What does “No Safeword” mean?

In BDSM culture, a “safeword” is a word, phrase or non-verbal signal agreed upon by two or more people that, when uttered or evoked, brings all bondage/pain/sex activities to an immediate and complete stop. A safeword is usually used when the target of such activity has had all they can stand right at that moment.

In No Safeword Writers Group culture, “No Safeword” means two things. Primarily, it means that no word is safe – your readers will put red ink on any part of the page we please!

It also means that when you come to our workshop you can’t refuse to read, edit and talk about a particular piece of writing simply because the erotic expression in it isn’t your kink. You can’t refuse to work on LGBT-themed stories because you’re straight, and you can’t refuse to workshop heterosexual-themed writing because you’re gay.

Is there any reason why I wouldn’t be welcome at a No Safeword Writers Group meeting?

The only real limit we have at NSWG is age: local, state and national laws say you must be at least 18 years old to attend our workshops and meetings. That’s the same rule you find on everything else in Seattle that has anything to do with sex.

Beyond that, we accept members of all writing skill levels, education levels, shapes, sizes, colors, philosophies, backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, kinks, tastes, persuasions and pretty much any other difference you can name! I (the current organizer) am transgender, and I do my best to make this a welcoming environment for everyone.

What format does NSWG use for workshop?

NSWG uses a format modeled after the workshops in graduate MFA programs, adjusted for the realities of irregular and unpredictable attendance. Even though we have regulars in the group, everyone can’t make it every single time. We almost always have new people at our table each session, too. Distributing work in advance (as many writers groups do) just isn’t feasible.

Our workshop usually starts with a few minutes of chatter, and then the person who’s being workshopped will pass out copies for everyone to read. The readers are instructed to edit the story as though they had written it, to make suggestions at any level, from pointing out plot holes to tweaking the flow of individual sentences. “Imagine you wrote this story five years ago, stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it. How would you write it?”

We spend about an hour reading and marking up the copy, then spend the second hour discussing the piece around the table. The author does their best to remain quiet – the point is for them to hear what their readers think, not to defend the work from criticism! Once the discussion is done, the author collects all the copies. They’ll get several (usually conflicting) suggestions on how to edit things. They get to take home all the feedback, make whatever changes they feel like, and throw away the rest. 🙂

Do I have to pay dues to be a member of NSWG?

No! We volunteer our time at NSWG, and there are no expenses to speak of (red pens are cheap). We do meet in a restaurant, however, and if you’re able, grab yourself something to eat or drink in order to thank Bamboo Garden for allowing us to meet there.

Do I have to submit my own writing for workshop in order to be a member of NSWG?

No. We have people in the group who’ve been coming for years who have never submitted their own work for review. It doesn’t matter! They’re still very vital members of NSWG because they perform the task that every writer in the group needs: they’re critical readers!

I’ve killed that excuse for you too! What are you waiting for? 🙂

I’ve never been to a NSWG meeting before but I’ve written this really great story. Can I bring it with me/plan to have it workshopped during my first meeting?

Sorry, but no. Experience has shown us that it’s best for new members (and for us) if they get a chance to sit on the other side of the table first, as a reader/reviewer before they’re in the barrel for the first time themselves. The best way to understand the process is to participate.

I’m an author / publisher / promoter. Can I come and speak with you, or hand out fliers, or promote the event I’m running?

No. This is a workshop group – we don’t do guest speakers, and we’re not here to be marketed to about your new novel / publishing platform / convention. You are as welcome to attend and participate as anyone else, but please leave your fliers and promotional materials at home.