My husband has taken up bird watching during the pandemic. In the mornings, I can usually find him sitting in the rocking chair, looking out the window at the birds fluttering around our back deck, sipping his coffee. He has purchased a variety of different feeders and seeds over the last year and spent hours with “The Audubon Bird Guide” on his lap, calling out the names of the birds he sees. He is an engineer, after all: he likes to categorize things. “Look,” he will say. “A brown creeper on the maple tree.” Or “Oh, I thought that one over there was a house finch, but it’s just a hoary redpoll.” And “See that? The pileated woodpecker is back again.” I dutifully look out the window. To me, it just looks like a bunch of birds. But to my husband, these are the creatures he has invited into our backyard, fed and nurtured, and grown to recognize. Because he has taught himself about these various birds, he delights in their movements, their habits, their presence.
I suspect that for most of us, writing is a lot like this as well. While most of us can write (just like most of us can watch birds), to devote time and energy to learning something for the sheer enjoyment of it is what makes us uniquely human. Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to the Poets’ Group (a group of local poets who meet monthly to share their works-in-progress), and I was struck by their appreciation not just of the writing itself, but one another. This is one of the best parts of working in the Community Writing Center—to witness the joy that comes from spending a person spending their time learning to do something they care about deeply.
During the month of February, we continue to offer our Poets’ Group and our individual writing consultations (via Zoom or email) for any piece of writing you might be doing. We have two workshops on writing scholarship essays coming up as well; the information for these free workshops and consultations can be found on our website, www.communitywritingcenter.com. We also wanted to encourage you to participate in our Community Read of “Kindred” by Octavia Butler; we have Zoom conversations scheduled throughout the month to talk with other folks about this (very interesting) novel, and you can learn more about this initiative at www.Justicelibrary.org.
We wanted to share with you what we’ve been reading. Helen just finished “The Glass Hotel” by Emily St. John Mandel. This novel, focused on a Ponzi scheme, makes some interesting rhetorical moves with character and voice. Chris recommends, in honor of African American History Month, “Wade in the Water” by our former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, who reminds us that we can find the inspiration for poetry everywhere, even in historical documents (and in erasure). And we both encourage you to check out “So You Want to Write” by poet Marge Piercy and novelist Ira Woods. This book is based on a number of workshops they’ve given over the years to aspiring writers, and it contains practical advice for learning more about the craft. One of the best lines? “Work. Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved.”
And we offer congratulations to our community members Deda Kavanagh and Chris Lucka, both of whom recently had pieces published in Walloon Writers Review (www.walloonwriters.com). If you know of anyone whose work you’d like us to share, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether at our workshops, poets’ group, community read, we hope to see (“see”) you soon. Until then, keep writing, keep safe, and keep watching your email as we continue to plan new more offerings
Helen and Chris
Co-Directors, the SVSU Community Writing Center