Writing is one of the many keys to unlocking creativity and self-expression. It is a way of understanding and interpreting the world, whether it be fiction or nonfiction writing. This is the message behind the Redbud Writing Project, an adult education writing school within the Triangle.
In the Raleigh-Durham area, many students within the area dedicate their studies to their STEM field of choice and lose the opportunity to develop rhetorical skills. Other adults do not have the time or resources to learn about writing. Because writing is such a necessary skill, the Redbud Writing Project offers classes that are accessible, affordable and flexible for new writers.
The Redbud Writing Project was created by Arshia Simkin and Emily Cataneo*, two graduates of the creative writing master of fine arts (MFA) program at NC State. In August of 2019, the two began sessions of workshops and intensives focusing on various forms of writing. The NC State alumni sought to bring the knowledge and integrity of the creative writing MFA to the general public.
There are two main classes offered by Redbud: six-week workshops, three-day intensives or one-day events. The workshops are in depth courses on the “building blocks” of fiction writing. Throughout the workshops, students write stories to share with instructors and peers to receive feedback. Topics for the various workshops include creative fiction, memoir, poetry, creative nonfiction and others. The one-day intensives focus on one topic and skill. These topics are more niche such as information on the publishing process and productivity.
The Redbud Writing Project does not have one centralized location as of now. The instructors, Simkin and Cataneo, travel around the Triangle area to bookstores to teach classes. One of these bookstores is So & So Books, located in Downtown Raleigh near NC State’s campus. Redbud strives to keep the writing and literature scene within Raleigh active and retain a community of authors. Adult education courses inspires new writers and keeps employment available in Raleigh for old writers.
“It incentivizes writers to stay in the area if they have employment opportunities here,” Cataneo said. “We think it would be great if when people graduated from the MFA program [at NC State], instead of heading back home or to New York, they can say ‘I want to stay in Raleigh’ because it’s a vibrant, literary community with a lot of institutions and opportunities for work.”
Upcoming on the Redbud schedule is a class on creative nonfiction writing. Registration has opened online at redbudwriting.org.
Redbud hopes to expand in the future to include more forms of writing, such as screenwriting and more specific topics. They also hope to acquire a physical space for classes. With the expansion, Redbud hopes to create a thriving community of literature and the humanities alongside STEM in the Triangle.
“Stories are a way of understanding life experiences and the world,” Simkin said. “Getting to engage with something on the page is a way to grapple with these life experiences.”
With opportunities like Redbud, adults and students with a passion for writing but little time to do so can still learn. Students can also gain access to the Redbud Writing Workshop through the scholarship program that makes writing education a possibility. Simkin and Cataneo both emphasize the importance and value in writing.
“Everybody deserves the chance to tell their story and hear ‘your story is important,’ whether that is a true story or a fictional story,” Cataneo said. “Creativity is important for a person’s wellbeing.”
Simkin and Cataneo both believe these skills should be accessible to people from “all walks of life.” Redbud hopes to remind people that their words and ideas are important and worth sharing.