As any writer knows, putting words to paper and refining them into a truly strong piece of work is often a lonely process — especially if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer. But for several years, queer writers have had a group to help them through all of those frustrating edits and periods of writers block.
The DiverseCity Writing Group meets at the Salt Lake City Public Library on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month. It is one of many such programs administered by the Salt Lake Community College Writing Center, which is housed in the building. Although the group is sponsored by the school, it is open to members of the public at large, as is the center itself. The center, said John Wilks, who co-coordinates the group with Christina Smith, is available to help individuals — students as well as the public at large — with writing cover letters and resumes, writing coaching and other non-school-related projects.
“As a general rule, we’re not here to assist students with their academic work,” he said.
The writing groups sponsored by the center are just one more aspect of its outreach said Wilks. And this one, he said, is particularly vital to the community at large.
“I think this is an important group because gay and lesbian people being marginalized in society may not feel comfortable going to a regular [writing] group. They might not feel comfortable sharing their work there,” said Wilks, noting that bisexual, transgender and straight allied writers are welcome to join as well, despite the group’s name.
Wilks added that several other writing groups are held across the city in places like the King’s English Bookstore, the Sorensen Community Center and other libraries. None of the groups, he said, is focused on a particular style of writing, like fiction or poetry.
“[The group] is an opportunity for writers to come together to share ideas, give each other feedback to form a community,” he said. “We think people of different writing styles all bring different approaches to writing. So if you write fiction, it’s good to get people who write articles to look at it [for example]. That’s why we mix our writers as much as possible.”
Wilks said he or DiverseCity co-mentor Brian Short starts each group session with a few announcements of upcoming local writing events, and then opens the floor for people to share work they have brought. Often, he also leads the group in writing exercises. Overall, he stresses that participants in the DiverseCity group do not need to write specifically about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or even about issues facing the community.
“You could be writing about something totally different,” he said.
Along with regular workshops, the Community Writing Center has released a publication twice a year, which features pieces workshopped in its various groups.
“It’s an actual physical book released once a year in June, and we do an online publication in December,” said Smith. A reading, she added, typically accompanies the unveiling of both publications, and one is scheduled for Dec. 9 this year. The compilation is then distributed to libraries and bookstores in the city.
“It’s a great opportunity for all writers in our groups, but I’d be especially happy to have the GLBT voices in there, to have their pieces in that anthology,” she said.
While the group has a few regulars (mostly in their 20s and older), Wilks and Smith said they are hoping for more writers to come and get involved. Wilks said he has plans to send some signs advertising the center to high schools and various gay-straight alliances on high school and university campuses.
“We’re here and we’re a resource for writers no matter who they are, what educational background they may or may not have, whatever competency level they think they have, they’re welcome to just come and hang out,” said Smith.
DiverseCity will meet Oct. 25, Nov. 9 and Nov. 23 at the downtown library from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information about the Community Writing Center, visit slcc.edu/cwc/.