Five years ago this month, I showed up half an hour early and unlocked room A-354 at Centennial, which was known at the time as Cathy Henrich’s lit room. I didn’t know what I was doing or if anyone would come. I had never even been in a writer’s group, much less started one. There was a poster of Langston Hughes on the wall, though, and Cathy said I could use the coffee maker she had kept at the back. Might as well give it a shot.
They did come. Writers came from departments and offices all over the college—the Math Department, Psychology, Sociology, History, English, the Testing Center, the Financial Aid Office, the Library, and more. We muddled through together, figuring out what we wanted: support, encouragement, accountability. A place to share our work and get honest feedback. A place to learn from each other about where and how to get published.
Five years later, the Nearby Universe is everything I dreamed it would be: a handful of creatives drinking coffee, sharing their work, and talking about writing. Members of the Nearby Universe have finished novels, published books, stories, and poems, held public literary readings, edited anthologies, and been nominated for awards, including Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. We no longer have paper agendas or a brick-and-mortar classroom, but we’re still getting together, still swapping stories and poems, encouraging each other, and gossiping about literary magazines.
As diverse as we have been in job titles and other categories, there are things all our members have had in common: kindness, sincerity, and a love and respect for storytelling and self-expression. More than anything, my heartfelt thanks go out to all of those members, past and present, who took a chance and showed up. Thank you for your stellar feedback, encouragement, and friendship.
Happy anniversary, Nearby Universe. Here’s to five more.