In our imaginations, writers sit in high-backed chairs, surrounded by books. They have space to roam and mumble to themselves, windowsills to lean against. They gaze at old skyscrapers, searching the facades for inspiration, as the city bustles below.
That is exactly what it’s like to work in the What Cheer Writers Club, a brand-new co-working space for local literary artists. The club occupies the second floor of a Westminster Street office building, and here you’ll find everything the urban literati could want: desks, upholstered seating, nooks packed with dusty volumes, a conference room, a classroom, and a podcasting studio.
What Cheer was dreamed up by Anne Holland, a longtime business writer and author of numerous books. When her job encouraged her to work remotely, Holland quickly became stir-crazy, and she yearned for creative company.
“I had a hard time getting up in the morning and working in a home office,” Holland recalls. “What I realized is, most writers in the area don’t know each other. Mystery writers know other mystery writers all over the world, but they don’t know if there’s anybody else in Rhode Island who is a mystery writer. So I thought, what if I open a writer’s club and meet my peers locally?”
The club is a nonprofit, and Holland doesn’t take a salary. The only paid member is General Manager Jillian Winters, who has worked previously for the Providence Children’s Museum and other organizations. Together, they have overseen the renovation of the long-vacant office space and the enrollment of local writers.
What Cheer had its soft opening on June 1, and Holland and Winters are beta-testing their new club. They haven’t advertised, but their sandwich board on the street corner has attracted plenty of attention; they predicted five sign-ups by the end of the month, but they already have a dozen active members, who cover the gamut of media and styles.
“There’s a little bit of everybody,” says Winters. “We have people who make ‘zines. Someone came in who makes greeting cards. We’re hoping for more journalists and illustrators.”
Holland plans to host workshops, classes, and visiting author events. Meanwhile, writers can pick from several membership levels, entitling them to coffee, a mailbox, shared office space, and other perks.
After living in many different cities, Holland was drawn to Providence, where she’s been based for five years. “I always wanted to live here,” she says. “And when I found out I could work virtually, this is exactly where I wanted to be.” 160 Westminster Street