With poetry plastered on public walls and displayed in storefronts across Arcata, numerous local writing contests, and an award-winning Poet Laureate from the city of Eureka, it’s clear that Humboldt has a strong community of writers (oh hey, LoCO writes too!) and Heather Quarles, a local writer and high school teacher, believe the community needs a central place where active and aspiring writers can find inspiration and hone their craft.
That’s why Quarles is opening the Unbound Writing Center – a small business in Arcata’s Sunny Brae Mall that will provide access to materials and resources to help people with any type of writing that interests them.
“There are so many writers in our community who need something like this — a hub for Humboldt writing,” Quarles told the Outpost in a recent interview. “My goal is to inspire and inspire people to write and support them in this process.”
Partially inspired by writing centers in other communities – like 826 Valencia, which started in San Francisco and has spread to several cities across the United States – Quarles will offer writing workshops and private lessons to help people with topics like resumes and cover letters, academic writing, poetry, and short stories. One of Quarles’ upcoming workshops will focus on helping writers hone their flash fiction skills to prepare for the 2021 Humboldt Flash Fiction Contest. Quarles is a big fan of the genre, she said, and actually took home the top spot in 2020 with her story “A Perfect Stranger.”
Quarles has had a passion for writing for as long as she can remember and as a literature and language teacher at Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA), she has dedicated her life to sharing this passion with her students. Quarles plans to further educate and help high school students by offering workshops and tutorial sessions specifically for teens to help them with both creative and academic writing, including application essays at school. ‘university.
One of the ways Quarles plans to encourage young people to write is through the Teen Zine team, which will allow a group of teenagers (ages 13-19) to self-publish a collection of writing. , drawings, photos and collages. The zine team is something Quarles once facilitated with a group of NPA students, but the group stopped meeting recently due to rising COVID-19 cases. Quarles has found that some of his students find creating zines to be a more accessible form of expression than formal writing styles.
“Having a welcoming and safe environment for teens to express themselves and put their thoughts on paper is really important to me,” Quarles said. “For me, zines are more social – something where you can have music while you’re creating. It can be messy, fun. It breaks that barrier of ‘do I have to spell things correctly?’
If all goes according to plan, Quarles expects the writing center to be open by the end of September. Right now, she’s busy painting and remodeling the space, which is quite small and consists of two rooms. The main room will be a sort of store, with supplies and resources — such as books on writing theory and books by local authors — for sale, Quarles said, and the back room will be the place to gathering and will host the workshops. But with the ongoing pandemic, chances are all group activities will be held virtually, at least to begin with. Of course, like many of us, Quarles looks forward to resuming in-person meetings as soon as it seems safe.
Quarles wanted to create the center not only to provide writers and aspiring writers with a place to meet and work on their craft, but also because she felt there needed to be a central place to access information on all the resources and opportunities already available. to Humboldt writers. Quarles was keen to point out that Unbound’s website has several free resources, including a calendar of Humboldt literary events and journal prompts to help inspire your creativity.
For more information about the Unbound Writing Center, you can visit the website or email questions to [email protected]. If you’re also passionate about writing, you can help by donating to the Unbound Writing Center’s Gofundme page. Quarles says the money will be used to buy books from local authors to have at the center and also to employ local writers as guest speakers for future workshops. Supporting local writers and amplifying the voices of our community is a big part of Quarles’ mission.
“I would like to bring all the different facets of our craft as writers, but also the different facets of our community,” Quarles said. “Writing is incredibly powerful. Words can be used for comfort, for release, and can be used for change.