On a Wednesday evening in the middle of April, classrooms at the YMCA of Greater Syracuse are abuzz with activity. A diverse crowd is streaming into the Downtown Writer’s Center, which offers low-cost, accessible writing workshops. Students can choose from a robust curriculum — anything from scriptwriting to composing a novel — in various levels of experience. The classes are interactive and collaborative, allowing time for the participants to share their ideas, triumphs and challenges with one another and their professional instructors. Students often move up to the next level of coursework together, benefitting from shared support and camaraderie in their learning experiences.
In addition to its classes, the Center partners with area colleges and universities to bring in professional writers for its free reading series. It also collaborates with local galleries and community organizations to host guest writer speaking engagements. The Center is home to the Young Authors Academy, which is attended by middle and high school students who want to learn how to compose engaging fiction and poetry.
A Community Foundation grant helped the Center enhance its marketing outreach. As a result of its publicity efforts, enrollment increased by more than 20 percent. The grant also helped the Center host its first annual CNY Book Awards, which provided the local community the opportunity to celebrate its home-grown literary talent.
Storytelling is a universal human activity. We have used stories to communicate, educate and seek meaning throughout history. With literary arts education hard to come by, the Downtown Writer’s Center is filling a community need for collaborative and accessible learning. Even more importantly, it is shaping tomorrow’s storytellers and literary leaders, one written word at a time.