Every Writer Needs a Writers’ Group

Diane Helentjaris
4 min readJun 21, 2022

Collaboration is the secret sauce to a happy writing life

Photo compliments off Andrez Lazic on Unsplash

Planning my business trip to Manhattan back in the 1980s, I decided I’d stay at the Algonquin Hotel. I’d heard of the Algonquin Round Table, the group of wits, writers, actors, and critics who lunched together daily for the decade beginning in 1919. I wanted to see what they’d seen, sit where they sat, and imagine the words flowing from the likes of Dorothy Parker and Harpo Marx. I wanted a break from the universal sameness of the Marriotts and Hiltons and Comfort Inns. I got it.

Of course, the cabby taking me there tried to do a run-around and add a couple blocks to the trip. He wrongly assumed I’d never been to the Big City. I set him back the direct way and we soon pulled up to the towering 1902 hotel.

I was delighted with my choice. Old-fangled plumbing in my tiny room surely must have been in place when writer and cartoonist James Thurber lived in the hotel. Small white and black tiles covered the bathroom floor. The closet door had been thickened with repeated coats of white paint. I ate breakfast on red leatherette banquettes in the Round Table room, the very room used in earlier decades by the group of writers and cultural mavens. I imagined their clinking glasses and chuckles as I downed my orange juice the next morning.

The Algonquin Hotel. Photo compliments of Wikimedia Commons

At my meeting later that day, I sat by a couple from Cleveland. They asked and I shared where I was staying and was horrified when the woman — a native of Brooklyn or one such borough — dropped “I heard John and Jane Roach live there.” I immediately recalled the white powder along the baseboard in my historic vintage closet back at the hotel and the unusual chemical smell in a few spots. Oh, well.

Whatever urban shortfalls infested the hotel in the 1980s, it had at one time sheltered and cosseted creatives. For centuries, writers and other artists have banded together to share business tips, gain emotional support, be inspired, and learn.

Emily Dickenson, or at least the Emily of mainstream media, was an outlier, hiding and stuffing her poetry into the bureau drawer. Few writers are…

Diane Helentjaris

Writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of the new historical fiction novel The Indenture of Ivy O’Neill,.www.DianeHelentjaris.com