The recently founded MLS Writer’s Group meets once a month to workshop and critique works by members. Before every meeting, five or six writers volunteer to post their original work on OwlSpace, a Rice online collaborative site. The other members read the works and prepare comments to offer to the writers during the meeting.
The idea for the Rice MLS Writer’s Group was formed after Deborah Barrett’s spring 2013 Advanced Creative Nonfiction course. MLS students and alumni wanted a forum where they could share, critique and workshop original pieces that would be available regardless of semester or enrollment. Karin Shipman presented a proposal and it was approved; the Rice MLS Writers were born! Karin was elected president and Peter de Leef, Alastair Bird and Leslie Barrera were elected vice presidents.
At every meeting the Rice MLS Writers also host a speaker. This year speakers included a local doctor who has written a musical; Dr. Joseph Campana (MLS Faculty); Stephanie Evans (an MLS grad who has published two mysteries); Dr. John Freeman (Director of the MLS program); Dr. Terrence Doody (Rice University Professor of English) and Dr. Deborah Barrett (MLS Faculty).
Members who critique are very mindful about keeping it focused on the writing, not the writer and not the content. Dr. Barrett created a list of workshopping rules all members must follow. The resulting environment is safe and respectful and allows more timid members to feel comfortable sharing. This past year a member who had been sitting on the sidelines was encouraged to share a personal work and the results were very positive for both the writer and the group. The critiques are not only helpful in a critical sense but they also have value in being supportive and encouraging.
Beyond promoting independent writing and the pursuit of being published, the MLS Writer’s want to advocate for the MLS program. After all it is what brought and keeps them together. A group that encompasses both current students and alumni, the MLS Writers are proud to tell you how the MLS program has improved their lives. If you happen to meet one, just ask!