When we first started talking about the Community Writing Center some years ago, we spent a great deal of time thinking about where it would be located. After all, we live in the tri-cities, with lots of other cities that surround us– what town should we choose to do our work? What kind of building should we use—a community center, a local school, a library? If we chose a library, what branch should we pick? And inside the library, what spaces should we select to hold our writing workshops and individual writing consultations?
In all these deliberations, we agreed that we wanted an accessible community location where people would feel comfortable and safe sharing their writing. We were lucky. The Butman-Fish Library in Saginaw and the Wirt Library in Bay City opened their doors to us and have been great spaces (and great community partners) for our writers and our tutoring staff. In these two libraries, we have loved meeting with all of you, sliding our chairs close to one another as we spread a working draft of your essay or short story across one of the oak tables, leaning in together to read and talk and think about writing.
And then the pandemic happened. We lost the ability to meet with you in-person—actually, to meet with most people in-person. We cancelled all our planned sessions and workshops, and, like everyone else, we waited to see what would happen.
What happened was remarkable. In May, we started offering writing consultations via email. You sent in writing. So far, we’ve seen novels-in-progress, resumes, poems, scholarship essays, grant applications, and short stories. In May, we also began offering our “Poets’ Group” (a group of writers who meet to share their work-in-progress), and this month, we’ve held a series of pre-recorded creative writing workshops on fiction, a grant-writing workshop, and a workshop on college scholarship applications through Zoom. You came to these workshops. Since the pandemic began, we’ve worked with over 80 writers online.
Here’s what we’ve discovered: The Community Writing Center isn’t about the space; it’s about the people. It’s about gathering folks together who believe that writing is important and valuable, and forming a community of writers who support one another. This, of course, is implied in the title of our Center. It has just taken us awhile (and a pandemic) to really understand this.
Please know that we plan to come back into our libraries to work with you in-person; we’re just not able to do that right now. So we’re going to continue to create opportunities for you to share and connect through our new website, communitywritingcenter.com. Here, you’ll find information on signing up for a writing consultation via Zoom or email, see a list of our upcoming writing workshops and be able to register for one or more that look interesting to you, and browse our upcoming writing contests and events.
In the meantime, we will be working on sending out a monthly update to all of you, featuring writing tips, our favorite writing books and resources, and our musings on writing and our world. And because
we want to keep the conversation going, we’ll be asking for your favorite reads as writers, so feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After all, the world is far too interesting right now not to write about—and so are all of you. As Natalie Goldberg says, "We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in our hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us.”
Take care of yourselves and one another, be well, and keep writing.
Helen Raica-Klotz / Chris Giroux
Co-Directors, The Community Writing Center