Around the Bloc

Cindy Dach, 38, who co-founded the eye lounge gallery/ artists' collective with her husband, photographer and public arts advocate Greg Esser, talks about the couple's latest labor of love, Writers' Bloc, a California-style bungalow just off Roosevelt Row that soon will be home to downtown's first writers' collective.

While Cindy Dach is known locally for her involvement in the visual arts, she also contributes to national and regional magazines, writes short stories for her own handmade books, teaches a writing group for high school girls called Fems With Pens, and brings top writers to town in her role as events and marketing coordinator for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. Starting a writers' collective is something Dach had wanted to do for a long time, and she was inspired by the success of the Writers' Grotto in San Francisco, home to 20 nationally recognized writers, including Po Bronson, Ethan Watters, and Mary Roach. When she finally got the chance a couple of years ago to meet some of the Grotto's members -- people who got the idea right, she says -- Dach got practical advice on how to give Phoenix writers a place of their own. Dach and Esser found the house for Writers' Bloc about a year ago, and it's taken that long to turn it into a usable space.

How she knew this was the right location: It's funny, there's different spaces that I walk into and have a certain feeling, and this is one of those spaces that any time there were a lot of people in here, it felt good, but you could still have private conversations. So it really told us that it kind of wanted to be a writers' collective. Not that I'm intuitive, but I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

An early discovery about the house: It needed a lot more work than we realized -- a lot more. So we've been using the front room as temporary gallery space, and we've let some artists stay here, work here, while we've been getting it into the condition that people could be in it and not kill themselves.

The history of the building: What I've heard from the neighbors is that it was a taxi company, about two years ago.

Room for improvement: Oh my God. There was basically no bathroom. There was a room for the bathroom, but there was no toilet. It was just gross. The ducts had to be cleaned because if you turned the air on, you could see the dirt coming out. We pulled out carpeting, which was also gross.

Decorating tips: Putting up curtains and curtain rods was one of the first things we did because we just felt it would give it a homier look. And we put in lights. There were dangling bulbs.

The likely hangout: In the kitchen, we'll have a fax machine, a copier, refrigerator, coffee machine, things that everybody can use. Say two people are working on their novel, and they just get to know each other -- maybe they set themselves deadlines -- and this is a place where they could talk.

How the bills will get paid: What we're looking at now is having more members than we actually have offices, so people are scheduled 20 to 30 hours a week here. And the whole place will be wireless, including the porch, so anyone who's a member can come in, even if they're not scheduled for a desk.

Why Writers' Bloc matters: As the arts are growing in Phoenix, it's important to make sure it's not only about visual artists. It's important that writers, dancers and musicians are involved.

What Dach has learned from the first collective she started, eye lounge: Being able to look at the group of people sort of with a bird's-eye view and seeing people's strengths. This is a small, private space, and the truth is, there's not going to be room in here for a competitive person. You want a competitive nature within yourself, but you don't want that person running around and knocking on everybody's door.

Who's welcome to join: I like to say serious writers, which means anybody who wants professional space to work in. I would love to see novel writers, journalists, play writers, even people who do poetry.

What's happened to Dach's own writing since she began organizing collectives: I used to do much longer fiction, and some nonfiction, but I've certainly found it very difficult while I'm drywalling to write longer pieces.

Why a home office isn't always enough: Home is a great place to work, but I think sometimes if you don't know other people working, and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, you do that instead. Here, there's no dishwasher to empty.

"Matter," the latest exhibition of Cindy Dach's text-based art, will be featured at eye lounge starting Friday, January 7.

For more information about Writers' Bloc, located at 902 North Sixth Street, e-mail [email protected].

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig