By Phoebe Smith
Many expected our nations’ creators to struggle in this global pandemic, but organizations like Blue Stoop, a center for literary Philly, are dedicated to keeping the arts alive.
Writing is already an often unstable occupation, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s become even more difficult for writers to find work opportunities. However, Philly’s literary community is in luck; Blue Stoop wants to help.
Blue Stoop is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “support writers, foster creativity, and build an inclusive literary community” (Blue Stoop website). They’ve organized a variety of workshops and events for Philly writers since 2018. While they’ve always played a crucial role in the city’s artistic development, their resources are needed now more than ever.
To allow writers to practice their metier and connect with others doing the same at home, all classes and events are virtual, and several focus on building some of the self-sufficiency required of artists at this time. For example, every Wednesday at 4 pm, Blue Stoop will be hosting sessions on self-publishing as part of their new series, Wednesdays on the Stoop. The sessions will be directed by writer Alex Hillman and center around his experience independently launching his book The Tiny MBA as well as his tips for affordable self-publishing in 2020.
This month, Blue Stoop will also host October Happy Hour: Get to Know Lanternfish Press!, a one-time informational Zoom meeting during which members of Lanternfish Press will speak about the Philly-based book publisher and explain how writers can submit work to them. This event will be on October 8 from 5-7 pm and is a great opportunity for fiction writers to learn about Lanternfish, “a home for books that defy pigeonholes—and for the readers who love them” (LFP website).
One of Blue Stoop’s current courses is Foundations of Fiction Writing, a virtual workshop aimed at helping writers master the craft of creative writing under the guidance of prestigious children’s author Stephanie Feldman. Students will read fictional narratives, participate in synchronous workshops, and study the five elements of fiction, listed in the course description as: narrative structure, character, voice, place, and dialogue.
On their website, Blue Stoop describes their commitment to creating a diverse network of mentors for Philly writers, and two of their current courses further emphasize this commitment: Restocking Our Artistic Shelves, Or Playwriting Through Reading and Foundations of Cultural Essay Writing. The first, taught by self-identified “queer, feminist playwright and deviser” LM Feldman, includes a discussion of an eclectic selection of plays and is targeted to both “theatermakers and theatergoers,” and the latter explores various pieces on race and culture through exercises led by African American writer, lecturer, and educator Tre Johnson.
In addition to their many classes and events, Blue Stoop provides financial support in the form of grants and detailed documents outlining government relief initiatives for freelancers. Such resources can be found on the Blue Stoop website, and a number of them, like the open document “COVID-19 Resources for the Artist Organization Field,” are shareable and editable by the public.
As during past catastrophic events, the artists of this country will rise to meet their current challenge- this time, however, with the aid of online programming. In the particular interest of mobilizing Philly’s literary artists, our aspiring writers and experienced mentors must come together, and Blue Stoop is working to facilitate their collective progress.