Write Wilmington helps writers out of a rut
From India by way of Idaho, assistant professor of creative writing at UNCW SAYANTANI DASGUPTA found that acclimating to Wilmington has been an interesting adventure.
Dasgupta moved here in 2018, just in time to evacuate from Hurricane Florence; a year later, it was Hurricane Dorian. And then 2020 ushered in the pandemic.
The total shutdown put a stop to discovering her new locale, from plays and restaurants to time with new peers. Ultimately, it meant a sense of isolation from her creative community. In spring of 2021, Dasgupta conceptualized a new way to bring writers together. Write Wilmington was born.
A virtual community of writers who create in real-time, Write Wilmington attracts a widespread network of writers—from the Cape Fear region to around the world—who respond to inspired prompts from gifted area writers.
“I’d been hearing from so many of my students and friends all over the world that writing in isolation was so hard,” says Dasgupta, of creating during the pandemic. “So many had stopped writing during that time because they’re so used to brainstorming, or just checking in with each other to see how their craft was going,” she adds.
Despite Zoom fatigue, another widespread phenomenon, Dasgupta pitched her idea of virtual community to colleague and former UNCW Creative Writing department chair David Gessner. “David was very enthusiastic,” she says, as were other esteemed colleagues, including her graduate students in creative writing.
As an author of three books, including an upcoming collection of essays, “Brown Girls Have Everything,” Dasgupta most enjoys writing with Write Wilmington’s weekly lineup of creative writing colleagues.
“Aside from tapping into my wonderful colleagues who’ve worked so hard on prompts that speak to others and their own interests, every semester, we’ve been asking if students would like to teach one class,” she shares; “it’s great to see them as teachers, as I haven’t necessarily had them as students!”
Write Wilmington takes place Friday mornings from 9 to 9:45 a.m., and recordings of previous sessions are made available on the creative writing program’s website. Participants register via Zoom, log on in their time zone, and the weekly faculty member or graduate student presents three original writing prompts–it’s a generative class, says Dasgupta, and not a writing workshop.
The first prompt is five minutes long, and the second prompt is about seven minutes. The time constraints have been helpful, she adds, in that people get to leave their work where it is. Ofttimes, this sense of unfinished business inspires writers to revisit their work and continue creating.
Most importantly, says Dasgupta, Write Wilmington is free. “I wanted a place that was welcoming for writers of all levels, and free. That mattered to me. I wanted bite-sized classes that exposed people to a variety of instruction and faculty, but with zero pressure!”
Her goal is to provide a space for anyone to create, and perhaps develop something special. “Creative energy and good times,” she says, with a smile. “And I get time with all these instructors’ imaginations and what drives their creative process.”
After the worldwide stretch of creating in isolation, creating Write Wilmington opened up her creativity. “It’s been deeply rewarding,” she shares. “It’s the best part of my week.”
Dasgupta is a WILMA Women to Watch arts category winner and Write Wilmington has become her area claim to fame. “When I was forwarded the nomination letter, I was floored,” says the five-year local. “To be honored for something you started as a fun thing is amazing.”
To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.
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