Cosmic Writers — a nonprofit creative writing education program founded by College senior Rowana Miller — held its launch event on Jan. 20.
The virtual event had 63 participants, including donors, instructors, and students. Various guest speakers discussed the impact of the program, and all participants had their names entered in a raffle, receiving an additional ticket for every $5 that they donated.
Cosmic Writers began as Word Camp, a free summer program founded in 2020 by Miller after receiving the 2020 Kelly Writers House Kerry Prize. The virtual camp aimed to provide equitable education for writers in grades three through eight.
“Families and educators told me that this was the first time that they had found a program that provided Creative Writing education that was free and [available] regardless of kids’ geographic location…," Miller said. "What I have learned is that most comparable programs that are out there tend to be either expensive or based in major cities."
After she had led Word Camp for two years, Miller decided to expand it to reach more students.
Cosmic Writers will provide creative writing education to kindergarten through 12th-grade writers through 12 virtual workshops and will also hold in-person afterschool programs by partnering with Kirkbride School and Walnut Street West Library.
“As an advocate for public schools here in Philly, I am confident that Cosmic Writers provides one tool that can level the playing field in a system rife with inequities. As a parent of public school children, I can see how Cosmic Writers provides an access point for students to build connections with their peers, and also to be more in touch with themselves, their emotions and their creativity,” Patrick Manning, chair of the Board of Directors of Cosmic Writers, said.
Cosmic Writers programs are taught by college students and high school teaching assistants. College students interested in applying must write a proposal for workshop ideas — past workshop topics in Word Camp have included Choose Your own Adventure and Spoken Word Poetry.
During the launch event, four former Word Camp participants — Anna Masino, Vihaan Sinha, Mila Gallant, and Marcos Echevarria — presented the stories they wrote during the program. The genres included villainous writing, nonhuman narrators, and Afrofuturism.
“One of the things I also really value and appreciate about the overall vision of Cosmic Writers is that it's giving college students and recent college graduates experience in teaching, facilitating and mentoring in the creative writing space,” Associate Director for Recruitment at Kelly Writers House and Board member of Cosmic Writers Jamie-Lee Josselyn said.
Although Cosmic Writers is a nonprofit organization, all teachers have paid positions that are funded through grants or donations. Because its 501(c)(3) status is pending, Cosmic Writers currently directs donations to Fulphil, an educational nonprofit founded by 2018 College graduate Tiffany Yau, so that donors can make a tax-deductible payment.
At the end of the event, Cosmic Writers collected $9,092 in donations and received a $4,000 grant, surpassing their fundraising goal of $10,000 for the first season of Cosmic Writers programming.
“This nonprofit combines everything that I care most about, and I am kind of marveling that I get to do work that puts all of those different elements together,” Miller said.