Almost five years ago, I entered ninth grade with the goal of writing a book. With minimal experience, I knew I’d need help. I also knew that my school had a creative writing class and a newspaper club, but both were disbanded or discontinued the same year I arrived. My small, rural school provided no resources for creative writing, so I thought I’d create my own.
The adventure began with a series of daily, voluntary trips to the principal’s office, seeking information on how to start a club. Among the most memorable requirements was a club constitution ratified by at least fifteen students and supported by an English teacher. The constitution read as follows:
I spent two days with that sheet of paper asking everyone I could find, “Do you like writing? Would you support a creative writing club?” Most of my essay-weary peers said no, but I scrounged together my fifteen signatures as fast as I could. Most signatures belonged to my friends, of course. Finding a teacher supervisor turned out to be easier; most English teachers jumped at the opportunity to support a student literary group.
We met for the first time on a Wednesday in 2013. Amazingly, almost twenty people arrived. One fact immediately struck me as odd, though: I was the only male student in the room. That fact alone never bothered me, but the potential reasons for it did. Did so few male students take an interest in creative writing? Had the culture of our back-country town forced them to suppress their creative pursuits in favor of sports, et cetera? I always considered that possibility. During the four years I spent leading the Bohemia Manor High School Writers Club, only one other male student ever showed up to meetings.
Regardless, the club was undeniably successful, especially in its first year. Once I convinced people to share their works through Google Drive and give meaningful feedback, almost everyone participated. I’ll never forget the first time a new story arrived in my inbox for feedback and editing. I happily accepted the opportunity to help before I realized the… ahem… raunchy nature of the story. But I did my job with giving feedback, and I forced myself as club leader to treat all genres equally.
Meanwhile, I shared out selected chapters from my book as I wrote them. They often surpassed 4000 words, so only a few brave club members gave thorough feedback. At the time, I hadn’t yet joined Wattpad, so the suggestions I received from Writers Club members weighed much more heavily on my writing process. That being said, the feedback from club members usually ranged from polite to painfully terse. I thanked them anyway; I felt lucky just to have support for my writing, and I’m sure they all felt the same.
Around the time when I started posting on Wattpad, the club’s weekly attendance dwindled. I doubt that Wattpad caused the slow decline of Writers Club, but the events coincided. Fewer and fewer members returned from one week to the next, and by the end of senior year, weekly meetings consisted of me and one or two people typing at adjacent computers in a dark room. The shared Google Drive folders turned into a forgotten collection of memes, gothic poetry, and vulgar comics drawn in MS Paint.
I doubt that Writers Club continued after I graduated, but while it existed, it fulfilled the purposes outlined in its constitution. I am still in contact with many of my Writers Club friends, and some of them have continued writing for fun. I hope that the others have too, or at least I hope they got something positive out of their experiences in my club.
If I’d never made those trips to the principal’s office, if I’d failed to gather fifteen signatures, or if I’d joined Wattpad earlier, none of this would have happened. The story of the Bohemia Manor High School Writers Club proves that through sheer force of will, even a ninth grader can make some difference in the literary community.
One response to “Tales from a High School Writing Club”
Hey Sam – I think this is excellent. I, too, have often speculated about the dearth of men in the field even at the college level (our program is usually about 2/3 to 3/4 women). Another benefit is the friendships and identity-encouragement that happen at these kinds of clubs. For the young woman who wrote that raunchy story back in 2014, having someone read it and take it seriously, then provide feedback might have been just what she needed.
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