Tim Timmons | Crawfordsville, IN

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May 7, 2021

NaNoWriMo? Sure you can
WANT TO GO . . .
Writers' Center of Indiana
812 E. 67th St., Indianapolis

Know what NaNoWriMo is? Don't feel lonely, I didn't either.
Turns out, November is National Novel Writing Month - heck, there's even a website for it. Since Montgomery County has such a rich literary history . . . and since like almost every journalist in the world I think I always have a novel lurking somewhere just below the surface . . . it seems a most appropriate time to delve into the world of writing.
You don't have to delve far before the name Barbara Shoup pops up. Frequently. Barb is quite an accomplished writer herself. She's also much more, starting with the Executive Director of the Indiana Writing Center, a wonderful facility for the accomplished and not-so-accomplished writer in all of us. She's written seven novels and won multiple awards.
Recently, she agreed to sit down and talk a bit about writing, the process, the Center and more. We met in her office, a perfectly cluttered space with a view of trees and imagination. Among the many items on shelves, corners of countertops and piles of plenty are books and more books. There's a small poster on one shelf that reads - The writer is the one who keeps her ass in the chair.
From her many accomplishments it's obvious she's been able to do that - in spite of what appears to be an abundance of energy emanating from her petite frame. When Barb speaks, her passion is evident. But when she talks about writing it's palpable. For example, when asked about the impact of social media on the basics like spelling, grammar and such, she threw her arms up. "Writing isn't about that!" she said. "It's about what's in your head, what's in your heart. That stuff (punctuation, grammar, etc.) comes later. Don't get me wrong, it's important. It'll come later. For example, 'let's eat, mother,' the comma makes all the difference."
She pointed out that the Center does outreach programs - and that some of those touch people who have deeply moving stories to tell, if not a familiarity with Strunk and White's Elements of Style.
"We get some people who are really talented," she said. "Some don't have much of a formal education - some don't have much education at all. But they have a strong voice."
She shared a book that was part of a project the Center did. Those strong voices told stories of rape, drug addiction, love, hate. Many wouldn't have passed a high school English test. It didn't matter.
"One of the most important things (the Center offers) is the ability to connect," she said. "I think that's really important. The atmosphere is really friendly. We challenge people, but in a friendly way."
Barb said people from varied walks of life come to the Center (located on 67th St., just off College near Broad Ripple). From stay-at-home moms to people with busy careers, there's no one profile.
"Maybe they wrote a lot when they were young and life just got in the way and they want to get back to (writing)," she explained. "I would tell anyone that everyone is welcome and that they will find a lot of 'regular' people here. It's just amazing what some people write."
Classes at the Center are geared toward writing, not theory. "A big part is inspiration," Barb said. "We get people together and it's encouraging with lots of 'you can do' its. When you have good people, you have good results."
Have a novel in you? November's the month and the Center is the place.
"You have to realize it's a craft," Barb said. "It's not a talent. It's a craft. But in the end, it's really about learning what to do to be a writer. People who don't have that background can come here and learn what they need. There's no reason why a welder can't be a writer. They have great stories to tell. It's just amazing what some people write."

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