Everyone has a story. It might sound simple, but for the Indiana Writers Center it means everything.
Over 30 years ago a man named Jim Powell had an idea to bring together writers around the state. By 1979 he founded what is now the Indiana Writers Center and served as the director for 20 years. Today the helm is held by Hoosier writer Barbara Shoup (who recently wrote about her own journey through publishing for NUVO). Since its creation the center has become a non-profit hosting classes in everything from playwriting to memoir writing. The teachers are all published writers who teach single session classes all the way up to courses with ten or more meetings.
"It's like having a school with no school board," says Shoup. "We can do anything we want."
And they do. From any kind of classes to a slew of community programing. They host a summer learning program called Building a Rainbow, which serves over 200 kids a year at four different sites.
They are writing the stories of their lives, and everyone has a story to tell. We really believe that," says Shoup.
Those stories can make a huge difference especially through things like the Memoir Project — an intensive workshop with different groups around Indy. They did three session this past year: one with homeless women at Wheeler Mission, another with women veterans and now they are doing one with the Julian Center. Teachers were able to mentor women, guiding them in ways to tell their own narratives. Then they collect the pieces and publish an anthology.
"If you could have seen those homeless women on the night that we did their party, it was just so amazing," says Shoup. "They were so proud to be able to share their lives and to think that people wanted to know about what it was like to be them. That, to me, is a super important thing that we do."
Finding that community is something that she feels every writer needs.
The literary community of Indianapolis has only flourished with time; producing writers like John Green, Dan Wakefield and of course Kurt Vonnegut. But for Shoup writing is the first step in seeing those in your city as equal, and is a way to ignite social justice.
"It makes you look at people differently," says Shoup. "If you are reading and writing you have to look at people objectively. You have to cut away everything and see who they are. And when you see who they are, I don't know, you can't lump them. Every single person is so incredibly different and they got to where they are by such an interesting path.
"I think reading and writing contributes to this sense of acceptance, to this sense of curiosity about diversity in people, places, things, ways of thinking that are a little bit out of the box," says Shoup.
Meredith Brickle saw the empty houses around Indy as brimming with potential. After parenting with groups like iMOCA and Renew Indianapolis, Brickle was able to kickstart what is now known as the House Life Project. The idea was not to rehab house, paint them, or even care for them; it was simply to help people see these vacant spaces a little bit differently.
Last fall she started a "pilot house" — a blighted building that was turned into a work/gallery space for artists. They would host neighborhood nights with the community, teaching kids how to do everything from juggle to make ceramic cups. Today, the project has become an active discussion on how to address Indianapolis' rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
The brain child of Elle Roberts, a NUVO contributor and local arts organizer, Women317 was a place to showcase, well, women.
A derivative of the Shehive collective — a gathering where ideas about race, nationality, gender, queer theory and feminism can be openly discussed — it became clear that Women317 was needed to give a space to women artists in Indy. The events host everything from spoken word to visual art.
They began as a strictly non-political event. Now, things are a bit different. The group realized that even though every gathering had a personal element, by hosting a night dedicated to women artists topics that were rooted in systematic issues were going to arise. This is why Roberts decided to kick off 2016 with a night dedicated to undocumented immigrant women and their stories. The events continuously host a variety of topics, mediums and ideas.