Giving back to the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House

Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager
Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager.

This year I served as the initial judge/reader in poetry for the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House Literary Prize contest. Thank you, Johnna Schmidt, for the opportunity.

Litfest is an annual literary contest and celebration. At the spring ceremony, awards are given out for the top three poems and short stories, honorable mentions, and the Writers’ House seniors graduate and receive certificates. I remember my Litfest fondly.

Four years ago I was graduating from the Writers’ House. And when Johnna announced the winners of that year’s competition, I was so surprised that my poem “An invisible middle” had won first place!

I’m thrilled to pass on some of that excitement to the next Writers’ House generation. It was very special to read almost 100 undergraduate poems as an alumna. Choosing 10 to pass along to the final judge (Ocean Vuong!) was an honor.

It was difficult to decide on the top 10 because many of the poems had great potential, voice, and imagery. I definitely saw a lot of my early writing in some of them.

The results of the 2017 Litfest are being announced this week. And I hope that even if I didn’t choose your poem in the top 10, and even if Ocean Vuong didn’t pick yours for the top winners, you’ll still continue to write. We need emerging poets and short story writers. We need champions of the freedom of expression. I’m getting all sappy because I truly believe in this vital community of writers. The Writers’ House matters — your writing and voice matter. I’m so glad to soon call you my fellow Writers’ House alumni.

This year’s Litfest is Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m. in St. Mary’s Hall at the University of Maryland. Writers will read from the honorable mentions and top winning poems and stories. And the 2017 Stylus will be unveiled. I’ll see you there.

Writers’ House preparing for 10-year anniversary

By Marlena Chertock, Online Editor of The Writers’ Bloc

You may have seen it posted in Dorchester hallways. Or on the door to the kitchen.  The Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House program has a special birthday this year, its 10th anniversary.

To celebrate a decade of the Writers’ House program, the staff is planning a daylong event and a publication. Director Johnna Schmidt said they hope to have a high quality, small publication that highlights Writers’ House student work and celebrates the House in general.

The anniversary project will celebrate how much the Writers’ House has functioned as an engine of literary innovation, according to Schmidt.

“We have 50 undergraduates every year who get involved and come up with new ideas,” she said. “Some of the programs that have been added since inception in 2002 have been TerPoets in 2006, Postcards from My Country in 2006, the winter term program in Chile in 2007, the summer term program in Ireland in 2011 and the Student Initiatives program in 2010.”

Other programs, including Stylus, the Lannan Fellows program, the curricular aspect of workshops, Litfest and the Jimenéz-Porter Literary Contest have been a part of the program from its first year.

Submissions of poetry and prose for the 10th anniversary publication should be sent to with a 25-word bio. The deadline for submissions is May 15.

Possible submissions include odes to dorm rooms, campus places, and capturing a generation marked by social media, according to the poster.

“The aim is to raise our profile and ultimately to take over the world,” Schmidt said. It also offers a publication outlet for Writers’ House students.

The publication will be released at the daylong event on October 20 to commemorate the anniversary.

“We’re intentionally scheduling it on the same day as homecoming because we hope lots of alumni will return and visit,” Schmidt said.

In the morning, there will be roundtables on career advancement, graduate school, publishing and jobs for creative writers for current students and alumni.

Creative writing workshops will be held in the afternoon and an open mic in the evening, with a reception and party.

“This is the kind of event that should go on way too long and have some person who no one knows falling asleep in the corner on top of a pile of coats,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt requested more student input on topics for the roundtables, what kind of workshops would be fun and food. She wants students to get involved with the publication and project in general. Any suggestions are welcome, she said.