By Tiffany Clark
Writing creates a portal for imagination, drives persistence for revision, and engages all genres. I feel a writing club on campus will help aspiring authors become more confident in their ability to share their perceptions. Though the process can be intimidating if you’ve never considered leading a club, there are resources to build off of.
To stimulate interest, I created surveys of ten questions. I received helpful comments from the 40 surveys I handed out. Due to my survey on Survey Monkey ending up in the student webmail clutter, there was an overkill of trees. I chose to analyze the results of four questions – “Do you enjoy writing?” “Would you like to have a writing club on campus?” “Would you be able to attend meetings during common time?” and “What kinds of workshops would interest you?” I’m thankful to Deb Naybor for her help with revising my survey and analyzing the results.
This reception brought about hope. Considering that I had little knowledge of how to design and lead a club, I sought out Jill Susice and Tim Sweeney for help.
As I was creating my survey I conducted my first interview with Susice, the Coordinator of Student Activities. She kindly explained the structure, funding, and durability of clubs. Each year a club fair sponsors both new and old clubs. If new entries build up enough steam they can follow up with Student Government Association to advertise their presence. In order to stay branded, clubs need to be fueled by student attendance, which is a trying task. Susice explained, “There are cycles when clubs will peak and then interest will die down a little bit, but then interest comes back.”
For my change project in Politics of the Environment I could have chosen to “Go Green”, but the disappointment that I faced from losing the Creative Writing club drove me to do something different. Timing and communication must be effective or else you’re wasting time.
I wasn’t aware that a creative writing club even existed until the fall 2016 semester. I got in touch with the person leading the club through email and I believe there was only one meeting. Due to the fact that there was poor communication I ended up going to the location of the meeting only to find that no one was there. In the following spring, the previous adviser of the club, David Press, instructed me to email Deb Naybor. Towards the end of the semester, I was told that meetings would begin within the second week of classes.
I had little faith that this would pan out, so I was surprised to see Casey Young standing in Pickett 113 at 10:10 a.m. Although there were only four of us over the semester, I now had the opportunity to read my poems and short stories and receive feedback in a casual atmosphere.
As of fall 2017, the club is dead. It was hard to keep it up and running with the bombardment of class assignments. I didn’t blame anyone because Paul Smith’s is known for testing your intellect with a flood of work. My disappointment drove me to explore an effective design that could bring revival to a writing club that I hope will last past my two remaining semesters.
I didn’t want just one type of writing, so I invited the idea of having non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and journalism. I was able to bounce off my ideas with Andrew Andermatt, who reassured me that it was often the one who creates an idea who carries out the strenuous task of rallying college students. The majority of which probably don’t jump at the idea of “writing for fun”. The potential for invention made each step less daunting, if only by a little bit.
If I was to design this writing club, I would offer it every other week to provide flexibility for attendees. Furthermore, I would create evening meetings later on in the week. For example, Thursdays at 6:00 p.m.
Before my interview with Susice, I explored the Student Activities page. When I reviewed the club registration form, I found formal positions such as President, Vice President, and Secretary. This structure felt very stiff for the club I wanted to create. I want to create one that would allow for group collaboration through workshops and events with ranging scales. Susice assured me that there was room for alterations, such as having co-chairs. However, Susice did advise, “That the club has to have a person who is going to be in charge and the main contact for the group.” She added, “There should be someone who can do the budget.”
An effective creative writing club could allow for more community events, such as with the Words in the Woods literary event that took place in the Forestry Cabin last November. Susice informed me that you can reserve a space on campus through the Conference Services of Sodexo. You can list the number of people attending, and request special technology and catering. This information would be beneficial for doing poetry reading sessions or venturing out to having a Writer’s Festival on campus. Both of these examples could strengthen the support between Paul Smith’s College and the surrounding communities.
But where do you get the cha-ching to do even a small workshop with coffee and donuts? Susice explained to me that money is divided up depending on the number of clubs and the size of the requests. More than likely there wouldn’t be a budget for a writing club since the budget for the next academic year wouldn’t be distributed until after the summer. At the start of the fall 2018 semester, $250 to $700 dollars would be available to existing clubs. Any money left over is snatched up by new clubs. The good news is that there’s buses to Walmart for supplies, so there’s room to improvise for the spring 2017 semester.
Sorry for all the business talk – hopefully I didn’t lose you to my wordiness. As far as workshops and events go, there’s plenty of room for exploration.
I conducted an interview with Tim Sweeney, an employee of the writing center and The Apollos. He has worked for the writing center for almost two years, and has been a member of The Apollos for three semesters.
The writing center has been around for over 20 years, providing help to students on tasks like science outlines and narrative essays. Tim explained that grammar and citations are common issues. The largest obstacle of writing is the ability to hone in on a subject. “People have their own thoughts in their head, but sometimes it’s hard to get it to go through your arm to your pencil and onto a piece of paper.”
I asked the question, “What types of writing workshops would interest you?” in my survey. I provided answers such as sharing pieces, creating voice, forming ideas, editing, publishing, or none of these. A good number of respondents were interested in forming ideas and creating voice. An effective workshop on forming ideas could help more students find a central point to write from for assignments and personal pieces.
Another question I asked Tim; “How has The Apollos diversified to accommodate for a larger audience over the years?” He explained how the newspaper was being updated to offer more intriguing sections like controversial debates in the “Think Tank.” “We’ve been posting the Open Mic highlights and stuff like that,” he added.
To conclude my interview with Tim Sweeney, I asked him if he thought that having a campus writing club would be beneficial to the community. He was all for it. “We have some really talented and smart people that could share a lot of opinions. Writing is obviously a really good way to do that.” If I was able to implement this writing club, it would grow in strength and diversity like The Apollos. The Apollos is a local outlet that publishes pieces of skilled and passionate writers. I feel that if the student body is willing, this club could act as a stepping stone between the writing center and The Apollos. If done effectively, the club could provide personalized experiences that build the confidence of aspiring writer’s such as myself. If you have idea or are interested in being part of this venture for a club, please leave a comment.