On November 11, 15 members of Princeton’s staff, from Forbes College to the Bendheim Center for Finance; from 22 Chambers Street to 693 Alexander Road, gathered at Frist Campus Center to establish a community of writers – a supportive and creative space in which to put pen to paper, share experiences, articulate objectives, and find inspiration.

IMG_1231Facilitated by John Weeren and Stephanie Whetstone of Princeton Writes and Jamie Saxon of the Office of Communications, Writing Space traces its beginnings to the University’s inaugural staff essay contest in 2015. On meeting one another, the winners of that contest expressed frustration with the numerous blocks that inhibit personal writing – both fiction and nonfiction – and the dearth of tools to overcome them. As Saxon, recipient of an honorable mention, put it, “Most writers like us I think just need a little support, structure, and purpose to get us on track and jump-started and then, most importantly, to keep us in forward motion.”

After taking extensive soundings and weighing a variety of models, Saxon, Weeren, and Whetstone established the basic contours of Writing Space, as reflected in its opening agenda. Elements included writing to a prompt (When I was little, I used to . . .); exploring the challenge of finding physical and mental room in which to write; committing personal goals to paper; and disseminating resources and events of benefit and interest to writers. Guest speakers, open-mics, and forays to readings and lectures will be added to the mix in months to come.

At this first meeting, a period of intense scribbling and typing produced a vivid array of childhood memories, many of which were read aloud, while a candid discussion of the disconnect between aspiration and fulfillment fostered a determination to persevere. The net result was “really inspiring and great fun, too,” according to Ruth McGuire, another of last year’s honorable mention recipients.

For Weeren, founding director of Princeton Writes, the creation of Writing Space is about empowerment. “When members of our University community discover, nurture, and unleash their inner writer, they can approach the written word with greater dexterity and confidence, enriching the discourse on our campus and beyond. Effective communication is fundamental to individual and institutional success, and Writing Space can play an important role in both.”

Writing Space is open to all University employees and meets on a monthly basis. For further information, please contact pwrites@princeton.edu.