Marathon Magic with New Marathon Pals in Columbia, MO

In early August of 2016, I was fortunate enough to take part in a writing marathon as part of a writing project leadership retreat in Columbia, Missouri.  It’s always fun to share the marathon technique with newbies, and we had two on this quick jaunt that turned out to be packed with juicy writer moments even though we only had a couple of hours to wander.  Many thanks to Bryan, Liz, and Jen for being such awesome marathon buddies!


1:55 Flatbranch Brewery

Blessed to be on a surprise writing marathon with two people who have never been on one before, though they don’t seem like newbies to me.  Flatbranch Irish red is soft and full of malty sweetness, perfect for a rainy Monday in Columbia.

I was sad today at the marathon launch, that no mention was made of Richard Louth, founder of the New Orleans Writing Marathon, and the site he directs, the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, where the marathon was born more than 20 years ago.  Legend has it that Richard was leading a Professional Development session for Louisiana writing teachers who had gathered in New Orleans for a conference.  He had planned to do a Natalie Goldberg-style writing  marathon, with several rounds of writing and sharing there in the conference room.  But, he could feel the teachers out there under the ballroom lights of the Monteleone Hotel, with the alluring French Quarter just 30 floors below them, wistful. Longing.

Suddenly, he made a change and decided to take the marathon on the road, to let teachers out to be writers in the world.  He let them form their own groups, he let them follow their feet and go where they wanted, write where they wanted.

He worried, he said, that they wouldn’t come back.  Worried that they would be overtaken by spirits or by shopping, or whatever.  But they did. They did come back.

And, when they did, they were somehow changed.


3:00 Tropical Liqueurs (a.k.a. “Trop’s”)

We make a collaborative decision to walk two blocks to the Tropical Liqueurs on Broadway.

Trop’s is a legend in these parts, and difficult to describe.  Inside, a blue-green light rope hovers over a row of daiquiri machines, swirling, some gently, some quickly.  The Tiger Paw machine and the Silver Bullet machine have their own light-up signs.  They are also slightly larger than the others, leading me to wonder if they are the most popular.  The “Retro Flavor of the Month” is Amaretto Sour.


The Silver Bullet, I read, is 190 proof: Grain Alcohol with lemonade and Sprite.  The others have equally daunting lists of ingredients.

Who would be here on a Monday afternoon?

Writers.  And, a woman who comes in and orders two Toasted Almonds with two added shots for each—butterscotch and salted caramel.

She is making someone very happy today.

The table we’ve landed at is sticky.  And not just normal sticky.  Sticky like it’s been sticky for years, layers of sugary frozen booze spilled and spilled and mopped up but never really removed, never really absorbed, each drop, puddle, and slough forevermore a sticking point for the place.

I sip my complimentary DD fruit punch and feel the back of my throat clench, feel the bits of tropical punch powder coating my tongue, my teeth, the backs of my eyeballs.   Sparks and flecks of flavor crystals spin sticky galaxies, melting into the rain behind us in the parking lot.



4:08 Stony Creek Inn Hotel and Lodge

Ode to Faux Lodge Décor in the Lounge

O, antlers!  O, rustic-look high-top tables,

O, antique wooden skis and hacksaw,

O, old-timey radio and vintage suitcase:

you sit in an empty bar rattling now with an industrial fan scaring the dampness and the patrons away.

Your table tents flop and fold, hawking Stony Creek signature house wines.

Beyond the plastic pine trees, the TV is tuned to the Food Network.

Guests walk through your double doors looking for the restrooms,

Flip flops and ball caps and dinosaur  t-shirts ramble past, not stopping.

You wait for nightfall, for happy hour, for the $3 specials on Pink Fix Blush and Canyon Road Merlot to start flowing.

In the soft light and the antler shadows, you wait for people to see past the polyurethane coating,

wait for them to look around for their friends, shiver against the raging AC and think that maybe,

just for a moment,

they smell wood smoke.


  1. Aahhh Columbia! I was not a ‘normal’ college student while there. I went to Trops once or twice but only as a legal 21 year old consumer. The party scene wasn’t for me, instead I spent my time studying, volunteering, and working my tail off. Often I wish I could go back, for just one semester. Free of responsibilities, stressors beyond school, and enjoy time on campus. Thank you!

  2. I’ve been to Columbia and actually gotten out of my car twice. The first time I was flown in on a helicopter and spent a glorious 5 days resting in a bed. Apparently I was the life of the party, saying things that were downright crazy and interesting at the same time. Yay for ICU drugs!
    The second time was I stopped at Walmart and shopped before heading on down to Jefferson City.

    All of that aside, I enjoy your writing marathon posts because it seems like so much fun to run off to places and parts unknown and just sit down and write about them. I’m relatively new to the whole “writing as fun” world, and this is probably the best type of introduction (or indoctrination as some of you say) that I could ask for. Keep going. Go see something else neat and tell us about it.

  3. I love the Tropical Liqueurs piece. The descriptions were so vivid and palpable. I feel like I could really taste that un-dissolved tropical punch powder. 😉

    I always love that you are so passionate about writing marathons. I heard a quote recently (I forgot who said it or what it exactly said) that talked about people being drawn to other people’s passions when they express that passion; I thought of how intrepid you are with your adoration for writing marathons when I heard it! 🙂

  4. I love that writing marathons can be something different for everyone present…even in the same place. Even if you have gone on hundreds of marathons, each one offers a new and worthwhile experience.
    I love how you write about the sticky sweetness coating the back of your eyeballs. “I sip my complimentary DD fruit punch and feel the back of my throat clench, feel the bits of tropical punch powder coating my tongue, my teeth, the backs of my eyeballs. Sparks and flecks of flavor crystals spin sticky galaxies, melting into the rain behind us in the parking lot.” It’s so true. That sweetness that makes you crave more sweet and makes you never want anything with sugar in it ever again – all at the same time.

    p.s. I tried to comment using my iPad last night and I did not fare well. I hope that this is not a duplicate comment.

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