Writers in two journals explore the diverse impacts of the pandemic quarantine - Albuquerque Journal

Writers in two journals explore the diverse impacts of the pandemic quarantine

Books of the Week

Plans are being made to publish the literary journal “Wednesday’s Words: A VaxZine.” It’s nifty wordplay on “vaccine,” not a misspelling.

The journal is volume two from the Albuquerque-based OFFCenter Community Arts Project’s Weekly Writing Group.

“Several of us wrote about getting the vaccine, people who were resistant to getting it and how has life changed,” said Phil Hughes-Luing, a member of the writing group who did the layout and created the illustrations for volume two. Some of his writings were selected for inclusion in volumes one and two.

Phil Hughes-Luing

The first volume, published last year, was “Wednesday’s Words: A QuaranZine.” For that journal, some group members wrote about their observations of living through the Covid-19 quarantine.

The format in both journals has writers creatively responding to prompts on various topics, whether quarantine-related topics or not.

These are some of the prompts in the first volume:

⋄ Assume the theory that the Covid-19 virus was passed from bats to humans is correct, and write about it from the bat’s point of view.

⋄ Write a love letter to someone Covid-19 has made you appreciate more.

⋄ Another prompt asks members to write a four-word piece of self-help advice. These are among the published responses to that prompt: Joy Schick-Southwick’s response was “Bloom, seed and grow.” Joyce DePow’s reply was “Read, write, meditate, sleep.” And Joan Robins’ was “To Nature, the Healer.”

Writing group facilitator Mandy Gardner generally has supplied an original prompt for some of the Wednesday meetings. Gardner also has taken suggestions from members for prompts, said group member Susan Page.

“That’s what I like best about the group is that we are really respectful of each other and each other’s work. I’ve quit two other writing groups because they were so critical of your writing that I didn’t feel like going anymore,” Page said.

The back page of the “QuaranZine” journal has an appreciation of Gardner penned by group member Sarah Castlebury. It reads in part, “Passionate and dedicated, with intense enthusiasm. Our writing group’s backbone.”

Hughes-Luing, a long-time poet and artist, added that it has been fascinating for him to see “all the different lives, the diversity, the breadth, the depth of insight. … I am pleased with the results of both journals. They’re very handsome, quite readable. I think they speak very well for OFFCenter.”

OFFCenter, a nonprofit, annually serves about 3,600 predominantly low-income artist of all ages.

Its mission is to enhance the lives of all people in the community by providing a safe and supportive environment for art-making and social interaction, said Mary Schmidt, OFFCenter’s executive director.

The organization welcomes creativity in all its forms and offers free space and supplies for artists, she said. Schmidt believes OFFCenter’s greatest value is the community aspect.

“We’ve been welcoming people from all walks of life, all ages, to come create, connect and heal for 20 years,” she said.

“The writing group is a great example of how people come together and continue to create even in tumultuous times,” Schmidt stated. The writing group has been meeting for at least 10 years, she said. It meets Wednesday afternoons, hence the appellation “Wednesday’s Words.” Anyone interested in joining should email info@offcenterarts.org.

Because of Covid-19 meetings have been held remotely via Zoom.


OFFCenter Community Arts Project will host a birthday party from 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 at OFFCenter, 808 Park Ave. SW, to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The party will include arts activities, free art supplies and kits, art exhibitions, a puppet dance and food vendors.

Copies of the “QuaranZine” and the “VaxZine” literary journals will be available for a $5 donation each. Writing group members will be on hand. Free admission.

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