Write hook

A young writer wants to provide an online forum for creative writing

Photo by AMY BECK

Austin Wallis works on the Reno Writers' Collective website at 720 Tahoe Street.
For more about the Reno Writers Collective, visit renowriterscollective.wordpress.com

Austin Wallis was frustrated with what she saw as a lack of avenues for publishing personal writing in Reno. She wanted a place where other writers and interested viewers could read others’ work and comment or give critical feedback, a place to publish that could lead to a community of writers and readers. One evening, she and her roommate, Amy Harris, were lamenting the lack of this type of venue when the first inkling for Reno Writers’ Collective seeped in.

“We are both journalism students and both writers—in the sense that we write poetry and keep journals and such but have never wanted to publish our work,” says Wallis. “For people who are novices, as far as their writing goes, it’s kind of intimidating to try to be published.”

Wallis did some research online on different writing collectives. She found some thriving communities, mostly in larger cities and was inspired by what she saw. Aware of other groups in town doing similar things—such as Spoken Views, a spoken word collective; and Two Shits, a poetry collective—Wallis was interested in creating a forum online for all of the various groups to share work and come together.

“I thought it would be awesome to start an online publication community, where writers who may not necessarily be published in other spheres but want to get their work out there and want to read other people and see what’s going on in their community,” she says. “I wanted to develop a platform online for that to happen and start a dialogue with other people.”

Wallis is working with Manny Becerra of PACE Creative Media to develop and design the Reno Writer’s Collective website. Becerra, who works with community-based organizations, is excited about the project.

“There are so many people out there in the community who are talented writers,” says Becerra. “We are hoping to provide them with an outlet for that. Unless they have that opportunity, they might not feel they are good enough. Hopefully, this will help them find their written voice and also give them the opportunity to collaborate with others and learn new skill sets.”

Becerra works out of 720 Tahoe Street, a collective work environment that houses various local organizations and small businesses. The building itself, located at 720 Tahoe St., was renovated and designed by John Jesse, founder of Deux Gros Nez and Pneumatic Diner, and opened in September 1998. The idea behind the space is to create a place that emphasizes collaboration with a focus on community—the community within 720 Tahoe Street and the community at large.

It’s a diverse space housing offices for engineers, counselors, a sexologist, photographers, artist studios, land conservationists and environmentalists, authors, designers, and a dedicated art gallery. The office building is organized to contain shared and flexible space as well as private spaces so it is conducive to conversation and dialogue—time for people to chat and brainstorm—as well as time to work alone and concentrate on whatever it is residents might be working on.

“My whole thing is to collaborate with other community organizations,” Becerra explains. “I want to be empowered and to help others be empowered.”

Call to action

The idea behind the RWC is to empower writers in the community and give them a forum to present and share their work with others. Wallis feels a bit strange about starting a collective on her own. She has an open call out for submissions to get the ball rolling.

“Send me anything you’ve got—narratives, love letters, haikus, poems, any style—I want it all,” says Wallis, who considers herself the curator of the site and project, as opposed to an editor. Instead of spending time correcting grammatical mistakes, she wants to focus on gathering and sharing work.

The site has a regional focus to it, showcasing writers from the area. Wallis is interested in building a community here and feels that it needs to start on a small scale and grow from there.

“I want it to be a tight-knit network but by no means exclusive,” Wallis explains.

She has reached out to the University of Nevada, Reno, Creative Writing Club and received an enthusiastic response from the club’s president, graduate student Angela Spires. The response and support Wallis has gotten has encouraged her and given the project momentum. Michael Branch, an English professor at UNR, has offered for Wallis to reprint three of his posts on other blogs on the RWC site and Thomas Qualls, a local author, also offered to reprint some work on the site.

The ultimate goals for RWC, as Wallis sees it, are to have a website that functions as a forum where people are not only posting work, but also commenting and critiquing, and to eventually have a printed publication.

“I want it to be the face of writers in this community,” says Wallis. “I want it to be a place where people go to see what other people are working on.”

Wallis also wants to post weekly prompts on the website where writers have a certain amount of time to respond to a theme. This would generate content for the site and give people ideas in cases of writer’s block. While there are other outlets for writers in town, such as Insight Magazine and Brushfire on the UNR campus and various local writers groups listed on the Nevada Arts Council website, all of which are linked from the RWC webpage, the impetus behind the RWC is to create a larger resource and collective of writers to come together and exchange ideas and build a community.

“I think there are small little pockets of writers and friends who get together and talk about their work, and it’s not necessarily out there for people to see, and I want the Reno Writers’ Collective to expose that and showcase people,” says Wallis. “Not only do I want this to be a local grassroots organization with lots of young emerging and local talents, but I also want it to be a credible resource. I hope people respect it as a really awesome, viable thing.”

In the end, it’s about creating a community, which entails participation. Communities exist when people come together and help support each other and promote growth and learning. The only way the RWC will work is if writers contribute work and foster an environment for sharing. There is an energy that is created when people come together. It has been said that collaborations always produce something that is greater than what each individual piece of the equation could accomplish separately. Synergy.

“As much as I’m a part of it,” Becerra says of 720 Tahoe Street, “everyone else is equally. … Wherever we’re at now, wherever we’re going—it’s all about community and collaboration. I know I couldn’t have gotten where I am without others. It’s all about willingness to participate.”

“The process of collaborating with Austin, this project’s visionary and curator, is a working example of separate projects and endeavors coming together to help each other out, grow from each other and have a lot of fun in the process,” says Becerra. “I work out of a collaborative environment at 720 Tahoe Street where we are about coming together to produce rad community-based things or services. In the process, everyone’s participation invites them to be a part of a community building process where people learn from each other and where their particular skills, or voice, contribute to the success of a project’s outcome.”