By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
Every now and then, I walk into Writespace and see new Poets & Writers magazines in the freebie pile or craft books in the bookcase. The first time this happened, I paused, feeling puzzled. Who put these here? I didn’t know. The items could have been contributed by a faithful writing student, a writing instructor, or a board member. They could have been donated by someone who joined a Saturday 600 Write-In. Whoever left them did not leave a note.
Once the shock passed, I felt a secret thrill of pride—not egotistical pride, but impersonal pride, like I was proud to be human and proud to get to play a part in something larger than I am. Sure, it seems like a small thing: magazines.
But it isn’t just magazines. There’s no more amazing love than the love that humans can show toward those they haven’t even met. Through Writespace, I get to see this love every day. I even get to see it in big ways, such as through the donations that help us keep going and help us provide scholarships to writers in need. While my role as Writespace’s Executive Director is challenging and often marked by a feeling that there is ten times more work stacked up than I could ever accomplish in a day, I’m also deeply blessed to get to contribute and create opportunities for others to contribute.
I don’t have a television or watch the news, because news stations tend to focus on bad news that kills hope, rather than on good news that builds hope, and I believe in building, rather than killing. But when I’m in a restaurant that has a TV blaring the freshest news of disaster over my delicious hickory hamburger or tofu pho soup or tuna sashimi, I see a world being depicted in which important things are not given, but taken away—whether it’s dignity and respect, automobiles, life savings, or even lives. Always, always, there is nothing I can easily do to help. I can, though, go back to work and help in the way that’s available to me. I can let go of thoughts of theft and death and return to a good place I have created, one in which things are given rather than taken. Given freely, without anything requested in return.
And, of course, it’s not just Writespace. Literary endeavors are often characterized by generosity because ultimately we are all creating stories that are meant to be gifts to those we don’t even know. A spirit of giving imbues most literary endeavors. Thank you for participating in whatever ways you do.
A year or two ago, these mugs appeared in front of our "Free Mags" sign:
If the person who anonymously gave us these mugs is reading this, thank you! Know that we use them. And if you don’t read this--and to all the volunteers, board members, instructors, students, and community members who have contributed to the vitality of Writespace without seeking thanks, acknowledgement, or praise--I thank you. I acknowledge you. I praise you.
Thanks for building hope in a world hungry for it.
P.S.: If you have issues of Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, or other writing-related magazines you are finished with, please leave them in the freebie pile at Writespace (magazines unrelated to writing tend to stay in the pile, so you can recycle them or donate them elsewhere). Thank you!
By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
I want to take a moment to tell you about a volunteer I love dearly. Her name is Leslie Archibald. She serves as Writespace’s volunteer coordinator; her picture is below. Leslie has been volunteering with Writespace for two and a half years, or for more than half of Writespace’s existence (in May, Writespace turns four).
When she first came to Writespace, writing was a mere dream for Leslie. But throughout her time volunteering with us and attending our events, her writing practice has blossomed. In 2017 she won Spider Road Press' Spider's Web Flash Fiction Prize. Furthermore, she's now midway through the draft of her first novel. Furthermore, she’s now midway through the draft of her first novel. We are proud of all that Leslie has accomplished on the writing front, and at the same time, not surprised, because we have seen the same level of commitment in her work as Writespace’s volunteer coordinator.
Some of you may have seen Leslie at workshops. Seen her, but perhaps not heard her, because Leslie tends to quietly observe, rather than dance in the limelight. Behind the calm, quiet exterior, though, Leslie is a total powerhouse. After big events, such as Writefest, our staff and volunteers tend to feel as dead as the squished squirrel your tires roll past on the street. We have been working nonstop for weeks to make things happen. We’ve missed sleep, tender moments with family, and gobs of reading and writing time to be able to pull off the event. Regardless of these generous sacrifices, when we’ve all surpassed the point of exhaustion and most of our wonderful volunteers have listened to the voice of reason and headed home to sanity, Leslie will be the one to stick around in the dead zone and help me carry out the trash, break down boxes for recycling, and sweep the floors.
Leslie is quietly and powerfully always here at Writespace, smiling and ready to do whatever we need, no matter how dull or dirty the task. She is a warrior for the good and utterly fearless in her ability to say yes to tasks, even those she might not otherwise choose to do, such as picking up pizza for our volunteers when she’s trying to make healthier eating choices; emailing a volunteer who didn’t show up to help, as promised; or leading a volunteer team meeting that challenges her natural shyness. What is most remarkable about Leslie's dedication is the grace, kindness, and humility which which she performs these tasks. She is all smiles and totally willing, without even a shadow of resentment. I don’t know what makes Leslie so sweet, so good, so full of love for writers and Writespace’s mission, but to me, she embodies the very essence of what our endeavor is about.
Thank you, Leslie, for all that you do. When I feel tired, you remind me of the good.