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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Saying goodbye to writer’s block: Write-a-Thon returns as space for inspiration

Photo by Trebor Maitin for The Lafayette
During the Write-a-Thon, students had a chance to use typewriters and respond to creative prompts.

After a two-year hiatus, the Write-a-Thon has returned to the delight of essayists, poets and homework-doers alike. The event, co-hosted by the College Writing Program and the English department, is held annually around Oct. 20, the National Day on Writing.

“It’s a nice opportunity to bring folks from all across campus together to write about whatever they want to,” Emma Hetrick, the coordinator of the College Writing Program, said. “We provided prompts and stuff so that folks who don’t have anything specific in mind can write up to a prompt. People are also welcome to write their homework or emails – anything writing-related.”

The Write-a-Thon featured an “inspiration station” that included story cubes, Post-it notes, mad lib-esque prompts and flipbooks that Hetrick said one “might find in a preschool.”

“We were trying to think of what would really inspire people,” Madeline Marriott ’24, an organizer for the Write-a-Thon said. “We braved the basement of Pardee in the English storage room to find some of the old materials and there were a lot of old postcards and prompts and things like that. So I went through some old books that are called, like, ‘365 Journal Prompts’ … that are supposed to provide inspiration for fiction writing.”

In addition to the inspiration station, the English department provided typewriters for students to use.

“[Typewriters] are something that shows up a lot in advertising for writing events … but we don’t really use those anymore,” Chris Phillips, the head of the English Department, said as he worked on his personal typewriter. “There’s always something new to try with writing. There’s always a way that you can have fun with it that maybe you hadn’t really thought about before, and some of that even goes into the technology.”

Several students used the typewriters to write responses to the many prompts scattered around the room.

“It is just a great break from studying to play with this typewriter,” Jenna Blandina ’25 said. “I’m genuinely having a great time with my friends.”

“If this typewriter gets stolen, it’s me and it’s in my room,” Sarah Smith ’24 joked. Smith used one of the typewriters to write a story about a wanted man reading a newspaper.

Phillips said that other novel writing instruments, such as fountain pens and quills, may be considered for future Write-a-Thons.

“I have always found that whenever I’ve brought in some pens to a class or have introduced any kind of different media, pretty much always people are interested. Like, ‘Oh, there’s another way I can do this,'” Phillips said. “They start to notice how their mood changes. The way their body moves changes compared to when they’re using a laptop.”

Even the students who opted to use their laptops found inspiration at the Write-a-Thon.

“I try to write for 20 minutes every day and I haven’t done that for, like, six months,” McKenna Graf ’26 said. “I decided I’m gonna make up for it.”

Graf used her time at the Write-a-Thon to write about a young romance while challenging heteronormative themes. She ended up staying at the Write-a-Thon for two hours.

“I like the atmosphere. I like the sound of the typewriter,” Graf said.

Sonali Shah ’26 used her time at the Write-a-Thon to fine-tune a book that she has been working on – a take on Robin Hood tied to the trope of the found family.

“Being surrounded by people that are just writing for fun is getting the creative juices flowing,” Shah said.

Surrounding people with writing was exactly the point of the Write-a-Thon, according to Marriott.

“I think there’s a theme this semester: it’s trying to make more communal spaces, spaces for people to write together,” Marriott said. “[Writing] is something we can really have fun with.”

Disclaimer: Madeline Marriott ’24 is an Arts & Culture editor. She did not contribute writing or reporting to this story.

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Trebor Maitin, Managing Editor
Pennsylvania enthusiast.

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