The story of 9 Bridges cannot really be understood without mentioning the Coffee House Writers Group (CHWG), which served as an incubator for this organization.
CHWG started in 2009 as a Meetup.com group offering weekly meetings using an open verbal critique forum. It quickly grew to two regular meeting times a week with an active community on Facebook. The focus of the group was on supporting aspiring writers beginning their journey. A year later a Board of Directors was formed. Elizabyth Harrington, one of the original Board members, immediately began implementing projects to grow CHWG, including developing the mission statement and starting a monthly workshop program.
In March of 2013, Mark and Elizabyth Harrington started a second CHWG chapter in Portland, Oregon. The Portland chapter experienced immediate success and by summer had expanded to three regular meeting times. Write-ins, workshops, special events, and several collaborative online communities on Facebook and through Google Docs soon followed. As the most active and fastest-growing chapter, Portland became the testing ground for the evolution of the organization as a whole. Vargus Pike, locally recognized poet, was one of the earliest Portland members and joined the CHWG Board by the end of the year. The trio, along with members of the Portland chapter, were directly responsible for some of CHWG’s most noteworthy projects, which included the design and implementation of the website, an anthology of short stories and annual participation in the NW Book Fair.
Later that year, Elizabyth Harrington became Chief Administrative Officer of CHWG, with Mark Harrington assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer. The Harringtons worked to transform the organization from a simple critique group into a federally recognized tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit. This included developing a recognizable brand and evolving a methodology that was more community-oriented and not limited to critique groups. They also developed a successful and duplicatable model for new chapters. By early 2015, CHWG had seven chapters in five states, with more than 3000 members.
In March 2015, it became evident that the Harringtons were poised to take the organization to heights that were never dreamed of by the founder and CHWG Board of Directors. At this time the founder decided to go back to her original vision – that of running a small local critique group geared to support beginning writers where she could be a personal inspiration at every meeting.
Recognizing the need for a writing community that offered its members support beyond the critique group format, as well as being faced with the issue of what to do with chapters that were too far away to participate in the founder’s restructured focus, the CHWG Board decided to dissolve and form two new organizations. Using the methodology that had been developed for the Portland chapter and incorporating their vision that supports both beginning as well as seasoned writers in ways that transcend critique groups, the Harringtons and Mr. Pike formed the 9 Bridges Writers Guild.
The name “9 Bridges” was chosen because as a community, this organization’s main purpose is to provide ways to connect writers with their peers, education opportunities, services and events. These “bridges” help dispel the idea that writing has to be done alone. While there are many ways to do this, we identified nine key points in our vision that we wanted to focus on (see our vision statement). We believe that, in addition to being a community for our writers, its important to develop strong and lasting relationships and partnerships with other literary organizations. We are proud to be affiliated with the Oregon Writers Colony, Willamette Writers, CHWG and the NWPA.