Last fall, Nellie Hildebrandt and a few of her friends met often to discuss each other’s writing in a small group.
As the group grew, they realized it could be helpful to other students who have creative writing backgrounds and decided to make it an official student organization — the Women's Writing Workshop. The club aims to create a safe space for women to share their writing and ensure their voices are heard.
Hildebrandt, a third-year English student with a creative writing concentration, said it wasn't difficult to start the Women's Writing Workshop.
“I had great co-officers,” Hildebrandt said. “They were super motivated to leave with a legacy."
Other than that, they had everything else they needed — enough members for the Leadership and Service Center to count them as an organization, an adviser in mind and the support of creative writing professors.
“The creative writing professors, I would say, here are generally pretty excited about the club, so they were super eager to find an adviser for us,” Hildebrandt said.
Hildebrandt said she likes the organization because having a small group full of women provides an openness and willingness to share that a class full of people does not.
“It’s kind of nice when you do have a smaller group, because you get close to those people faster, you feel more comfortable sharing, kind of, more maybe vulnerable work with those people. Maybe stuff that deals with sort of more sensitive topics than you might in a class that has like 30 people who are not all there because they enjoy writing," Hildebrant said.
Sally Wardlaw, a third-year English student, said she feels the same way.
“Certain fields are harder for women to be heard,” Wardlaw said. “I was looking for a space where women’s voices are more heard and where I don’t really have to explain certain aspects of just being a girl.”
For a traditional meeting, a member will submit her work for the week to a Google Doc, and other members will read it and prepare notes for the meeting. At the meeting, they talk about what’s working and what isn’t and make suggestions for improvement.
The members range from freshmen to seniors. Wardlaw said she enjoys mentoring the younger students because encouraging them to develop certain aspects of their stories reminds her to do the same when editing her own.
“It’s kind of given me the opportunity to break down these skills that I’ve already learned in my classes ‘cause I’m a junior, gonna be a senior," she said. "So I know how to do it, but explaining to other people how to do that helps me work on my skills.”
The members of the club said the Women’s Writing Workshop is a good way to reach out to underclassmen as well as develop a relationship with people who have their best interests in mind at a big university.
Anne Gulick, the club’s adviser, emphasized the importance of having a small group, especially at such a large school.
“I have discovered in my career as an academic ... was how important it is to find a cohort of people that you can share your work with that you trust, and that you feel are going to support you and help you produce your best possible work and keep going,” Gulick said.
She said she believes the group of women are going to be game changers.
“I see this club as one that has the potential to really bring to light the kinds of skills and values that often don’t get recognized as much as they should, and allow talent to really flourish,” Gulick said.
In the future, the organization said it is hoping to create a safe haven for collective improvement.