When Catalina Acebal-Acevedo first came to USC as an undergraduate student, she was disappointed there was no organization on campus catered toward students with interests aligned with reading and writing.
“Even though freshman year freshman orientation and was meeting a bunch of people from across the globe, I still didn’t feel like I had found that kind of creative community that I was craving,” said Acebal, now a fifth-year student working toward completing a progressive degree in literary editing and publishing. “I would have classes in the English department, but after class people would disperse a bit, and it was hard to find a place to meet and workshop or talk about books.”
Last year, Acebal and a group of friends went on a mission to cultivate a community of readers and writers on campus. Last spring, the group officially founded the USC Literary Society, the first student organization centered on the creation and sharing of literary art. The society gives students a chance to connect outside of a classroom setting and provides the tools needed to build a support system in the creative community.
The club’s main focus falls on hosting creative workshops, which create a safe place for students to share their creative work and receive advice and feedback from their peers. At the workshops, members invite poets, fiction writers, screenwriters and more in the literary field to come and read their work to the community. They emphasize that workshops are not limited to a single genre of writing and can be organized for any kind of literary creation.
For Acebal, workshops provide opportunities for her to develop her songwriting skills with the advice and support of her fellow club members.
“I want to teach a songwriting workshop because I play guitar,” Acebal said. “There’s a guy who is a screenwriter who wants to teach a screenwriting workshop. The club really caters itself to whatever people want in a given semester.”
Acebal said that since the workshops are completely student-led, writers have the opportunity to advance their craft without the pressures of the classroom. According to Acebal, everyone is there to build each other up and help students become the best writers they can be.
The club also hosts events so that writers can get a glimpse of the publishing process. Vice President of Professional Programming Annabel Smith is in charge of organizing special lectures by USC professors who have experience in the publishing world. The lectures are meant to prepare members who are interested in publishing their own creative work.
“Creative writing is such a vague thing sometimes,” Acebal said. “Unlike something like architecture or pre-med, you don’t have a set track and that can be hard to feel like you’re floating around and you don’t have any direction. So just to hear from people who have made it and who have done all the things you want to do is really valuable.”
In addition, the society organizes other events such as book club meetings and kickbacks for members to get to know each other. Book club meetings invite interested members to join in discussing a novel read by the whole community. For instance, after fall break, the club will be joining to discuss “Slow Days, Fast Company” by Eve Babitz. Kickbacks provide a casual setting for members to gather, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the company of fellow readers and writers.
The society is open to students of all majors with a passion for reading and writing, said Smith. Even students who have little creative writing experience can join because of the intro level workshops offered.
“You don’t have to be an incredible poet already,” said Smith, a senior majoring in communication. “You can just come and learn. We are all new to it. Everyone has their own voice and everyone is in the process of discovering that voice.”
Sara Sturek, a sophomore majoring in communication and creative writing, said she was inspired by the society to change her course of education and pursue her passion for poetry.
“[The] Literary Society made me realize many people here do want to be writers and it can be a viable career,” Sturek said. “I had never considered that. It was always something I did on the side.”
Expansion plans for the society include developing an official website within the next few weeks which will serve as a place for members to sign up for workshops and stay updated on club events.