The Writers House proposed below is modeled on the successful Kelly Writers House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1995. After less than ten years of development, the Kelly Writers House hosts about 150 programs per year, most of them free and open to the public. The house serves as a community-building tool on the campus and helps to connect the campus to the surrounding metropolitan area. Though many of its events are of particular interest to creative writers, it serves all of the academic disciplines on campus, and also provides space for tutoring, workshops, and counseling on subjects of general interest. It is supported in part by the University of Pennsylvania, but also through external grants and a large group of Friends, who contribute $40 per year and are recognized in its annual publication.
The Camden Writers House will of course be adapted to meet the specific needs and opportunities presented by Rutgers University-Camden and the City of Camden. Like the Kelly House, it will offer public programs and workshops that will be open to the campus and the general public. The House will serve the campus as a mini-conference center, hosting (with the additional facilities on campus) such events as the annual Spring Writers Conference, the Walt Whitman Conference (last held in 1998, but planned again for 2005), and conferences sponsored by other departments and programs. It will provide meeting and office space for MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, and will offer humanities programming for that project. It will also be the home of the English Department's Camden On-line Poetry Project, which brings together three publications, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Mickle Street Review, and the Nick Virgilio Haiku Website. These electronic and print publications provide a laboratory for training undergraduates from English, Fine Arts, Computer Science, Marketing, and other disciplines in the process of publishing and editing.
The Writers House will also serve a pedagogical function in the teaching of writing. It will be the center for WIRE (Writing in Rutgers Education), the writing-across-the-curriculum project initiated by Dr. Holly Blackford through a Dialogues Grant. In addition to a website, WIRE will provide workshops in which faculty from various disciplines can collaboratively develop Writing Intensive courses, Honors courses, and Freshman Seminars. With additional funding for equipment and teaching assistants, WIRE will be able to offer tutoring on a referral basis to students in Writing Intensive courses who need individual assistance with writing problems. Unlike the Learning Resource Center, which assists students with a wide range of learning situations, WIRE will focus on focus on writing in advanced courses from a variety of disciplines. Some writing courses, Honors courses, and seminars can be scheduled to meet regularly or occasionally in the House to take advantage of the electronic and print resources on the writing process that will be made available there.
The physical facility that is envisioned for the Writers House is a building of three stories on Cooper Street or another residential street in the vicinity of the campus. It is important that the building have the feel of a A house @ rather than an academic building, so that students and visitors can find in it some retreat from the high-pressure environment of the college. On the first floor, the house will have space for meeting, dining, and receiving guests, with some kitchen and lavatory facilities, as well as lockers for students using the building. On the second floor, there will be offices for the Writers House and the various publications associated with COPP, as well as for WIRE, MARCH, the Writing Lab, and other writing-related projects and programs. If space permits, the Honors Program and Freshman Seminar programs might be accommodated there, and a library of small-press journals as well. The third floor will have the writing laboratory and its computers, plus a seminar room that can be closed off from it so that a class can be held while the laboratory is in use. The laboratory will be partitioned into A cubbies @ so that students and tutors can work in some privacy; at hours when the laboratory is not in session, the cubbies could be used by students working on individual writing projects. In perfecting the design of this laboratory, it will be helpful to visit the facilities currently used in New Brunswick for this purpose.
A planning committee of faculty and administrative personnel must be formed for the purpose of drawing up an implementation plan. An advisory board must also be named to assist in the development of the House. Several Rutgers alumni and other persons have expressed an interest in serving on the Advisory Board.