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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v16n04)
Indiana Writers Center - 40 years - by Mario Morone
by Mario Morone
posted: Feb. 15, 2019

Indianapolis author Barbara Shoup recently discussed her affiliation with the Indiana Writers Center, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019. "I started writing there. I had always wanted to write, but had no training. I was lucky to find the Writers Center when I finally got the courage to try. Founded by Jim Powell, it was originally part of the Free University in the late 1970's, and later became a nonprofit organization. I took classes there with Jim, and that started me on my path," she recalled.

Barb Shoup and Rachel Sahaidachny of the Indiana Writers Center.
Barb Shoup and Rachel Sahaidachny of the Indiana Writers Center.
image courtesy of Indiana Writers Center

"Over the years, I taught at the IWC. I became a member of the Board of Directors in 1999. As many arts nonprofits, the organization struggled when the financial downturn occurred in 2008. When we realized we could no longer afford to pay a director, I offered to fill the position-at first on a volunteer basis and later at a reduced salary. We focused on our classes, adding new writers to our faculty, and expanded our mission to include outreach programs. In 2010, we began our summer learning program, 'Building a Rainbow' which now serves more than 200 at-risk kids every year. Instructors, college interns, and volunteers, some of whom are retired teachers, help kids tell stories about their lives, and we publish those stories in a book at the end of the summer," Shoup explained.

Jim Powell founded the Indiana Writers Center, originally part of the Free University, in 1979.
Jim Powell founded the Indiana Writers Center, originally part of the Free University, in 1979.
image courtesy of Jim Powell

"Our Memoir Project partners with local organizations to offer twelve-week workshops to those whose voices aren't usually heard and create anthologies of their stories. We've worked with homeless women at the Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children, women veterans at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, victims of domestic abuse at the Julian Center, and others. Recently, we partnered with the Asante Children's Theatre on a family workshop, and look forward to working with GenderNexus this spring," she added.
"Writing helps people look at their lives and bring insight and resolution to their experiences," Shoup said. "Reading the stories of others builds compassion, as it helps us better understand their difficulties so that we can give them the help they need. We were proud to learn Where Mercy and Truth Meet: Homeless Women of Wheeler Speak Out has been used in sociology classes at Butler University," she noted.
Shoup, who grew up in Hammond and moved to Indianapolis in 1968, was a teacher first. She began her career at North Central High School in Learning Unlimited, then moved to Broad Ripple High School, where she was the writer-in-residence in the Center for the Humanities and the Performing Arts for 20 years. Poet Rachel Sahaidachny, the IWC's Program Manager, was her student there.
She still teaches, now at the Indiana Writers Center and International Art Workshop, in Assisi, Italy. "Teaching teaches me," she said. "I get a lot of insight from teaching. Becoming privy to the inner lives of others makes me see how complex humanity really is. Teaching has also made me curious about the creative process. While I'm mainly a novelist, I sometimes write essays about how writing works. I just completed, A Commotion in Your Heart, a book of short essays about writing that will soon be ready to market."
The first celebratory event of the IWC's 40th anniversary will be a book launch for Only Witness, a collection of stories by its founder, Jim Powell. This fundraiser for the IWC will be held on Friday, March 8 at Circle City Industrial Complex's Gallery, located at 1125 Brookside Avenue, Suite E. The annual Gathering of Writers, also founded by Powell, will happen Saturday, March 9 at the Indiana State Library. The keynote speaker for the all-day event will be poet Ross Gay, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry and National Book Award Nominee. Breakout sessions in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction will be offered by other accomplished Indiana writers.
For information about Jim Powell's book launch, the Gathering of Writers, IWC membership, classes, and opportunities to donate to the organization, visit their website, or call (317) 255-0710.
"I feel so grateful that the Writers Center is able to publish Jim's wonderful stories," Shoup said, concluding, "The organization he founded has meant so much to me, and I want it to be there for others who dream of being writers. Together, we've built a strong community of writers, which is so important to those of us who work at putting words on the page."

Powell and a small group of like-minded writers met for the first time at Broad Ripple Tavern (now The Bungalow) in 1979, giving birth to what is now the Indiana Writers Center. The Center was housed on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple from about 2000 through 2017. It is now at 1125 Brookside Parkway, Suite B25.
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