To infinite and beyond: on campus writing group explores the realm of the imaginary

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October 29, 2009

For some, Sci-Fi is just a channel and horror is the feeling they get when they realize they’ve slept through their alarm. But for the Writers of the Universe it is a passion.
The club, which functions as a writing group, is for science fiction, fantasy and horror enthusiasts to come share and work on their stories.

First-year student Flora Winters, who started the club, got inspiration from her experience back home in Eugene, Ore. She was a part of a writing group in her hometown and when the leader of the group had to step down, she took over.

“It was a really great experience,” Winters said. “When I moved down here, I missed meeting with writers.”

The writing group that Winters led wasn’t specifically geared toward science fiction and fantasy writers, but everyone in the group read and wrote stories in the genre.

Once she arrived to Mills, Winters was surprised by how few people she found in her English class who had similar interests; she could only find three people in a class of 15. She is upfront about the stereotypes that surround science fiction – that people who love a great science fiction novel or those who drool over a fantasy series are viewed as dorky. But Winters embraces it.

“It’s just the kind of nerd we are,” she said.

At a recent meeting, books were strewn across the table in the Orchard Meadow library where the club meets weekly. An anthology of myths sat next to a baby name collection, with a book about everyday life in Victorian-era England nearby.

Each club meeting consists of free-writing, which Winters said, “helps to really get our creative juices flowing.” During the rest of the meeting time, members talk about their ideas and do writing activities. One week, they wrote for five minutes using one word as inspiration.

The goal of the club is to produce stories for publication, which Winters presents information about each week. Every week also has a theme, which is connected to an anthology that is accepting submissions or a writing contest currently seeking submissions. The aim of this is to help writers who may be interested in getting published but don’t know how.

At club meetings, it seems almost no topic is off limits. They have talked about finding hidden meanings in character names and about writing sex scenes. Just don’t mention the Twilight series – it elicited a groan from everyone. First-year Stephanie Scerra launched into a story about how she picked up the first Twilight book when it had just come out before the hysteria surrounding it had begun.

Winters agreed and said, “I love the series, but not the hype.”

Still, the Writers of the Universe aren’t against fame. Many club members admitted that every writer wants their books to be read. Who wouldn’t want their work to be on a best-seller list?

This topic sparked a conversation about another stereotype: that writers are unable to sustain themselves on the revenue of the writing alone. Shoshana Burda, a sophomore, said that she is resentful of people who don’t think writing can make someone money.

“If you have a good series, then you’re done,” her club-mate Scerra said, mentioning the famous Goosebumps series written by R.L. Stine.

But for club member and first year Megan Stephens, writing is a form of meditation. “Writing is just sort of an escape from reality for me,” she said.

The sense of escaping reality is paramount to the writing of science fiction and fantasy. Just one glance at the list of anthologies makes that clear. This week, it’s Blade Red Dark Pages and next there’s Trafficking in Magic/Magicking in Traffic, No One Can Hear You Scream and Mermaids and Sea Monsters. Club members say it’s the sheer amount of possibilities that are so attractive about the genre.

“It’s not just Star Wars and Star Trek and Firefly,” Burda said, talking about the more mainstream science fiction franchises. Though Winters, a few seats away, mentioned her obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and admitted, “mainstream is sometimes good.”

Before each meeting, members’ stories are e-mailed out so they can be workshopped and discussed during the week. Winters sees workshopping as an essential part of the club.

“It’s a really important part of a writing group,” she said. “The real purpose of the club is just to help each other grow.”

Other club members agree.

“Writers need some form of critique to get better,” said Scerra.

Winters is looking forward to the future of the club and has high hopes for its members.

“I hope everyone gets published,” she said. “But mostly, I hope that they all discover that they love writing and want to do it forever.”

For some members, it’s exciting just to have a chance to write what they love. Burda said being a part of a writing group gives her that chance.

“When you’re taking two English classes, you need an excuse to write.”

Academic writing is not the same as the writing they do by choice. Some members make it sound almost like a guilty pleasure, while Stephens says that she always has to be writing, which is why she signs up for writing classes every summer.

Winters said that she tries different kinds of writing, but it always goes back to fantasy.

“I try to write straight fiction – but then someone gets eaten by a dragon,” she said, laughing as Burda gave her a high-five. There were nods of recognition and agreement all around.

“Fantasy happens,” Burda said.


To infinite and beyond: on campus writing group explores the realm of the imaginary was published on October 29, 2009 in Features and tagged with ,

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  • http://scififanatic.livejournal.com Stephanie

    Im an alumna (MFA, Class of 2006) and Im so glad to hear that someone started a sci-fi writing group on campus! Id love to make a donation to the group, whether its supplies or money for conferences, refreshments, or whatever the group needs.

    Could someone please let me know how I can send a donation to the group? Thanks!

  • Flora Winters

    Stephanie, I am Flora Winters, the president of the group. I am not sure how we handle donations, but donations would be very much appreciated. Please email me at fwinters@mills.edu

  • Ashley

    As a speculative fiction writer, I wish this club existed when I went to Mills! Great article, and best of luck to Flora and all the other club members.