CultureWork ; Vol. 13, No. 03
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My first introduction to community writing organizations was Write Around Portland’s reading event on a hot August day in 2007. About 200 people were crowded into a non-air-conditioned church hall to witness dozens of writers taking a two-minute turn at the podium to share their work. These readers, many of whom were living on low incomes or with disabilities, had recently completed an eight-week writing workshop with the nonprofit organization and were celebrating the publication of their work in an anthology. Watching people read their written pieces, which often dealt with the experiences of daily life, frequently moved the crowd to react, whether that meant sighing in sadness, laughing, or murmuring oohs and ahs. And as the writers left the podium amid enthusiastic applause, most of them looked as though they were truly proud of themselves. After that summer reading, I began volunteering with Write Around Portland and quickly learned that the reading was one of many occasions in which participants could experience positive validation for sharing their writing with others. The entire workshop experience is rooted in the idea that everyone is a writer and can benefit from writing and sharing with others. Write Around Portland is one of a handful of community writing organizations in the United States; other groups include InkTank in Cincinnati, the NY Writers Coalition in New York City, and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance in Chicago. While the organizations may differ in their workshop techniques, they all bring people together to write about their ideas and experiences and to share them with others.