The Health and Wellness Center hosted a weekly cre­ative writing group in April to help par­tic­i­pants hone their skills with prompts. Pexels

A new oppor­tunity on campus allows stu­dents to hone their cre­ative writing skills. On Wednesdays at 4 p.m., through the month of April, a group met in the Hillsdale College Health and Wellness Center to go through the cre­ative process.

The group, brought to Hillsdale by Kaitlyn Zellner, a coun­selor at the Health and Wellness Center, and Jill Barnum, mother of Emily Barnum ’18, uses the Amherst Writers and Artists tech­nique.

“We start out with a prompt,” Zellner said. “Usually it’s a poem or prompt on a par­ticular topic.”

The group has used work by Shel Sil­ver­stein, as well as Mary Oliver, both dec­o­rated poets.

After the poem is intro­duced, each par­tic­ipant has 15 minutes to write.

“It can be a poem, journal entry, vignette, or short prose,” Barnum said. “It’s very fresh and very impromptu.”

When time is called, people take turns sharing their work and giving helpful feedback to others.

“As facil­i­tators, we hone our responses so they’re pos­itive,” Barnum said. “Some work­shops go at the writer hard and tell the writer what they need to do dif­fer­ently. In this case, it’s so fresh, coming out of the heart. There’s always an option not to share.”

The feedback orients itself around three points: what’s strong, what works, and what sticks with the lis­tener.

“The writer can share what they’re writing and talk about the cre­ative intent of their piece,” Zellner said. “People may be uncom­fortable, but gen­erally, people become com­fortable enough to open up.”

Once everyone has had a chance to share their work and receive feedback, the group con­cludes usually after about an hour.

The tech­nique was developed by Pat Schneider, author of “Writing Alone and with Others.”

“Schneider wanted writers to find their voice,” Barnum said. “When you find your voice, you find con­fi­dence, healing, and identity. There’s some­thing healing about getting pos­itive feedback for some­thing that came right out of your heart, out of your soul, out of your mind.”

Zellner acknowl­edged that some stu­dents may have mis­con­cep­tions about the group.

“The group is pri­marily cre­ative,” Zellner said. “Our goal is to help people process expe­ri­ences and also have a cre­ative outlet.”

Barnum sees value in the group as a col­lection of artists.

“It’s not a self-help group, and it’s not a therapy group. It’s a group of artists,” Barnum said. “The art is writing and the feedback is pos­itive, but it happens to be ther­a­peutic.”

The group offers a unique oppor­tunity for Hillsdale College’s aspiring writers.

“I think writing in com­munity in that way could be ther­a­peutic, but it’s also just writing and receiving feedback,” Emily Barnum ‘18, who attended twice, said. “Although it’s offered through the health center, it’s been adver­tised through SAB and isn’t aimed towards a demo­graphic strug­gling with any par­ticular issue.”