Student writers gather together to share their work

Mikayla Tate, Staff Writer

On March 4, 2020, Elgin Community College hosted a group of writers from the ECC community who gathered together in the B270 lounge to share their work and listen to the creative writings of fellow authors while eating pizza and enjoying a hot cup of coffee. This event, known as Coffee House, takes place three times each spring and fall semester. 

It began with Writer’s Center about 40 years ago, founded by Gail Shadwell.  It was initially intended to provide additional programming to support existing creative writing programming at ECC, as well as to engage community members in the writing community on campus. 

Over the years, the monthly writer’s sharings that were held were transformed into a new concept created by Professor Rachael Stewart about 15 years ago. Writer’s Center now consists of three Coffee House gatherings and three visiting author readings each spring and fall semester. 

At the start of each Coffee House gathering, a piece of paper is left available for those attending to sign in. If a writer wishes to share, they simply check next to their name and readings take place in the order of sign up. Poets are given five minutes to read and prose writers are given 10 minutes.

“The idea behind Coffee House is not to do formal critiquing of anything,” Stewart said. “But simply to share your work and make connections and friendships with other writers.”

Coffee House gives student writers a place to share their work with others, as well as get involved in a community of people who share similar interests. It also provides a comfortable and friendly space for writers to practice reading their work aloud to an audience. 

 “The reality of writing is that it’s made to be shared,” said Christina Marrocco, a professor of English at ECC. 

In the B270 lounge, a series of folding tables were arranged into a large square so that everyone in attendance is facing each other, allowing them to be on equal grounds. A table off to the side contained pizza and coffee for those in attendance.

Host and creative writing scholarship holder, Kathleen Jowaski kicked off the sharing with the reading of a short story that she authored. With 16 people in attendance, five shared either poetry or short stories of varying genres and styles. 

“As a creative writer, it’s a really good environment,” Marrocco said. “It allows you to practice in a comfortable and friendly space.”

As each writer read their work a silence fell over the group, only broken by the laughter provoked by a few comedic short stories. After the final reading authors approached one another to comment on their favorite characters, imagery and stories as well as to introduce themselves to their fellow student writers. 

Writers supported each other and offered words of encouragement as a few writers spoke to each other about the difficulties of sharing darker, more serious pieces. Others noted moments in their readings that they wished they had done differently or felt they weren’t ready to share after hearing them read aloud. 

The gathering dispersed with members of the group that hadn’t read speaking of the next gathering and what they might read. 

 The next Coffee House gathering will be held on Wednesday, April 8 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 


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