Jeff Owens: What I Learned from Writers’ Community

Since we’re approaching the end of Spring semester, it’s time to hear what the English public relations interns have to say! Today, Jeff tells us about his experiences in the Writers’ Community — from freshman year to junior year.

If you’re interested in attending Writers’ Community, it takes place during the Fall and Spring. Meetings are from 8:00 – 9:00 PM on Wednesdays in Robert Bell’s Writing Center (RB 291).


Looking back, I guess I’d describe the majority of my freshman year as “comfortable.” After acclimating to college life, I was meeting new people, spending more time outside my dorm than inside, and writing more often.

When my second semester rolled around, I felt confident enough to attend a Writers’ Community meeting. And why wouldn’t I? In high school, I was head tutor of the writing lab, I edited too many narrative essays to count, and people voted me “Most Likely to Write a Novel.”

Writers’ Community would be old hat, or at least that’s what I told myself. But I didn’t make a single contribution to the writing workshop that night. Making proper small talk proved impossible. I spent more time wiping the sweat from my hands than looking people in the eye.

Jeff WC

Photo provided by Jeff Owens

As an icebreaker, we all introduced ourselves and said who our favorite authors were. Most of the people were juniors and seniors, and they all said names like “Robert Creeley,” “Patricia Smith,” and “Joan Didion.” They were writers I’d never heard of. And since I didn’t bother looking up the names, I wouldn’t read any of their work until I took classes with professors like Debbie Mix and Todd McKinney.

In a few years, I’d feel absurd for thinking a name like Joan Didion was obscure, and I’d kick myself for not reading certain texts sooner. That night, sitting in front of those talented English majors, I searched my mind for an author who would make me look well-read and settled for, “Uhh…Stephen King?”

The most unfortunate part of this story isn’t my embarrassment (I’m used to looking like a dork at this point). I just regret letting my embarrassment prevent me from getting closer to the people involved in WC. If I wasn’t so hard on myself, my fellow writers could have given me the reassurance I needed.

But I was so sure everyone would remember my face – and my lack of literary know-how. So I didn’t bother coming to the second meeting that semester. Or the third.

Even though I knew I was overreacting, I also knew I held a disconcerting arrogance beneath my insecurity. If I could just meet the right people, attend enough English-related events, and build a positive reputation, I could become president of Writers’ Community before I graduated. But that wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t literary enough (whatever that means).

Part of me wanted to secure the position because it would prove I’d made good use of my time at BSU. The other part of me just thought “Writers’ Community President” sounded like a cool title.


Two years have passed since then, and it’s my last week as a junior. Once the semester ends, I’ll be president of Writers’ Community. It’s my responsibility to host meetings, organize readings, and delegate work to the vice president and officers.

So much has changed in a short amount of time. Writers’ Community is not a chance to show off my writing anymore – it’s a chance to create a safe space for incoming writers. It’s a spotlight for undiscovered talent. It’s a place to make bad puns and nerd out about literature.

I want to provide students with the reassurance needed a few years ago; I want to tell them that being a writer – or really any artist – is not about getting better over time, but finding more reasons to do what you love. Every time we meet in RB 291, I find another reason.

Writing about my experiences doesn’t make them feel any less surreal, though. Each year has more packed into it (bills, internships, job searches), but that doesn’t stop time from going faster and faster. I thought I’d have it figured out by now, but I keep uncovering more about myself: who I can be, who I want to be, who I am. And my learning will not end after senior year.

What if I’d stayed sedentary and hadn’t become involved? That thought terrifies me. If I hadn’t embarrassed myself at that first WC meeting, I wouldn’t be who I am now. My arrogance is gone, replaced by a humility that only three years of constructive criticism can provide.

I didn’t get where I am because I deserve it more than anyone else, but because my friends and faculty told me about the opportunities available to BSU students. It only seems right to tell every Writers’ Community member about those opportunities – to tell them about all there is to learn in the English department. If I can manage that, maybe it will be obvious how grateful I really am.


Thanks, Jeff! 

You can connect with Jeff on Twitter at @Shmeff_Shmowens.

If you want to know more about the BSU Writers’ Community, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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