October 20th is the official National Day on Writing, and CityWrite is a week-long experience in Indianapolis that encourages people to write. You can attend one of many public CityWrite sessions or submit your writing online. CityWrite is happening now, from October 14-20 in Indianapolis. Read below to find out more about CityWrite!

In the last few years, folks in and outside of Indianapolis have had a lot to say about the city.  Locals and nonlocals have weighed in on the city’s benefits and drawbacks.  Most of the individuals talking, writing, and being heard are politicians, journalists, or economic developers.  What is consistently missing from those media messages are the voices of the Indianapolis community. All too often, the common and everyday experiences that shape our lives and impact our community go unnoticed, and memories connected to our living spaces remain undocumented. How can we talk about what our communities should be if we don’t know what they were?

CityWrite was the vision of Mark Latta (Marian University and the Indiana Writers Center) along with Darolyn “Lyn” Jones (Ball State University and the Indiana Writers Center).  As writers, community activists, and educators, Mark and Lyn have worked together for several years on a variety of memoir and ethnography projects, but each with the same vision:  to encourage everyone to use their voice.  Writing is a way for people to use their own language to illustrate the common and uncommon human experience we each share.

Accustomed to conducting memoir writing projects one at a time, at one location at a time (often at IMCPL branches through an ongoing partnership with the Indiana Writers Center), questions began to swirl about what could happen if a coordinated and trumpeted memoir writing session could take place across the entire city, capturing numerous views and perspectives. If the results from one single memoir writing session were fundamentally transformative for those participating, how could those results be replicated across an even wider audience?

CityWrite was a city-wide memoir writing initiative designed to encourage writing and capture experiences.  CityWrite took place on the National Day on Writing for 2012: Saturday, October 20, from 12pm to 2pm at numerous locations across Indianapolis. The National Day on Writing was created as a joint project with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the National Writing Project (NWP) and initially sought to work primarily with students in schools or universities.  Over the years, this project has grown to include local community sites including the Indianapolis site, Hoosier Writing Project. For more information, please visit the National Day on Writing website  and the Hoosier Writing Project website.

CityWrite sites were chosen based on geography, cultural relevance, and community perspectives.  Sites intersected all walks of life and will include libraries, bookstores, schools, churches, shelters, brewpubs, union halls, coffee shops, and retail stores. During CityWrite, people across the city were encouraged to come together, explore written memories and reflections associated with their community, and join in an effort to document and share these experiences.  Each CityWrite site was staffed with a trained facilitator to guide participants through specific writing prompts centered around time and place. 361 individuals and families showed up to write on Saturday, October 20th with an eagerness to take part in the Indianapolis vision of the National Day on Writing.  The stories and memoirs generated were collected, archived, and made available online at citywriteindy.org

Our goal in the inaugural year of 2012 was to serve 25 diverse community sites and 200 writers.  The mayor of Indianapolis granted us an official proclamation for the day and Indianapolis Star Metro journalist, Erika Smith, generated a wonderful article.  We served writers at homeless shelters, senior centers, disabled day facilities, bars, student football games, and community centers.  Our goal for this fall is to include 50 sites and 500 individuals.

If you are interested in volunteering as a site facilitator, have ideas for sites, or would like to conduct your own CityWrite in Muncie, please contact Mark Latta (mlatta@marian.edu) or Darolyn “Lyn” Jones (ljones2@bsu.edu).