A Short History of Inkwell

Inkwell started in 2015 with a simple goal: create a free, open literary community where people could learn more about literature and writing for free. It started as a group called Poetry, Prose, and Pubs, and we met at Camel the first time, but we quickly moved to Taphouse on West Nanjing Road. After things got cold, it started meeting in January Café and then the shared office space Sandbox before finding its long-term space at the editorial conference room at Global Times in Jingan. Until spring of 2018, it stayed a single, multi-genre workshop that Ryan led personally, which focused primarily on fiction with a splash of other genres.

The first change to that model came in 2018 was when Chadi convinced Ryan to run a writing retreat on Chongming Island. It focused on novel writing, and 18 people gathered on the island to study novel writing for three days. Since then, retreat has run twice a year (with the exception being 2020 due to Covid), and it gets a bit better each time we do it.

In early 2019, Inkwell left Global Times because they were going digital and didn’t need all that office space anymore. As a result, we needed a new home, and we met at IG Coffee on Anfu Lu for a bit, but then we settled at TY7 on Shaoxing Lu and remained there until Christmas of 2020. During our TY7 years, the workshop started expanding in many different ways. In 2017, we changed our name to The Shanghai Writing Workshop because it explained what we did a little better, and we developed several different types of workshops. In 2019, we started a poetry workshop, and in 2020, we started a creative non-fiction workshop.

Once the three workshops were settled, we expanded into other areas of writing and literature by starting a book club in the fall of 2020 and poetry discussion in spring of 2021, and translation and screenwriting workshops in 2021.

In fall of 2020, we started expanding into other cities and offering free workshops. Since then, we have workshops in Suzhou, Ningbo, Nanjing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen with several more interesting prospects on the horizon. In 2021, we changed our name to Inkwell because we had grown past just doing writing workshops and our network now extended past Shanghai.

The Inkwell community continues to grow each month, and we do hope that you decide to join us. There are always opportunities to help with events and admin. It has only grown as large as it has by the amazing work of our volunteers who are too numerous to name. Our mission remains the same: we aim to give free, quality writing and literature education to as many people as possible. So if you have a good idea for an event or wish to start an Inkwell in your community, please contact Ryan at submissions@inkwell.asia.