Writers Room Creates Community Through Stories, Photos With Canon Project
June 15, 2018
For the last three years, members and supporters of Drexel University’s Writers Room have celebrated the release of a collective published work which, in essence, makes them all published authors.
This year, on top of publishing “Anthology” — their fourth collection of writing — 18 Writers Room members also became published photographers through a writer-in-residence program called TRIPOD, created in partnership with Canon Solutions America and Canon USA.
Members and supporters of Writers Room, a College of Arts and Sciences initiative within the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, gathered at the Dornsife Center on June 5 for the release of “Anthology” and the results of the year-long TRIPOD project. Photos from the project — taken by the teams six teams of one high school student, one Drexel student and one community member — were blown up and propped all around the event space on seemingly every surface. Many of those who participated in Writers Room for the 2017–2018 academic year read passages from what they wrote for “Anthology.” The ages of those readers ranged from teens to senior citizens.
Rachel Wenrick, an associate teaching professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of Writers Room, said the program is an important outlet for all those involved because it provides a place to slow down in the midst of fast-paced life, especially here at Drexel.
“This gives people the time and space to stop and reflect through writing about, ‘Who am I? Where am I trying to go? Why does this matter?’ That’s the piece that appeals to everyone, not just our students,” Wenrick said of Writers Room’s multi-generational involvement. “Flip that with someone who is 75, looking back and thinking about the same things. ... Sharing that with somebody who is launching ahead into their life, I think that’s the thing that’s really working.”
Sarah Adigba, a graduating chemical engineering student originally from Nigeria, read first at the event, providing an excerpt from “Rainy Days,” which recounts her childhood in Lagos. Adigba said she joined Writers Room in order to continue to hone her skills after taking a writing class last quarter, though she has been writing fiction on her own for almost six years.
The opportunity to have her work published in “Anthology” was very encouraging, Adigba said.
“It’s just nice to feel like, ‘OK, someone considers my work nice enough to publish,’” she said. “I think having that encouragement to continue is really, really important.”
Though she joined Writers Room too late to take part in the Tripod project this year, it’s something she’d be interested in pursuing as she continues with Writers Room after graduation. Thankfully for her, Ryan DeVito, BFA graphic design ’02 and senior program manager for Canon Solutions America, said she is definitely looking forward to the opportunity for Canon to continue to collaborate with Drexel and the Writers Room.
DeVito says TRIPOD grew out of Canon’s desire to bring about more strategic partnerships on campus, as well as support Drexel’s mission to engage meaningfully with the community and with students.
Since both her team and Writers Room program directors sat down over a year ago to brainstorm about what they could do together, DeVito said she’s enjoyed how the project has morphed and evolved throughout time.
“Through this program, we have been able to really form some truly authentic relationships on campus and get a sense of what the University is all about and what is important to the community at large,” she said.
DeVito added that they supported the creation of the printed book and other physical manifestations of the project in order to provide a tangible product for everyone who spent so much time and energy creating its contents.
“They’ve put so much of themselves into this, so to give them something real and tangible and show them they’re published authors, that gives participants something more than they would get in a digital format alone,” she said.
Canon’s contributions to this year’s collective work is not lost on the Writers Room participants, either.
“They gave us their magical cameras and we captured these moments that would have otherwise passed us by,” said Mantua resident and Writers Room founding member Carol Richardson McCullough, mentioning that Canon provided training for the TRIPOD project participants on how to use the equipment. Canon also gave access to expertise throughout the year and printed the large-format photos for the Tripod exhibit ‘People, Places, Portraits’ at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Wenrick said they are always looking for more people to get involved with Writers Room.
“If I ask someone, ‘Are you a writer?’ They might say ‘no,’ but if I ask, ‘Do you have a story to tell?’ everyone says ‘yes.’”
Adigba would also encourage her fellow students to get involved with Writers Room, even if it doesn’t seem to line up with their course of study. She added that the program is for anyone interested in learning about people from different backgrounds, and joining the community around you to help you find the right path for your future.
“To be a balanced human being, there are things you should do not to get on your résumé, but to be more passionate and empathetic,” she said.