Members of Campion Society, King’s College’s creative writing club, led writing workshops at Ruth’s Place women’s shelter throughout the fall semester. The service project culminated with a dinner and reading on December 1, in which club members, creative writing students, and the women shared their work.

The project kicked off in October when the club began holding weekly writing workshops at the shelter. The students gave journals to the women and led them through writing exercises.  

“At the workshops themselves, it was great to hear the Ruth’s Place women get very engaged with the different Campion members,” remarked Samantha Bucher, president of Campion Society. 

Campion Society vice president Jacob BenKinney led a workshop on blackout poetry, an activity in which writers receive a page of text from a book or article, then ink out certain words with markers. The remaining words form an original poem. 

“Poetry in general tends to be somewhat intimidating for people from any background, and yet the women showed no reluctance in trying it. Many of them even took to it like naturals, creating fantastic poems,” BenKinney said. 

Amy Higgins, treasurer of Campion Society, taught a workshop on creative nonfiction. She encouraged the women to brainstorm incidents in their lives that sparked certain emotions, such as anger, joy, pride and embarrassment. Then, the group fleshed out the settings, characters and dialogue.  

“Writing can be cathartic [and] therapeutic. You can write if you have a bad day. You can write down your hopes for the future,” Higgins said. 

Higgins was pleased with the turnout at her workshop. 

“We were just sort of dropping in on these women, and you never know if they’re going to be interested. But I was really surprised, pleasantly surprised, because it went really well, and they all seemed to get something out of it,” she noted. 

Jennifer Yonkoski, creative writing professor and Campion Society advisor, was also surprised by how many women participated in the workshops. Although people sometimes hesitate to try creative writing, at least five women attended each workshop.  

For some of the women, it was their first time trying creative writing. For others, it was a chance to rekindle a hobby that they enjoyed as teens and young adults.  

At the end of each session, the women had the opportunity to share their work. Struck by their incredible poetry and stories, the members of Campion Society encouraged the women to come to one of their monthly open mic nights, which are open to the public. 

Yonkoski was also planning a reading for her creative writing students. 

“Campion Society was doing these trips to Ruth’s Place and we were doing some really good writing with the women there,” Yonkoski said. “I thought, why not try and bring those two groups together?” 

On December 1, Campion Society invited the women of Ruth’s Place to campus for a special dinner and reading. Club members, creative writing students, and the women read the pieces they had been working on over the last several weeks. 

The dinner complemented Campion Society’s mission to bring creative writing into the community.  

“The community has so graciously supported us, and so we were thinking this would be another way to bring the community to campus,” explained Yonkoski. 

Ruth’s Place is Luzerne County’s only emergency shelter for homeless women. The club hoped that the creative writing and journaling would help the women as they rebuild their lives. 

“It just gives them the chance to tell their stories, to know that someone’s listening, and that they care to hear those stories. I also think that they surprise themselves sometimes,” Yonkoski noted. 

“Writing can help everyone. I think that for the women at Ruth’s Place, this is another tool to help them express themselves,” Bucher agreed. 

The service project also helped the members of Campion Society grow as writers and learn more about their community. 

“As college students, our experiences are so limited. We’re sort of in this bubble on campus. The more that students can get out there, be in the world, try different activities, and meet different people, the more that that’s going to add to their creative writing,” Yonkoski explained. 

“I think writing in itself is such a valuable form of self-expression, and it can help you make sense of the things in your own life and get to know yourself better and your environment around you,” Bucher commented.