The Drexel Writers Room held a workshop Feb. 5 at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships. Open to the entire community, the event partnered with the Free Library of Philadelphia’s “One Book, One Philadelphia” program to offer a writing experience based on this year’s book, “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward.
The workshop was built around the theme of listening. Writers began by describing a recent experience that encouraged them to listen and fully immerse themselves in the moment. Next, they chose one of two writing prompts. The first, based on a passage from “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” asked the writers to recall a moment when they felt misunderstood. The other, inspired by an overarching question from the book, prompted them to describe the soundscape of a location that felt sacred or special to them. Later, they shared their responses and found connections with their peers.
“The goal for me with any writing workshop is that participants surprise themselves, and then that you learn something about someone else or connect with someone else in an unexpected way,” Brittanie Sterner, a coordinator for the Free Library who brought “Sing, Unburied, Sing” and its powerful themes to the Writers Room, said.
Sterner is the director of “One Book, One Philadelphia,” a program within the Free Library that chooses one book each year to bring the local community together through reading and related activities. “One Book” partners with the Drexel Writers Room every year. This was one of three workshops inspired by the book and its themes.
Through listening, many writers fulfilled Sterner’s goal and found ways to connect with one another, discussing the ways they empathized with the other responses they read.
“You kind of grow into that,” Rosalyn Cliett, a participant who has been attending Writers Room events for five years, explained. “When you first start writing, you kind of don’t want anybody to see what you wrote, but as it goes on, you get freed up to do it.”
Sharing her work helped Cliett realize that her partner in the exercise had written about the same thing. Although writers have found they have a lot in common, the Writers Room also offers an incredible amount of diversity. Workshops are open to both students and the surrounding community, refreshingly combining perspectives from a wide range of ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. Both new and experienced writers are welcome to attend all future events.
“The different energies are really what make the group something special,” Kirsten Kaschock, Writers Room faculty director, said.
The next Writers Room workshop featuring “One Book, One Philadelphia” will be held March 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. A full calendar of events can be found at writersroomdrexel.org.