Pen to Paper: Lounge Writers Imparts Professional Knowledge and Inspiration During the Pandemic
With many people writing during the pandemic, writers needing to hone their skills is all the more important. That’s why one group, Lounge Writers, provides the writing community with affordable instruction to develop those skills.
Lounge Writers (formerly known as the Las Vegas Writers Lounge), is a local creative writing studio where writers of all levels come to enhance their craft and thrive. Founded in 2018 by Oksana Marafioti, the organization offers workshops, lectures, classes, and panels led by professional and award-winning writers.
According to Marafioti, writers often give up on their dream of writing before fully exploring it, adding that while talent and inspiration go far, writing is a craft that’s all about resilience and learning.
“We're here to help writers feel empowered and in control of their aspirations - to bring talent and craft together and inspire writers to keep creating,” she said. “Our goal is also to make creative writing education accessible to writers of all levels and economic backgrounds.”
An award-winning author, Marafioti has written titles such as American Gypsy: A Memoir and a paranormal thriller, Donatti's Lunatics, written under the pen name, ‘Ana Mara.’
She was the 2013 recipient of the Library of Congress Kluge Center Fellowship for her research, titled, Magical Realism in Russia: How Ancestry Worship, Shamanism & Christianity Shaped the Nation. She is also the current recipient of the Picador Excellence in Literature Award from the University of Leipzig, Germany.
Living in Vegas for over 20 years and meeting many writers who sought ways to connect and learn about writing, she noticed there weren’t any local creative writing studios, only creative classes offered through the local colleges.
“Though [they are] great, higher education writing programs aren't always accessible or affordable to everyone,” said Marafioti, adding that she taught a four-day writing workshop back in 2018 to writers at the Henderson Writers Group.
“The experience was so enjoyable and enriching that I just continued teaching, and the writers kept on coming,” she said. “Now, Lounge Writers fills the need for more affordable and genre-inclusive creative writing education, not just locally but internationally.”
Marafioti expressed how the Lounge separates itself from other writing groups, being “all about the craft,” adding that while you can’t teach a talent, the craft is available for anyone interested in learning it.
“There are plenty of places where one can learn about creative writing, but often students learn theories without any applicable knowledge,” she said. “We give students the tools they can use right away to improve their stories and stay inspired. We provide these necessary tools to help writers become independent creators of their own stories - writers who, at some point, will no longer need a teacher.”
Due to the pandemic, the Lounge has moved its workshops online and quickly got comfortable teaching virtually. Since creativity is their focus, Marafioti said that the change didn’t jar them too much and actually opened up the world to them in “unimaginable ways.”
“Our students tune in from all over: [the] U.K., India, Taiwan, France, Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, [and so on]. The experience has created a stronger community of writers around the Lounge,” she said. “Not only has it enriched our teaching and learning, but it also helps all of us in those meetings think about creativity in ways we might not have considered in the past.”
With people coming together from all over the country and the world, it has created “rich soil for more creativity to thrive.”
Once it is safe to do so, the Lounge’s in-person classes will resume. Marafioti said that they plan to continue their online classes and videos with coursework and start a YouTube channel devoted to craft talks and author interviews.
According to Marafioti, while she herself teaches many of the workshops, the Lounge has had the honor of hosting several “highly accomplished guests and returning instructors” from the Las Vegas community and abroad. These guests include