The Muse Writers Center

The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk is Hampton Roads' literary center. We offer creative writing classes and seminars for beginning, experienced, and professional writers-whether they be children, teens, or adults; house a resource center for area writers, and host readings, open mics, and special events. We never turn anyone away because of their financial situation, and we have provided tuition assistance and scholarships to hundreds of people.

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The Muse is Hampton Roads' only literary center, and in the past 11 years, we have grown from a small organization that borrowed meeting space from other arts groups to one of the top-10 writers centers nationally, with a new space in central Ghent featuring five classrooms, an office, a library, two semi-private writers rooms, and an auditorium to host youth events and visiting writer events and readings.

In our first class session in the fall of 2005, we attracted 20 students in five classes. This spring, we are on track to host nearly 400 students in 85 introductory-to-advanced low-cost creative writing classes and seminars in fiction, poetry, nonfiction and memoir, scriptwriting, and songwriting. Independent from a college or university, we embrace people of every age, background, and level of experience. Our main educational aim is to embrace people who want to write but haven't had the opportunity to be guided by great teachers.

We are also the only center in the nation to offer tuition assistance to anyone who wants to take a class but cannot afford one. About 15 percent of our students are on tuition assistance (last year, we gave more than $12,000), and we also give three $500 college scholarships each year.

This year, we also plan on hosting more than 150 literary events, which will attract nearly 6,000 people. Ongoing events include public readings for adults, teens, and kids, our open mic nights, our writers happy hour and writers coffee breaks, our jams and open houses, our Slover Library write-ins, public writing days, writers support groups, book launch parties and readings, and many more.

One of the programs we are most proud of is our program for youth. We have been expanding our creative writing classes and camps for 7-8 year old writers, 9-11 year old writers, and teen writers (our tuition assistance rate for our youth classes averages a little more than 15 percent). We now have 6 teen open mic nights each year and more than a dozen readings featuring teen and younger writers reading their original work. We also plan to start a teen story slam this spring. And several of our teen students have formed their own committee to organize and create even more events.

Many of the young people we are reaching were having trouble in school, both academically and socially. Some of them perhaps had felt different than their peers and were starting to withdraw and act out. When we see these kids come to The Muse for the first time, it's amazing how fast they realize that they have finally found their tribe and begin to open up and gain confidence. Many of our 9-11 year olds and teen students are now working on books now or collections of poetry. And many of them are now dealing with their own issues in a positive way, using the art of writing to find their voices and create new futures for themselves.
Quotes from our teen and adult students and event attendees:

"I have been attending the Muse's Teen Writing Program for three years or about 10 semesters. The Muse has done some extraordinary things for me. I never thought I would ever be able to share my writing with anyone until I attended classes there; it has helped me branch out as a person, and I feel like everyone there has seen me grow and change. I have been able to be myself around everyone there. I met one of my best friends at the Muse by chance, and I am so glad I did. I feel like I am a better writer, and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I know there is always room for improvement. I really look forward to going to Muse every other Saturday, and I'm so happy it is able to be around for me. I don't know what I would do if the Muse wasn't around, so many things in my life would be completely undiscovered, and I don't think I would be the person I am today."

"Love the new facility! I appreciate so much that there is such a great literary center in our community1"

"I think the Muse is brilliant and that Norfolk/Hampton Roads is unbelievably fortunate to have this resource. And that I am beyond fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of it, for which I am incredibly grateful for the Muse's generosity in allowing me to participate in spite of my current state of very limited income."

"Coming around the Muse is the most 'at home' I've felt in a long time. So glad you all are around."

"The Muse keeps me afloat, and is the best community I've ever found. Thank you."

"The Muse is the place where I can open my mind and let my thoughts out, since I can't do that anywhere else, like in school. It's more of a creative place where there are other people like me, and I can share my opinions and views and get feedback as well. I have definitely improved my poetry, and also I have started getting into screenwriting, and the classes give me short story ideas. I want a career as a writer; I aspire to be a professional author and poet."

"Thanks for creating an outlet and community for something I've always wanted to do. I especially appreciate the rigor that the Muse provides. I'm always impressed by the caliber of the instructors and my fellow students. Keep up the good work!"

"Seriously what a gem. I can't wait to list the Muse and Kenny [student's teacher] in my acknowledgements for my very first novel. :-)"

"The Muse does a great job for the community by providing first class instruction and encouragement to aspiring writers and a great platform for accomplished writers. Keep up the good work!"

"The Muse is an amazing place and the fact that it is available even when I can't afford to pay speaks to the true support of writing and all creativity. It is a quality place, and I am learning so much."