Between academic papers and student-run extracurriculars, writing is a commonplace activity at Binghamton University. Despite this, Sophie Weissman, a senior double-majoring in English and sociology, realized that the University was still missing a club that allowed for unabashed creative expression.
What started out as a hangout between Weissman and some friends approximately two years ago led to the creation of the Storytelling Workshop Club, which aims to provide a space for writers to work on their creative processes while receiving feedback and actively collaborating with fellow writers. The club also allows writers to practice and strengthen their writing skills and work toward whatever goals they may have.
While BU has many available opportunities for written expression, Weissman felt that most of the ones available were competition- or publication-oriented. Therefore, in an effort to deviate from these styles of writing, Weissman wanted to create a club geared toward an open writing atmosphere.
“This is more just an open space to write whatever you want,” Weissman said. “So it could be a poem, but it could also be if you’re trying to write a novel, or fan fiction, or a [“Dungeons and Dragons”] campaign. And then we also do … games and stuff, so a little more chill.”
Ashley Sánchez, vice president and secretary of the club and a senior majoring in linguistics, compared her experience as a member of the Slam Poetry Club to the open space for experimentation that Storytelling Workshop Club provides.
“It’s the opportunity for people with different forms of stories to come together and not only create stories through a specific type of media,” Sànchez said. “I’m in Slam Poetry Club and a lot of what we do is just poems, which is nice, but it doesn’t allow for a lot of creative freedom into other realms.”
Weissman’s vision for the Storytelling Workshop Club was shared by Raymond Zulch, ‘19. After gathering with friends who also had interests in writing, Weissman and Zulch decided to extend their gatherings to the BU campus community, posting flyers and communicating with the Student Association (SA). It was just last semester that the club became SA-chartered.
For its Friday, Feb. 28 meeting, the club extended its usual time slot of 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and ran until midnight for its “Write-to-Midnight Challenge.” During this time, the club encouraged writers to bring anything they were working on, ranging from fan fiction to poetry, in an effort to encourage progression. Surrounded by passionate conversations ranging from fan fiction based on the “Avengers” franchise to young adult series, with chips and doughnut holes to snack on, the creativity was abundant.
Conner Dowdle, a first-year graduate student studying computer science, was present at the event. When asked why he decided to join the club, especially with a major quite distant from creative writing or English, Dowdle said the club was a chance for him to step outside of his comfort zone. This kind of opportunity is exactly what Weissman hopes to provide.
“The point of this is just to kind of be able to write whatever. Right, so in some of the games we’ve done, like the bracket contest, I’m only giving you like 10 minutes to spit out whatever you got, and it’s not supposed to be good, it’s just like here’s some criteria, try to meet it and then move on to the next round,” Weissman said. “So like we’re kinda trying to help you get over your fear of not being good, cause we don’t care if you’re good.”
Sánchez discussed how the club tries to provide a space for any interested student to get started, regardless of their experience level or confidence.
“Everybody has to start off somewhere,” Sánchez said. “And some people are gonna think they’re Picassos when really they’re drawing stick figures, and some people are gonna be Picassos when they think they’re the vice-versa … Everybody has to start somewhere and if you’re just willing to learn, then there’s no shame in coming here.”