Creative Writing in the Community Class Holds Book Swap Event

By Annilee Hampton

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

A book swap took place outside of the library on Nov. 16, 17 and 18, inviting SMCM students to give new homes to unwanted books.

The book swap was organized as part of Professor Crystal Oliver’s Writing the Word in the World: Creative Writing in the Community class, which centers around literary citizenship and what it means to write with the purpose of serving the surrounding community. It was one of four projects that students worked on throughout the semester, with the other projects including From Pen to People, an open mic that took place at St. Inie’s Coffee in Lexington Park on Nov. 5; a creative writing podcast consisting of interviews with writers from the SMCM community; and the development of the Lucille Clifton Lounge, a space for writers to create and share their work in Montgomery Hall.

“Originally this started out as a book swap treasure hunt,” student Catherine Wasilko said when asked what drew her towards the idea of the event. The other students that worked on the book swap were Taylor Byrd, Maya Miller and Irene Ragan. “We wanted to expand on this idea and add more activities. Eventually, we decided to have several activities that involved reading and writing!” 

The book swap consisted of many different activities, including a poster on which community members could leave a message or drawing on a post-it note, scavenger hunts around campus for hidden books and an activity called “Read Me When.” Wasilko cites this activity as her favorite at the event. “This was the activity I helped to complete,” she said. “I wrapped books in paper and marked what mood they had. On the first day, I prepped 19 books and they were taken within the hour! People were very excited as they did not know what book they would receive, but they were happy to know what book they ended up getting. Jennifer Cognard-Black came by and said, “‘It’s like a blind date with a book.’ I thought that was the best way to describe the activity in a clever way.”

In addition, the book swap offered giveaways of journals and pencils. Wasilko stated that this truly allowed the event to embody the idea of creative writing in the community. “We wanted people to be inspired in writing their own stories,” she said regarding the giveaways. The aforementioned poster where passersby left notes was also an important part of the community aspect of the event. “I think this allowed people to share a bit of kindness with the community,” said Wasilko. 

Setting up the event took most of the semester, and was not without its challenges. “I think I can speak for everyone when I say the hardest thing was finding a location,” said Wasilko. “We’ve had to contact several people, and most of the time, no one responded.” However, despite these initial setbacks, the event was a success, with many members of the SMCM community walking away with a new book in their hands.

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