“If a story is in you, it has to come out.”
These are the words of William Faulkner and one of the mottos of Oxford Writes, a mentoring and development venture for aspiring and published writers.
The idea to create Oxford Writes emerged one day in fall 2015 as Jeff Roberson drove through the Square in Oxford. He pulled to a stop after something grabbed his attention. He noticed the significance of the Faulkner statue, Oxford City Hall, Square Books, Off Square Books and Faulkner Alley.
Roberson has considerable experience in writing. He’s been the sports editor for the Oxford Eagle, editor of Ole Miss Spirit and assistant sports editor of The Daily Mississippian.
Roberson began to conceptualize the idea of how a writing venture would work and look in Oxford.
Not long after, Oxford Writes was alive and thriving. Since the Oxford community has a history deeply rooted in great literature, it wasn’t very difficult bringing great writers and aspiring authors together to make the writing venture a success.
“There is some really good writing here. People are passionate about their writing. That is kind of where it starts, if you have some ability and you have some passion for it,” Roberson said.
Oxford Writes has held several roundtable meetings, networking events, conferences and workshops to create a space where writers can interact and share their work and ideas.
Oxford Writes’ attendance is made up of community members of all ages, ranging from college students to retirees.
“We want to encourage the Ole Miss community – the adults, the faculty, the students. We want them to be involved in what we are doing here,” Roberson said.
Last week, Roberson held the 2017 Oxford Writes workshop, consisting of two sessions on different aspects of writing.
The first session featured journalist and author Daniel Connolly, who informed people about professional magazine and book publishing and how they might get their own work published.
“(Oxford Writes) helps people express their ideas and stories that they have inside them that they may not have another outlet to express. The idea is to help people get those ideas out into the world,” Connolly said.
In between sessions, writers mingled and shared their work, something Oxford Writes strongly encourages. The workshop continued with a sports writing panel that focused on social media and sports coverage.
In 2016, the group hosted various events, including an Oxford Writes night at Shelter on Van Buren, a writing contest during the Art-ier Limits Fringe Festival and a Walt Mixon Tribute.
“We talk about everything from fiction to nonfiction, from sports writing to songwriting,” Roberson said.
With such diversified topics, writers of various disciplines might find a place within Oxford Writes.
If Oxford is a literary paradise, then Oxford Writes is its lagoon for blooming ideas. And with a continuing impact on the Oxford community, it is possible groups like Oxford Writes may be grooming the next William Faulkner.