5Cs Out Loud Provides Space for Creative Writing on Campus

When Gabbi Kelenyi PO ’13 organized the first April Out Loud event (at the time a series of poetry workshops) as a solo effort during her first year at Pomona, she sought to cultivate a space for the personal development of writers and poets. She felt that the 5Cs lacked a space for, according to Kelenyi, the “before-the-performance part of creative writing.” April Out Loud sparked the interest of other creative writers on campus and, nearly two years later, the 5Cs Out Loud is a fully formed, ASPC-sponsored creative writing collective eking out a niche on campus.

The club is best known for Poetics, an event last semester that brought professional slam
poets to Doms Lounge, and annual April Out Loud, a month-long series of creative writing
workshops and performances. Their formal mission states that 5Cs Out Loud seeks
“to provide a safe space for creative writers of all facets to come together,
find inspiration, and receive feedback.”

The 5Cs Out Loud (5COL) was formed
in Spring 2011 during the second annual April Out Loud and began officially operating in Fall 2011. In addition to Kelenyi, the group came from the combined efforts of Pomona students Yaneis Autumn ’14, Christina Bejjani
’13, Loren Hinton ’13 and Blendia Hubbard ’13. The students
were inspired to create a group that was not limited to one form of creative
writing, but instead drew on their diversity of interests including poetry,
short stories, novels and slam poetry. 

The poetry workshops during Kelenyi’s first April
Out Loud inspired Hubbard, who writes poetry and stories, to
contact Kelenyi about forming a group. Hubbard included Hinton, a novel writer,
and Bejjani, who writes novels and short stories, as she and Kelenyi began
combining forces. Kelenyi included Autumn, who sought to establish a
centralized group for creative expression.

was inspired to create the 5Cs Out Loud after attending two separate poetry
open mic events on campus,” Autumn wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Both events were wonderful but lacked the turnout they
deserved. I thought that if I could bring together all the people interested in
poetry and writing into one space, the energy around writing on campus would
increase tremendously.”

The leaders of 5COL also cited an absence
of space for creative expression in academia as an inspiration to form the

“At Pomona, you have to submit your
writing to professors and they determine if you’re eligible to take one of the
two? Three? Creative writing classes offered. Only if you get accepted can you
receive feedback on your writing. This process does not encourage
improvement—how can it, when you’re selecting people whose writing you think is
the best?” Bejjani wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

Meetings of 5COL involve workshopping a
member’s piece for an hour, then a half hour of free writing based on exercises
and prompts provided by the leaders. Though meetings focus on personal writing
development, the club is looking to establish a presence in the 5C community.

In addition to hosting Poetics last
semester, 5COL is busy planning the second official April Out Loud. This year’s
series will feature numerous workshops, a Q&A session, dinner and workshop
with debut Young Adult fiction author Shannon Messenger, a collaborative art
show with the QRC, an open mic and spoken word performances by Conney Williams,
Taalam Acey and Jerry Quickley. 5COL has also organized a PSU panel discussion regarding the
usefulness of academic writing after college, which will feature acting director of Pomona’s Writing Center Professor Pam Brole, and author of The Accidental Feminist, M.G.

Leaders of 5COL emphasized the
importance of both the personal creative writing development opportunities of
the club as well as the significance of more public community efforts.

“I think we’ll benefit the 5C community
by being a safe space to share and express oneself. I think that for
non-members, we will benefit the community by bringing creative expression
artists of all forms to campus and raising awareness about creative expression
and showing its validity even within academia,” Kelenyi, who is currently abroad in Buenos Aires, wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

As a newly formed club, 5COL is still
facing struggles and working out kinks. In addition to concerns like a small budget
and publicity, the leaders of 5COL fear misconceptions about the group and
building interest.

“I worry that some people may have
misconceptions about our workshops. Personally I see them for any type of
writer at any stage of writing. Really we cater the workshop to the writer.
Also, I think that some people are reluctant to join, because they feel like they
don’t have the time to write,” Bejjani wrote.

“We’re still a relatively unknown group,”
wrote Hinton in regards to the challenges 5COL is facing. “We’re still in that
phase where every time I mention the 5Cs Out Loud, I have to attach its mission
statement as an appositive.”

Despite difficulties spreading the word about 5COL, the group leaders remain positive and cite ambitions like taking trips to slam poetry events in L.A. and even forming a slam team on campus. Given that 5COL cultivates self-expression via creative writing, the leaders’ connection to the group is deeply personal. Autumn referenced the sense of community that can be formed around creative writing on the basis of this highly personal aspect.

and spoken word is such a wonderful tool to reach people and make them feel
like they have something in common,” Autumn wrote. “When I hear a good poem, I feel in some way
connected to the poet. When I go to a good poetry slam, there is a feeling of
community that nothing else can create—I want to bring that to the 5Cs.”

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