, some students were still awake and few snored softly. Writers talked about sunrises and how they’re romanticized, some of them expressing that they “weren’t all that.” Koss conducted an interview (what it was for is still to be determined) in which he went around the room and asked each person a question about himself; anything from “Why do I write such long pieces?” to “Why don’t you know more about me?” (to which Dow responded sarcastically, “Because you’re so old”).

“It was surprisingly quiet at times, which I don’t always find at the actual SWA meetings,” Koss says. “I have difficulty writing with noise around me, so I was pleased with that. It was also good to see some of my friends that I don’t get to see as often and hear what they’re working on. I was a little delirious by the end of the event, though. I was ready to go home and sleep. I think cutting it down to 12 hours was a good idea.”

As the 12-hour mark neared, the mental state of the writers was clearly deteriorating. Many giggled needlessly, talked about ghost pirates and daydreamed about what food they wanted to eat. The library was quiet as the marathon ended and everyone packed up. The writers seemed happy to go home and sleep. Compared to the previous writing marathon, this event felt more contained. The task of writing for 12 hours seemed much less daunting than writing for 24.

“I just really love feeling immersed in the community like that,” says Yockey, “I didn’t really know writing communities existed until coming to SFUAD and joining SWA, so now being able to be so integrated in it and help facilitate that environment for others is super warm-and-fuzzy inducing. And this overnighter in particular felt really focused and intimate, perfect for my last semester with these amazing and talented writers.”