A Day In SWA


It was 8:15 p.m. on Sept. 16, and writers—mostly freshmen—were trickling into Benildus 101 for the Student Writers Association(SWA). Junior Adriel Contreras, current co-head of SWA, was drawing the SWA logo on the white board. Senior Katie Johnson, also co-head, was organizing her materials together. It was about five minutes past their starting time when everyone was settled. Johnson apologized to Contreras, and erased his logo in order to write the opening exercise.

It’s been four months into Johnson and Contreras’s first year running SWA—a task that not many writers were excited to tackle.

“What I didn’t realize was how much work SWA is,” said Contreras. “I’m an RA, I’ve been working in the mail room. It’s been challenging juggling everything.”

Johnson asked the group to toss some words at her and the collection of writers were only happy to oblige. Pineapple, golden, obscene, ragamuffin, clout, juggernaut, panarama, and ostracices were some of the choice words among them. After compiling a list of 20 or so words, Johnson instructed the group to write a poem or flash fiction for the next 20 minutes using all or as many of the words that they could.

“SWA is good for creative writing students to just be seen on campus. It’s very easy for writers to stay locked up in their room and not be appreciated for their work,” said Johnson in explaining SWA’s unofficial mission statement. “It’s wonderful to use SWA for writers to have an on campus prescence.”

Contreras shared that sentiment and continued on the importance of collaboration.

“It’s important to have a community of writers to really establish itself,” said Contreras. “When you write, it’s so singular, it’s your own process. It’s important to get other people’s perspectives.”

Next, Contreras and Johnson ran through the bullet points of a typical SWA meeting. SWA opens with a 20-minute writing exercise that changes up each week. Following the exercise, there is a brief sharing section where if anybody wants to read their work they have the opportunity to. After sharing it turns to a conversation conducted by Contreras on a different topic related to writing each week. The first discussion centered around taking worn ideas a spinning new life into them. Another focused on forming a writing pattern.

“Writers can be so introspective,” started Johnson. “SWA is a good place to generate ideas and engage in intellectual conversations that may have been cut off once class ended.”

Contreras went on to talk about his experiences early in his SFUAD career.

“Those kind of discussions are important for writiers,” said Contreras. “When I was a freshmen I didn’t really think about anything other than homework, writing, and workshops. When it came to the important questions like ‘who am I as a writer,’ they were questions that had to be answered outside of class. I think that’s what we do here. We give students the opportunity to ask these questions.”

The 20 minutes passed, and Johnson asked if any one would like to share. Immediately, several hands rose. Because of time contraints, only a few read, all of them poems. Each was no different from the last and it was clear what kind of writer they wanted to be.

The readings were over but this week there was no discussion. Instead Johnson and Contreras held a Q&A session on what the students would like to do in SWA this year. The first suggestion came from freshmen Elergy Arese. She had mentioned earlier about setting up a haunted house for Halloween from which writers would write and record spooky stories that would play in different hallways. Everyone in the room was in agreement.

Johnson then opened up the discussion even more by saying not all of the ideas have to be about writing, they could be social. The floodgates were opened. Stargazing, hiking, camping, and a movie night at the screen were among the suggestions.

Time was running out, but Johnson made sure to tell the group that next week would be workshop. She instructed everyone to bring in some of their writing that they would go on to peer edit. The students nodded and gathered their things. Johnson and Contreras breathed a sigh of relief after another successful meeting.

SWA meets every Monday at 8:15 p.m. in Benildus 101. All are welcome.