Arts

The Broken Quill Society helps get you writing all year long. Photo: CC, public domain.

U of O club gives students space, encouragement to write

For some writers, November means hunkering down and trying to write a novel in a month. But, if writing an entire novel in a month just isn’t your speed, or you’re searching for something a little more year-round, then look no further than the University of Ottawa’s Broken Quill Society.

The Broken Quill Society is, at its simplest, a club for student writers. Meetings usually feature writing sessions where members are given a prompt and asked to write a short piece around the subject. Members can then share their creations and ask for critiques.

Several meetings are also devoted to critiques for larger projects written outside of the club—short stories, poems, even novel fragments—or to seminars where members can share the skills and tricks they’ve learned over their writing careers.  

“Mostly we’re trying to offer people a place to exercise their creativity,” said club president Erin Roach, a graduate student in counselling psychology. “It doesn’t matter what that writing is … we’ve got a pretty wide variety.”

Another of the club’s goals is to bring writers together, offering a space for writers to meet and connect, and give people a chance to talk about their work.

“It’s a space where people can write and not be distracted,” explained club vice president Michelle Gagnon, a fourth-year psychology student. “It’s also a place where fellow writers can meet each other and bounce ideas (off of) each other.”

Although the objective of the club is to offer a welcoming space for student writers, it also often pushes people out of their comfort zones, including the executive.

As Roach put it, the club members tend to skew towards fantasy, science fiction, and horror themselves, but anybody can come in and present their work, whether that be literary fiction, poetry, or even song lyrics.

“We do have lots of people of different interests, and we try to cater to those interests,” said Roach. “Like every so often we’ll do a contest, or a feedback workshop so people can bring in something they’ve written outside of the club and get feedback on their own work.”

Gagnon, like many in the group, credits the club with helping her stick to a writing schedule.

“It’s definitely helped me keep up the habit with writing, because I have a hard time actually being able to concentrate on writing, even though I love it,” Gagnon said. “It’s really nice to have two hours every week where we sit down and concentrate solely on stuff concerning writing, and it gets the creative juices flowing.”

Roach stressed the benefits of the club as being its open-door, casual policy—people aren’t expected to come every week or stay the whole time if they can’t.

“We’re very open, we’re pretty casual, we’re very supportive in terms of critique sessions, it’s always based on what you want as feedback … if you want a critique we will give that, but if not, we’ll give you positive feedback,” said Roach. “We try to make it a pretty welcoming environment.”

People interested in coming out to a meeting should check out the club’s Facebook page for up-to-date meeting locations, prompts, and workshop topics. To get a feel for the club, you can also check out writing examples on their website.