Creative Writing Club teaches literary skills while fostering community

CoW welcomes all fiction writers to their bimonthly meetings and information sessions.

The Creative Writing Club — affectionately called CoW Club by its members — meets online every other Wednesday to work on independent writing, learn new skills and connect with other writers.

CoW Club was formed in the fall semester of 2019 by English students Alyssa Ripley and Annalee Roustio, both of whom graduated in 2020. The club became a way for the creative fiction community at MU to meet one another, sophomore Mia Berkstresser, current president, said.

CoW Club was originally intended for English majors, but has become a place for all MU students, Berkstresser said.

“It’s actually bringing out a lot of people who — a surprising proportion of them — are non-English majors who want an outlet for their creativity outside of class,” Berkstresser said.

At the Feb. 10 all-fiction meeting, writers selected a writing prompt from associate English professor Scott Garson and took a few minutes to craft a short story. Students shared their work and received constructive feedback from Garson. After the activity, students stuck around to discuss their current writing projects and joke about the spotty campus Wi-Fi.

Sophomore Medland Wallace, CoW’s social media manager, joined the club as a creative outlet for her writing.

“I wanted to join because I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading,” Wallace said. “I did not grow up in an area that enjoyed those things. My high school had nothing related to that.”

Wallace said CoW Club is a creative outlet separate from the responsibilities of schoolwork where she can connect with like-minded students.

“As college students, we can get so caught up in our obligations and trying to keep up with taking care of ourselves,” Wallace said. “Blocking out the time to write and do something that I find fun is amazing — it’s basically my self-care.”

Berkstresser uses CoW Club to bounce ideas off her peers and improve her writing style during the drafting phase of her new contemporary novel. While Berkstresser’s favorite part of creative writing is characterization, she is practicing her worldbuilding skills to become a more well-rounded writer. Worldbuilding is the creation of an entirely new fictional world.

“It’s a learning resource as well as a social community,” Berkstresser said. “As an aspiring author, it’s been a good experience working with other creative writers.”

Participants are welcome to form various committees with other members on specific literary components, their favorite writing style or a piece of work they enjoy, according to the club’s page on MU Engage.

“Anyone is welcome,” Berkstresser said. “We don’t have any requirements. If you want to be a member, just stop in.”

CoW regularly collaborates with English@MU (EMU), which publishes the EPIC Literary Journal. The journal promotes prose, poetry and visual art from the MU undergraduate community, according to the EMU website. CoW and EMU hold virtual coffeehouses, which are meetings that serve as a social hour and informational session for English and non-English majors alike. In past meetings, participants have discussed internships and how to write micro-fiction.

From general meetings to coffeehouses, CoW Club is a place for students to strengthen their writing skills and form a community, Wallace said.

“I’ve learned that writing is a practice and a discipline,” Wallace said. “Of course, it is fun, and it helps me tap into myself and to check in to see if I’m OK, [but it has also] taught me that I should write more if I want to be good.”

The next CoW Club general meeting is scheduled for March 10. For more information on meeting dates, follow CoW Club on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Edited by Sophie Chappell | schappell@themaneater.com

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