Meet the Neighbors: Literary Family at The Writer’s Center

This guest post comes from Zach Powers, the communications manager for The Writer’s Center (4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815).

When I came to The Writer’s Center in February 2018, I didn’t know much more about it than the fact that it was a literary arts nonprofit. I was new to the Washington, D.C., area, still trying to find my place in the local literary community. Sure, I’d perused The Writer’s Center website and read the latest issue of The Writer’s Guide, the triannual magazine the Center has published for decades. I knew that the Center was over forty years old—a true Gen Xer—and has been housed at its current location in Bethesda since the early 1990s. I knew the Center has been publishing Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry journal, for the last three decades of the journal’s existence. And I was told, right from the start, that a renovation was in the works for the upstairs of the building (the lower level had been renovated in 2014).

Within months of taking my job as Communications Manager at The Writer’s Center, the long-anticipated renovation began. My colleagues relocated their offices into the lower level writing classrooms (I was lucky enough that my office was already downstairs). Our coterie of faithful interns took up positions in the writing carrels in the main room. We snaked cables all over for power and internet. The construction crew sealed off the stairwell with plastic sheeting, and the first rumbles of demolition began right away.

Even though my first months on the job were disrupted by sawing and hammering and bangs so loud I can only guess they were caused by small explosive devices, I learned something important about The Writer’s Center. The building, as shiny and new and amazing as it now is (more on that later), merely houses the spirit of The Writer’s Center family. For over forty years, the Center has empowered writers and those who want to write, and that mission is far larger than the 12,000 square feet that make up our facility. No building is big enough to contain all the stories lived and written by the people who make up our community.

I had spent a year trying to find a literary community when I moved here, and I did meet a few writers, but since joining The Writer’s Center I’ve found so many friends and collaborators, from acclaimed published authors to new writers jut now taking the first steps toward creating literature. These are fiction writers, poets, journalists, memoirists, and people finding purpose and inspiration in the written word. These are my people.

At The Writer’s Center, I consider it my job to grow this community, to welcome to our family every single person in the Washington, D.C., area who wants to join us, especially those who may not yet know that we’re here for them. Our newly renovated building will certainly help.

First, the front entrance now features an ADA accessible ramp, and a new lift inside makes our lower level available to everyone for the first time. The Writer’s Center aims to include all writers, and accessibility was the key step in making that possible. Four new offices place all our staff within easy reach, too.

The Reading Room, where most of our public events take place, has been spruced up and refurnished, and we look forward to hosting vibrant readings and events, featuring local writers as well as authors of national renown. The new space has already hosted Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo as well as dozens of local writers in all stages of their literary careers.

Our classrooms fill up six days a week, playing host to 300 workshops a year. We provide a place for established local writers to share their knowledge and for thousands of participants to learn from them. Our community is built upon the idea that writing is something we practice, love, and, most importantly, share.

Like the practice of writing itself, The Writer’s Center is a work in progress. We do better every day to support writers. I dream of a steady flow of writers in and out of our new front entrance, every hour we’re open. Soon, I know I’ll see the carrels full of people focused on works-in-progress. I’m glad we got those new chairs for the Reading Room, because I know we’ll need them for every event we host. In short, I want our building to be the living room of the literary community. The Writer’s Center is the place people come to be with their literary family.

I came to The Writer’s Center because I want to be an active literary citizen. Yes, I may write alone in the morning, but we’re all in this world of words together. When you need support, when you need feedback, when you need a fire lit under your butt to get back to work on a writing project, know we’re here for you. That’s what family is all about, after all.

It only helps that we’ve got this fancy new building open to every writer who wants to join us. Welcome home!

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One thought on “Meet the Neighbors: Literary Family at The Writer’s Center

  1. I took a wonderful novel-writing class with local writer Barbara Esstman at The Writer’s Center about 10 years ago. It lit a fire under me to get serious about writing again (I was a few years post-MFA and had gotten lazy about writing every day). In addition to a wonderful class, I met a fellow emerging writer; together we would form the core of our writing critique group that still meets, a decade later. We writers know how precious a good critique group can be! The Writers Center attracts not just good writers, but good people, who make the literary community feel welcoming to all. Thanks for the great guest post!

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