Writers, get your pencils ready. This Saturday marks the first-ever Washington Write-a-Story Day, a community-service program created by New York novelist Joyce Hackett when she was a writer-in-residence at George Washington University last year. Hackett's aim? To extend the resources of the national literary community beyond a privileged few by offering a day of free creative writing workshops in and around the District.

From 2 to 5 p.m., more than 40 workshops will take place in neighborhoods spanning the city, from Observatory Circle to Anacostia to Shephard Park (see www.joycehackett.com for details). A diverse group of novelists, journalists and poets have volunteered to instruct, including W. Ralph Eubanks, Judith Hillman Paterson and Matthew Klam. During each class, both instructors and students will write short stories about an experience in a local public place -- be it the Capitol, a cafe on U street or the Vienna Metro station. The stories can take any form the writer desires, from fiction to poetry to song lyrics. The following day, a selection of stories will be shared at a public reading by award-winning author Jonathan Safran Foer.

You needn't have previous writing experience to participate: Hackett isn't trying to help budding novelists jump-start their careers, but rather to start a city-wide conversation about what it means to live here. "I hope the day will explore how Washingtonians experience their neighbors and their city, " she says. "I want to map the city via narrative."

Terri Sapienza

Pencil on stack of spiral notebooks