Jonathan Tucker, DC Youth Poetry Slam Team's Youth Programs Coordinator (foreground), leads Writers' House students and slam team members alike in an icebreaker game of Ninja. (Charles Mitchell/Bloc Photographer)
Jonathan Tucker, DC Youth Poetry Slam Team’s Youth Programs Coordinator (foreground), leads Writers’ House students and slam team members alike in an icebreaker game of Ninja. (Charles Mitchell/For The Bloc)

The campus-wide literary center and community, Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House, will introduce a new program this fall that embraces non-English majors, giving them a chance to connect with other student writers while immersing themselves in a community supportive of creative literary pursuits.

Traditionally, the Writers’ House explores the many forms of creative writing through a live-in community with workshops and literature and writing-focused events.

The Writers’ House Literary Community will give students who have the interest, but not the space in their academic schedule, to further explore writing by joining the Writers’ House program, which is normally a two-year commitment, Writers’ House director Johnna Schmidt said.

“We are starting this program because students have so many demands upon their schedules that even though sometimes a student wants to be in Writers’ House, they are unable to squeeze our courses into their schedules for four subsequent semesters,” said Schmidt, who has directed the program since its inception in 2002.

“The program allows students more flexibility in scheduling, and it affords them the opportunity to live and participate in a literary community even if they can’t fit [in] the courses.”

And with a recent move from Dorchester Hall to Queen Anne’s Hall, the increase in space and applications has made it the perfect time for Writers’ House to expand its reach, Schmidt said.

Applicants accepted into the WHLC who have already been approved for on-campus housing will not only be housed in Queen Anne’s Hall with neighboring student writers, but will also have access to all the Writers’ House activities and program space, Schmidt said.

“The only difference will be that they will not be pursuing a Notation for the particular semester and will therefore have no curricular or academic demands placed upon them,” Schmidt said.

Should students find more time in their schedule and decide to pursue a Notation, which will register students for official Writers’ House creative writing workshops and recognize their time as a Writers’ House member on their transcripts, applicants can register where space is available only if they have maintained a 3.0 GPA, Schmidt said.

But according to Schmidt, the Writers’ House creative workshops are where the magic, or what she likes to call the “meat and potatoes,” of the writing community truly happens.

“Creative writing workshops are often our students’ favorite classes,” said Schmidt, who emphasized how much students enjoy reading and discussing their counterparts’ work.

“Any artistic creation is something of a window into the artist’s soul, or at least their philosophy and aesthetics. Students in workshop get to know each other in a whole different way than they would without workshop. Their community ties deepen and students often form lasting relationships,” she said.

Junior multiplatform journalism major Joseph Antoshak, who is in his second year in the Writers’ House program, said though it took him a while to get acquainted with other students, he later discovered the lasting relationships Schmidt spoke of.

“I ended up finding a community with writers whose work and personality interested me,” said Antoshak, who described the community as “eclectic” and will be living with some of the members in a house off-campus next year.

Former Writers' House student Taryn Harris and Creative Writing professor and poet Don Berger converse during a Writers' House Q&A session in Dorchester Hall, where the Writers' House was located prior to its move to Queen Anne's Hall. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Antoshak)
Former Writers’ House student Taryn Harris and Creative Writing professor and poet Don Berger converse during a Writers’ House Q&A session in Dorchester Hall, where the Writers’ House was located prior to its move to Queen Anne’s Hall. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Antoshak)

As for the expansion of Writers’ House, Antoshak said he sees it as a way to really diversify the program.

“You are going to get people who want to spend some time in this community to actually learn instead of just getting course credits,” Antoshak said. “It’s a program that will be most enjoyed by people who are looking to sort of further their own skills. You’ll work independently, but in a community. No one is going to hold your hand through it. You really have to take the initiative, and if you’re willing to become a better writer, you will.”

Women’s and Persian studies double major, and Writers’ House member Nina Ogor said the program is a great way to take the writing craft “by the horns” and step out of your comfort zone.

“This program has really helped me grow and forced me to step out of my shell both in the literary sense and in the emotional sense,” Ogor said. “I have friends who tear [my writing] apart to make me see the global errors that need to be changed and forced me out of this ‘I’m the best writer ‘cause my friends and family tell me so’ mentality.”

Ogor advised future members of the Writers’ House program and the WHLC to similarly push the limits of their writing and to write in forms they hate, as well as in structures they enjoy.

“One of the things this program is great about, is showcasing different forms and styles of writing,” Ogor said. “Take advantage of that and test yourself. If you like writing fantasy, write crime. If you only write in third person, try first, and then second. Expand your world as a writer and you will find so many other things you never thought you’d like.”

In addition to the new WHLC program, the Writers’ House recently introduced a new blog, which serves as a resource for student writers, connecting them to off-campus writing programs, literary magazines, and places for writers to practice and promote their writing, said Ogor who will be developing the blog with the help of Schmidt.

“I’ll be working with current students and past alum to design a blog that will act as a stepping stone for writers,” Ogor said. “We’ll have pieces written by students with experience in publishing, getting an agent, and growing an online community.”

head2Brittany Britto is a graduate student and can be reached at bbrittoa@gmail.com.

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