February 23, 2022 | Kayliani Powlison

Professor Gary Schmidt speaking at the 2022 January Series
English Professor and award-winning author Gary Schmidt speaks at the 2022 January Series of Calvin University.

Imagine a summer workshop where aspiring writers can meet writing professionals, receive critiques, and grow professionally in just five short days in June. That is Scriptoria.

Calvin English professor Gary Schmidt (with Cornerstone English professor Cynthia Beach) created Scriptoria to serve as a reference point for a possible MFA program at Calvin. With faculty and students invited to participate from Cornerstone, Calvin, and Aquinas, the three faith traditions of Evangelical Christianity, Reformed Christianity, and Catholicism bring in new and refreshing perspectives. Schmidt is specifically interested in how many Calvin students and alumni will join the program and what kind of impact Scriptoria will have on the future of the English department.

The program is scheduled for June 21–24, 2022. Any adult who wants to gain writing experience, hone their craft, and make connections is welcome to attend. Workshops and meetings will be held in person.

Circulating the idea

Professor Schmidt tossed around the idea of Scriptoria with professors teaching at Cornerstone University and Aquinas College, hoping to combine different faith perspectives within the common art form. Curiosity about how faith influences a writer's purpose created this concept of interfaith dialogue in which the three institutions wish for people to participate.

Workshops held throughout each day will include small groups of eight writers each, where their work is passed around and peer reviewed. Participants will also work one-on-one with professional writers and editors in the Christian publishing industry. In this immersive atmosphere, writers will experience how professionals navigate the writing world and what a master’s program in English at Calvin might look like.

“Calvin generally doesn’t conduct week-long workshops,” said English professor Lew Klatt. “While the Rhetoric Center works on academic, persuasive, and other forms of writing and oral communication … we are offering a very immersive experience in learning about writing with a number of different writers and editors.”

Calvin’s Career Center and its Rhetoric Center are great resources for students and alumni in need of a resume reviewed or essay assistance. Schmidt saw the need and desire in the writing community to exercise their creative muscles and so built Scriptoria as a creative writing workshop where students and professionals can connect.

Exploring a future in writing

While this program doesn't come with course credit, its foundational nature will help students and non-student writers grow along with their writing ability. Drawing on knowledge from famous Christian authors such as Augustine, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, and Marilynne Robinson, participants will receive invaluable insight into Christian writing. 

“Professional and business writers understand that any attention to craft is transferable – that writing is a portable skill,” stated Klatt. Those not majoring in English are encouraged to join the program, as it can provide leverage for future and current job opportunities.

Scriptoria at a glance

“For now,” reads scriptoriaworkshop.org, “[Scriptoria] is a gift of industry-level feedback, one-on-one’s, and connection to a warm and loving writing community.”

With helpful meetings with industry professionals, evening readings, and an open platform for participants to express their ideas, Scriptoria is en route to successfully starting the long-awaited MFA program at Calvin.

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