SVSU opens second community writing center

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Two years ago, the SVSU Writing Center opened the first ever public library community writing center in the state of Michigan. Now, it has opened two.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Bay Community Writing Center (BCWC) opened its doors at the Alice & Jack Wirt Library in Bay City. It marks the second public writing center led by SVSU in the Tri-City area, with the Saginaw Community Writing Center (SCWC) being the first.

On the first and third Tuesday of every month from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., the BCWC will meet with community members for one-on-one tutorial sessions and group workshops. It is staffed by three trained student tutors and is free and open to all members of the public.

The workshops include both a lecture and writing prompts so the group can share writing with others and get feedback.

“We try to make it both informational and interactive,” SVSU Writing Center Director Helen Raica-Klotz said. “It’s all about that collaboration and workshop format.”

Over 25 people came to the BCWC’s grand opening, and the tutors held seven one-on-one sessions. Writing Center Coordinator and tutor Emma Kirsch led the Center’s first workshop on writing college application essays.

Kirsch said she is excited about all of the workshops she will be leading at both the SCWC and the BCWC this fall.

“Each workshop is so different,” she said. “Each piece of writing has such a different purpose, and it brings a different crowd in.”

Raica-Klotz said the idea for a community writing center started about three years ago, when she attended a conference in Utah and learned about universities that had partnered to create their own community writing center.

“We saw it as a model, and we thought, ‘Oh, this would work well in our community,’ so we tried it,” she said.

That model, along with a two-year grant from the Saginaw Community Foundation, allowed the SVSU Writing Center to partner with the Butman-Fish Library in Saginaw and start the SCWC in October 2015.

After two successful years at the SCWC, Raica-Klotz joined with Bay County Library Director Trish Burns to present their data to the Bay Area Community Foundation. They received funding from the foundation in Spring 2017 toward opening a public writing center in Bay City.

The opening of the BCWC was met with excitement from library staff, Writing Center leaders, tutors and community members.

“It’s a resource that is available for all members of the community, all types of writing and all different ages,” Burns said. “It’s open to everybody.”

Madison Martin, one of the tutors at the BCWC, enjoys the enthusiasm of the community members when they bring in their own personal work to the Center.

“I like tutoring because it makes people excited about writing, whereas at the [SVSU Writing] Center, they’re usually not necessarily very excited,” Martin said. “To me, they seem a lot more personal, and they seem to enjoy being here a lot more because they’re coming here on their own.”

Raica-Klotz was pleased to see a diverse set of community members come in on the opening night, from a woman writing a short children’s story, to another woman writing a letter to the editor, to a 14-year-old student writing a poem.

“I want the community to feel that writing is a form of power, and I want them to feel empowered to write,” she said. “They’re all using writing for these different purposes, and they all matter. It is really diverse, and it’s all about using writing as a tool to be empowered and to accomplish things.”

Raica-Klotz said the SVSU Writing Center continually works to serve community members who may not have access to creative writing opportunities.

“Our university is gifted with all these talented students who’ve been trained to write and give writers feedback,” Raica-Klotz said. “And for us not to share their talent with the larger community? It makes no sense. We’re given all of these great students; we should be sharing them with Bay City and Saginaw, because they have so much to offer.”

The BCWC will have its next session Oct. 3 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. The group workshop begins at 6 p.m., and the topic will be “Writing Resumes and Cover Letters.”