University constructs creative writing center

Photo by Reid Bruner

By the end of this year, Butler University President Jim Danko will see a greater wave of people, primarily from the English department, hanging around his block.  Butler purchased and is refurbishing the house across from the president’s current residence and will be introducing it to the public as the new Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.

Hilene Flanzbaum, English department chair and professor, said that a $1 million grant was given to Butler’s Master of Fine Arts in the creative writing program to create a better space for the rapidly-growing MFA program and serve the needs of the department.

The center will accommodate workshops, classes for both graduates and undergraduates, community events and living space for visiting writers and graduate students in the program.

The purchase price was about $350,000, Flanzbaum said, and a maintenance fund will be set up to ensure the preservation of the house and its reputation as “a permanent asset to the university.”

The projected opening date is sometime toward the end of October, but the official opening ceremony is scheduled for early December.

Lydia Johnson, a senior English major, said she is drawn to the fact that the new center will be able to hold larger and longer events such as the Visiting Writers Series that can reach more people.

“As a student, any extra opportunities to speak with a published author or someone well versed in literature and writing is a gift,” Johnson said.

“I’m all for it,” junior English major Eric Ellis said.

Ellis said he is looking forward to the center’s multi-purpose capacity.

“The house looks beautiful, and I think it’s an awesome addition to the university,” he said. “Hopefully a lot of really cool activities will be held there.”

Spenser Isdahl, a recent Butler graduate, said he was a bit concerned that the writers using this center,“might be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ of the departmental administration once they have an external place to congregate.”

Nonetheless, Isdahl said he does wish the creative writing center had been around when he was a freshman.

“Outside of the very few writing classes available at Butler, it can be hard to find peers to critique one’s work, and I think the writing center will create a more conducive environment for that sort of networking,” Isdahl said.

The MFA program started four years ago and is still in its early phases.  There are currently 55 students enrolled.

“We had very modest expectations the first year, but the desire for the program has come to be more than what we expected,” Flanzbaum said.

Johnson said the program will help increase the popularity of Butler’s English department.

“It is another way that the English department can foster the growth of writers and help them to develop their own voice,” she said.

The first class of the MFA in creative writing program graduated one year ago. Flanzbaum said she has confidence within the English department that the new writing center will promote the continuation of the program’s success.

Ellis agreed.

“Butler’s MFA program is going to blossom into a very prestigious MFA program—one of national, possibly even international, merit,” Ellis said.

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