A Madison organization that recommends books and questions for reading groups is bringing the reading world full circle with the opening of a coworking space made especially for writers.
702WI (the “WI” stands for “writer incubator”) can accept up to eight members at a time to share the space at 702 E. Johnson St.
A cozy space with a funky retro vibe, 702WI allows writers to come and go as they please from 6 a.m. to midnight. Members can cozy up near the orange fireplace or hunker down at the counter butted up against large street-facing windows.
The concept for the writer- focused coworking space came to Reading Group Choices owner Mary Morgan when she was on the lookout for a work area of her own.
“I found a couple offices that would work well, but they were huge and expensive,” she said. “I would be happy to share with other people. So then I was talking to some freelance writers who usually go to the library or Barriques every day and they said, ‘We’d definitely be interested.’ ... It was good to know that other people would want that.”
Memberships can be purchased at three, six or 12-month increments for $300 a month, $250 a month and $200 a month respectively.
Existing writer spaces similar to 702WI can be found in larger cities like Minneapolis, Chicago and New York, Morgan added.
General, larger coworking spaces already exist in Madison, but they don’t necessarily specialize in a particular industry.
Preston Austin, founder and manager of Horizon Coworking at 7 North Pinckney St., said they don’t cater to a specific industry.
However, as coworking grows as an alternative work environment, Austin sees the need for specialized spaces growing as well.
“We’re excited to see coworking spaces with specialties coming together,” he said. “As coworking continues to become a more generally accepted mode of meeting one’s workspace requirements, I think there is room for independent specialized spaces.”
Eugenia Podesta, co-owner of Synergy Coworking at 5201 Old Middleton Rd., said coworking will continue to grow, and various careers can sometimes call for specialized spaces.
“With certain types of work it makes sense, like the creatives,” she said. “There is huge opportunity there since they have specific needs.”
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While 702WI caters to writers in the daytime, it will also moonlight as an event location for Reading Group Choices or local nonprofits that wish to rent it out.
Morgan said she wanted to make the most out of the space because it fits many purposes.
Reading Group Choices plans to host a series of author events starting with “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” author Lorna Landvik on Thursday. The events will bring in different kinds of authors to speak to the public.
Morgan said she is in talks with an author who may come in July and speak at Girls Inc. at the Goodman Community Center. She said she is also connecting with Centro Hispano for an upcoming author event as well.
“We’re just finding different ways to not only be here but to make sure if we’re bringing a resource to Madison they can reach out to communities that might not otherwise have that face-to-face connection,” Morgan said.
“It’s about finding ways to connect the authors to the community,” she added.
The malleability of the space is one of Morgan’s favorite parts of the 702WI concept.
For example, 702WI features quarterly rotating art that incorporates visual art and the written word.
A variety of artwork accentuates the walls of the main workspace, and sculptures by Stevens Point artists Kristin Thielking and Keven Brunett have been installed in the dining area. The pieces by Thielking and Brunett are tongue-shaped sculptures mounted on rods and each is engraved with a term from the Dictionary of American Regional English.
Creating 702WI was a bit of an experiment for Morgan, who mused, “If you build it, will they come?”
It is the first coworking space of its kind in Madison, so only time will tell if the writers’ refuge will succeed. But as a multipurpose space, Morgan has hope it will be a place that people enjoy.
“If it’s a place I wanted to spend time or other people wanted to spend time, it was worth it,” she said.
“As coworking continues to become a more
generally accepted mode of meeting one’s workspace requirements, I think there is room for independent specialized spaces.” Preston Austin Founder and manager of Horizon Coworking