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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 15, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 7
'The Back-Room Bunch'

Scores of students often show up for the Tuesday-night reading series, in which Writing Seminars majors can test out their latest work. Last week's group included Cameron Granger, Patrice Hutton, Jessica Begans and Will Chang.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer / HIPS

Writing Sems undergrads find a home for informal readings: Off-campus deli

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The back room of the Hopkins Deli, a popular student spot near the Homewood campus, contains a few shopping carts, a large cooler with melting ice, cases of beer, remnants of some water damage and an incongruous chandelier. It's not exactly the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, but every Tuesday night the cramped space brims with students, some of whom might just be the next John Updike, Wes Anderson or Joyce Carol Oates.

Last year, a small group of Writing Seminars undergraduates began a weekly reading series to share their latest stories. The series, run by the Writing Seminars Student Committee (formerly the Writing Seminars Gorilla Faction), started in a room in Gilman Hall, but the students soon realized they wanted a more informal, off-campus location to meet in. Well, you can't get more informal than the series' current location, but it suits these students fine.

In fact, on some nights the back room will contain up to 60 people who stay after a short committee meeting to listen to each other's short stories, poems or excerpts of novels and screenplays.

On a typical night, two or three students will read works of varying lengths, followed by an open mic session.

Patrice Hutton, who co-chairs the committee with Tom Koenigs, said that the original intention was to help foster a sense of community among Writing Seminars majors and to encourage each other outside the familiar workshop setting.

"It's a chance to hear your peers' work performed and get to know what sort of stories people are working on," Hutton said.

For the writer, Hutton said the experience offers a good opportunity to gauge the response of an audience in a fun, nonstressful environment. The current series kicked off on Oct. 2 and will continue on Tuesday nights until the end of the academic term. The readings begin at 8 p.m.

Hutton said that the back-room bunch welcomes those from all majors, adding that the series has attracted several very loyal supporters. "Even some science majors," she quipped.

The Hopkins Deli is located at 110 W. 39th St. Ask the guys behind the deli counter for the back room.


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