Hangin’ w/ SWA

A mix of upperclass men, freshmen, and alumni get cozy during a writing exercise at the Student Writers Association's new location in the O'Shaughnessey Performance space.

Getting cozy at the Student Writers Association’s new location. Photo by Ash Haywood

Twelve writers sat in a circle on couches or chairs, under dim lighting. They chatted about classes, favorite authors, weird things they wrote or wanted to write. Student Writers Association’s Jan. 27 meeting resembled a coffee shop more than a classroom.

“The quiet, comfortable atmosphere is what makes this group so successful,” said Creative Writing major Amaya Hoke. She noted that part of the growing success of the often ramshackle organization was the switch from a boring Benildus classroom to the O’Shaughnessy Performance Space.

Senior Brandon Brown has attended every SWA meeting, seeing his role as more of an advisor than a president.

“This is about building a foundation,” he said when asked about the group’s goals. Of the 12 in attendance, most were underclassmen, a demographic that is key to establishing the group’s future.

Brandon Brown, a senior in the Creative Writing department and president of the Student Writers Association.

Brandon Brown, president of the Student Writers Association. Photo By Ash Haywood

The laid-back vibe of the meeting is deliberate. Brown saw that establishing a connection with other writers, who are usually a solitary lot, is just as important as any craft exercise.

“You can make friends. You’ll see someone walking in the hallways and say, ‘Hey, I know that person, because I hang out with them for two hours every Tuesday night,” he said. “I feel like it works. [The meetings are] always easy, it never feels like a chore.”

Missing the intellectual stimulation, recent graduate Curtis Mueller started attending meetings last November.

“We’re really spoiled here,” he said. “Here, people are talking about things they actually want to do. Out in the real world they just want to talk about stupid bullshit.”

Amaya Hoke brings a laid back vibe to the informal structure of Student Writers Association.

Amaya Hoke brings a laid back vibe to the informal structure of SWA. Photo by Ash Haywood

Though the group is informal, Hoke organizes a writing exercise every meeting meant to remove the writers from their comfort zone. Some are structurally complicated, like a three paragraph flash piece that changes genres each paragraph. Others are more fun, like last meeting, where they took a mythical character and wrote them in an out-of-context environment and situation, like Hades in High School.

“The stuff that come out of it is super amazing, we have such a strong group,” she said. The weird, sometimes disturbing, pieces that result from these exercise are exactly what Hoke expected. “I think beauty has been in the spotlight too long.”

SWA meets weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. All writers, regardless of department, are welcome. The group also holds open mics and it’s own literary journal Coffee Spoons.