April 22, 2019 | 59° F

Rutgers Writers House connects students with renown literary figures

Photo by Courtesy of Carolyn Williams |

The Rutgers Writers House pairs students with well-established authors in their “Writers at Rutgers Reading Series.” The series sets up a conference-like atmosphere where writers deliver brief readings and students ask questions.

From Writers at Rutgers Reading Series to Inside the Writers House, Rutgers offers many ways to not only get involved in creative writing, but to also interact with a multitude of successful published authors.

Found in the basement of Murray Hall on the College Avenue campus, the Rutgers Writers House is considered a community for all students, said Evie Shockley, an associate professor in the Department of English and a published poet.

“It’s not a thing, it’s a space. It’s a community, it’s classes, there’s a physical space, it is just a word or a phrase that gathers together the creative writers, and lovers of creative writing,” she said.

The Rutgers Writers House engages students through a number of events they host across campus.

“Our most important event is a series of readings by very famous writers called 'Writers at Rutgers,'” said Carolyn Williams, a professor in the Department of English and the executive director of the Rutgers Writers House.

These events are held on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the College Avenue Student Center, she said. 

The series provides a conference-like atmosphere where famous writers can read their work to students and hold a question-and-answer session for audiences that range anywhere between 200 to 800 people, Shockley said.

These events are only held a few times a semester, she said. On Wednesday, Native-American author Natalie Diaz will read passages from her book "When My Brother Was an Aztec."

"Writers for Rutgers" is a different event that features creative writing professors at Rutgers and Inside the Writers House, Williams said. Inside the Writers House uses room 302 in Murray Hall to Skype up-and-coming authors for interviews and question-and-answer sessions in a small, more intimate setting than Writers at Rutgers provides.

“This was really inspiring, hearing another writer’s perspective, because I want to get to that point one day. So hearing the whole creative process, and the publishing process and how she channelled all her feelings to write what she did, was really inspiring,” said Jordan Cannata, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year after attending an Inside the Writers House event featuring Terese Marie Mailhot — author of the memoir "Heart Berries."

Williams said the Rutgers Writers House also provides classes to students of any major or interest.

Courses like Introduction to Creative Writing and Introduction to Multimedia Composition are open to any student and have served a wide range of majors across campus, she said. 

The space is not just a series of classrooms, Williams said. It is also home to a study lounge and the Collaboratory — a place where students can workshop their writing, relax, read or just enjoy a quiet environment surrounded by peers and professors determined to create. 

The lounge is open at all times for all students taking creative writing classes, she said. 

The Rutgers Writers House offers both a certificate for creative writing and a creative writing minor for those interested, Williams said. Some classes do offer core credit, such as Introduction to Multimedia Composition — which counts for the Information, Technology and Research portion of the School of Arts and Sciences core-curriculum requirement.  

“One of the things one should do as an undergrad is expose yourself to as many different kinds of knowledge and information as possible,” Shockley said.

Between the "Writers at Rutgers Reading Series," Writers for Rutgers and Inside the Writers House, students have ample opportunities to attend an event and stretch their creative muscles, she said.

“(Poetry) brings a kind of emotional knowledge and knowledge of how we as humans have organized ourselves, have related to one another and have thought about ourselves over the span of human history,” Shockley said. 

Anna Close

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