Being a writer is rough. Even if one gets past the writer’s block, submitting your stories to a publisher is a whole new kind of nerve-wracking.
Write616, formerly Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters (GLCL), aims to be a helping hand to all writers in the Grand Rapids area. While its name has recently changed, its initial mission of providing resources, building skills, and creating connected, professional platforms for writers, has not shifted since its inception in 2013.
According to KT Herr, board secretary for Write616, the organization’s efforts still remain close to founder Roni Devlin’s initial efforts.
“We’re really grateful to her for starting to build the community,” said Herr. “One of the things that we really wanted to do was make sure that we could engage more easily with the community, and build partnerships with other organizations.”
Ultimately, the goal of Write616 is to create a hub for literary activity in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area. Another change of the rebrand is operating without a monetary barrier. Herr said this is central to the mission.
“We’re adamant that any writer at any stage in their career should have resources in this community. We are no longer having members-only events, and we’re making all of our events free as of this year.”
Some of the events offered by Write616 include humor in writing workshops, as well as a host of different recurring series, provided for all stages of the writing process – covering everything from creative brainstorming, inspiration, submissions, publishing, feedback and funding.
Within the Get Writing series, there are ‘Writers Under 30’ workshops held at City Built Brewing and Craft Workshops at Avenue for the Arts. Get Rejected offers submission parties and public readings at Common Ground Coffeehouse. The ‘Get Lit’ celebrates Michigan writers and is held at the Kent District Library. ‘Get Funds’ invites readers to ‘Pack the Pub,’ and teaches creatives how to finance their work.
‘Writers Squared’ events – which pair up two similarly categorized writers – is also offered. Previous facilitators have included brothers and writers of the same genre.
Currently, a ‘Get Feedback’ series is in the planning stages, to offer poetry and flash roundtables.
On Sunday, April 15, Write616 is hosting an ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Avenue for the Arts from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. In partnership with Fountain Street Church, Richard App Gallery, Grand Rapids Poet Laureate Marcel “Fable” Price, and The Diatribe, the workshop is a three-hour tutorial. It will cover the history of ekphrastic poetry (a vivid description of a scene, or work of art), a writing session, group feedback and revisions. Participants will create their poems based on works of art from Richard App Gallery, which will be exhibited in July.
‘Get Pressed’ is in partnership with Caffeinated Press, a small independent traditional press – owned and operated by Jason Gillikin. He also acts as the board treasurer for Write616.
Gillikin spoke about trends he has seen over the nearly 1500 submissions Caffeinated Press has received:
“One of the things that we’ve seen is that a lot of the West Michigan talent is absolutely sublime and absolutely worth celebrating,” he said. “The second is that authors who are fairly new in their careers sometimes struggle with some very basic technical parts of being published authors.”
To combat this, Write616 offers tools to help writers with the business of the craft, social media, websites, creating a readership, and working with contractors.
“These are all necessary skills, but they’re not taught,” said Gillikin. “If you’ve never dealt with it before, it can be intimidating. Our goal is to empower and give a head-start to writers.”
The nonprofit also offers apprenticeship programs with defined learning objectives, enabling participants to see the behind-the-scenes work of a publisher. According to Gillikin, these can be resume builders, or lead to monetary or publication opportunities, depending on performance.
These opportunities, according to Herr, fill that void of helpful writer resources.
“What my experience has been is that we have so many universities in Grand Rapids, and so many graduates that come out of those universities come out having done incredible writing,” said Herr. “They’re so talented. Then they graduate, and they go ‘now my support network is gone.’ It’s a hard step.”
To Gillikin, imparting these helpful tips, knowledge and years of experience is a worthwhile feeling that never gets old.
“The bursts of insight and the gratitude they have to have had this opportunity is incredibly rewarding,” said Gillikin. “We’re doing good things here, and I’m really proud of that.”
*Photos courtesy of Write 616