The Meacham Writer’s Workshop is for anyone in Chattanooga to get an up-close look at prose and poetry from nationally recognized writers in a more communal way than cracking open a book by their lonesome.
The workshop is quickly approaching its 40th anniversary. Established by the retired University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Professor Richard Jackson, the workshop has connected the University and the public through the art of creative writing since 1985.
The workshop’s mission is “to create an informal atmosphere where nationally known writers, local writers, students, and novice writers and their readers can freely, and on an equal basis, exchange ideas, works, and readings.” To maintain this vision, the workshop has always been open to both students and the public—free of charge.
The workshop is a three-day event from Thursday, Sept. 21, to Saturday, Sept. 23. On Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m., there will be a ticketed wine reception at the UTC Roth Reading Room, where authors Xu Xi, Justin Wymer, and Jamie Quatro will read samples of their work.
On Friday, the workshop will host a reading at the UTC University Center auditorium from noon to 1:30 p.m. featuring Jenny Sadre Orafai, Karen Babine, Jasmine Tabor and Amy Wright.
In the evening, there will be a book release reading and reception from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Stove Works, a Chattanooga contemporary art museum. Authors and UTC professors Earl Braggs, Sybil Baker, Kris Whorton, and Andrew Najberg will read from their new books and collections of poetry.
Saturday will feature three separate panels in the UTC University Center Raccoon Mountain Room starting with a panel on horror writing—featuring authors Andrew Najberg, Russell Helms, Jessi Ann York, and Christian J. Collier from noon to 1 p.m.
From 1:30 p.m. to 2:30, the workshop’s director, Sybil Baker, will moderate a panel with the visiting authors Jamie Quatro, Amy Wright, Xu Xi, and Jenny Sadre Orafai. Finally, from 3-4 p.m., UTC students will read pieces published in UTC’s Undergraduate Literary & Arts Magazine, Sequoya Review.
Since Richard Jackson, the workshop’s director and founder, retired from UTC in 2022, professor and Associate Department Head of the English department Sybil Baker has taken the reins. She has plans to expand Meacham beyond a biannual writer’s workshop.
Due to the pandemic, this will be the first time since 2019 that the workshop is back in full swing with three days of in-person events.
Baker is working to create more events throughout the year funded by Meacham’s endowment. She has arranged for fall 2023 Meacham Fellow Jasmine Tabor to host two workshops leading up to the Meacham Writing Workshops.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, Tabor will lead a “zine” workshop at Stove Works from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. UTC students and the public are encouraged to come. Attendees will learn how to create zines, self-published short magazines usually produced by a photocopier. On Sept. 20, Tabor will lead a generative workshop with the UTC Creative Writing Club where members will get a chance to receive guidance and create art.
Baker also has plans for more events in the fall after the main workshop, including another workshop with Tabor at the Ella Library, a UTC Alumni reading and a SoLit Alliance event. The times and dates are to be determined. Interested parties should keep an eye on the Meacham Writers’ Workshop webpage for updates.
Baker said the workshop is an excellent resource for students who want to pursue writing and broaden their horizons.
“I want the students to feel like this is a cool thing for them to be able to do right on campus… [The workshop] exposes students to a wide variety of writing styles and authors which they may not get normally, and they’ll have chances to talk with the writers,” she said.
She also spoke on how the communal nature of the workshop offers an alternative to the often-solitary nature of creative writing.
“You have to do the writing by yourself, but that doesn’t have to be in isolation. [During the workshop] you are reading other writers’ work and communicating with other writers, and I think that makes your writing better.”
The benefit UTC graduates have received from the workshop over the years can be seen in the body of work alumni have produced. As Baker pointed out, “More than 50 UTC alumni have published more than a hundred books.”