Postcards to a Stranger: Virtual writing workshop sparks creativity and connection during pandemic

Shortly after COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders commenced, Provost Professor Catherine Bowman launched a virtual writing workshop for adults entitled, This Imperfect Paradise: Writing Our Lives in Troubled Times. Participants joined together via Zoom sessions each Friday for seven weeks, reading creative works and writing original poems and prose, forming a creative community stitched together from more than 20 Hoosier towns.

This workshop was an expansion of arts and cultural efforts launched by the IU Center for Rural Engagement, the Department of English, and the Arts & Humanities Council in partnership with Indiana's rural communities. Through these initiatives, residents deepen their connection to the arts while crafting their own creative narratives.

"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" These words from Walt Whitman sparked the inspiration for Postcards to a Stranger, acollection of poems written and shared during the workshop series.

Poetry offers us a way to celebrate and honor our differences and our common bonds. In these times when we often feel isolated from others we will reach out and imagine what we might write to a stranger.

Catherine Bowman, in her writing prompt to This Imperfect Paradise participants
The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.