The Writing Life: Deanna Morris

This is the first of a series of blog posts by IWC members on their writing lives.

I was long and lanky. Such a cruel trick my body played on my mother; I was no longer her doll to dress and display.  I was growing up and growing away from my 1950s upbringing.  That is where my writing began. 

I was born under a tower of men, that is, I had a strong father and two strong older brothers.  Although I was a “girlie” girl, I thought their lives more fulfilling than my mother’s and mine.  Not only were they being raised to make history (while I was being raised to make beds) they played sports every afternoon while I strolled my baby sister like a “little mother.” 

My father did recognize the reader in me and took me to the library once a week on Saturdays.  I turned to books to live out my real life, a life where I was still a girl, but moreover, I was a person, with dreams and abilities.  When I ran out of children’s books, I found a book that was going to change the direction of my life. I didn’t know it then, but I was going to be a writer.   The book was To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Although it was to be years later that I began to seriously write, Scout and Jem and Atticus were always with me.  Even at the age of ten, I seemed to realize the enormous impact wielded by a writer.   

I had written stories as a child, but back then, no one in my family understood (including me) that writing is a craft that must be taught.  As I entered the vestibule between childhood and adulthood, I found myself reading more and more, but not writing. There were no creative writing classes or writing units in school in the 1960s. 

Entering my teenage years, I must admit I read every issue of Seventeen Magazine, but I also  read all the classics we were assigned in English class, read all the Shakespeare plays the summer before my senior year (my summer of Shakespeare as I like to call it) and when I entered university, prepared to be an English major, I found myself in love and married two years later.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the writer whispering inside of me.  It wasn’t until three children later, that the whispering writer, hollered.  “Go back to school.”  I did.  I completed my remaining two years of undergrad in 2010 and I am currently a Masters of Fine Arts candidate at Butler University here in Indianapolis. 

Along the way, I enrolled in Writers Center classes and continue to do so.  One of the reasons, I was motivated to apply for acceptance into Butler’s MFA program was because of the tutoring of the Writers Center here in Indianapolis.  The teachers, classes and workshops gave me opportunities to be part of a writing community and to hone my writing.  It prepared me to write in undergrad and graduate school.  I continue to take classes at the Writers Center, even though I am in graduate school, because of the quality of the programs.  I am a member of the Writers Center.  I always will be.   I am now a professional writer.  I always was a writer, I just needed a place like the Writers Center to bring me back to Scout and Jem and Atticus.

Deanna Morris

If you're a member of the IWC, please consider submitting a short essay (up to 1,000) words about your writing life. Submissions should be e-mailed to

Written by Barbara Shoup — March 20, 2013

A Recipe for Good Writing

Visit to read a guest blog post by IWC faculty member S.M. Harding. She is the author of twenty-four published short stories, photographer, and editor of Writing Murder, a collection of essays by Midwest crime and mystery authors. The handy primer on the art of crime fiction is based on a successful lecture program held at Jim Huang’s The Mystery Company.

Written by Barbara Shoup — March 18, 2013

IWC Students' Plays Accepted for 2013 DivaFest

Last fall, I received an e-mail from Andrew Black, a playwright, to let me know that he’d just moved to town and was interested in teaching for the Writers Center. We met. We talked. I figured out pretty quickly how lucky we were to be able to add him to our faculty.

So lucky, in fact, that three students in the very first class he taught—Tina Nehrling, Jan White, and Gari Williams—had plays accepted for this year’s DivaFest.

Here's what Andy Black had to say about the experience.

DivaFest 2013:  Or Three Indianapolis Playwrights Get Their First Production…Who Knew?

I had never taught playwriting for an organization like The Writers Center before last fall, so I was unsure what to expect.  What materialized was a five-session course called “The Fundamentals of Playwriting” and three women who were interested in writing plays.  The focus of “Fundamentals” is learning seven basic structural components of effective narrative structure, then utilizing all of them in the creation of a ten-minute play.  Yes, telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end in ten minutes. 

The three female playwrights were game for the task, and I assigned a “theme” for the short plays to inspire their creativity.  There are many ten-minute playwriting contests around the country, so I selected one which had a theme:  “The Package, the Parcel or the Present” that I thought would be fairly easy to write to.  I also realized that if the women in my class wrote to this theme, then they would have a product they could submit to a playwriting contest.  So the “exercise” of writing a short play would turn into the “exercise” of submitting it as well, and then maybe even having it produced.

I did not realize that every spring in Indianapolis, there is a playwright’s festival for female playwrights called DivaFest, sponsored by Indy Fringe.  Over the course of the five weeks, I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the writing of my students.  All three of their plays turned out to be production worthy.  By the fifth week of the class, I had learned about DivaFest—a short festival of plays (no longer than an hour each) celebrating female playwrights.  I suggested to the group that we submit their plays as a “package”—three ten minute plays written around a common theme.  The protagonist of one was a teenager, the second was man at mid-life, and the third featured a senior.  The three plays would look at concerns of different life stages, and be held together by the arrival of a “package.”  Since the plays were themselves short, we could call the combined piece “Good Things Come in Small Packages”.

DivaFest accepted our submission (I learned that the judges scored the three short plays quite highly, which was very gratifying).  The women are now going through the throes of a first production which have included finding and losing actors and a director, scrambling for a production concept, negotiating for rehearsal space….all the things that real life playwrights deal with all the time. 

I am in the unique position of being able to say (as a first-time playwriting instructor) that 100% of my students have gone on to have their first production within six months of having completed my class—a statistic that I don’t think I will be able to use for the rest of my career!

We have had fun with our process, and look forward to Divafest.  Come join us if you like…good things really do come in small packages. 

Performances at Indy Fringe, Friday, March 8 @ 7:30pm, Sunday, March 10 @ 6:00pm, Friday, March 15 at 7:30pm.

Written by Barbara Shoup — March 05, 2013

Happy New Year! Happy New Us!

Okay, new name. We argued about this one. Change? Don’t Change? It got a little heated sometimes. Maybe everybody’s still not positive that we did the right thing. If you’re not so sure yourself, we hope you come around. 

It’s clean and streamlined, just like us. No pesky apostrophe; everyone hated that.

Plus, everyone calls us “The Writers Center,” anyway.

And new logo.

Tolstoy said, “Clarity is beauty.”

We write.

‘Nuff said.

In this day and age, small not-for-profit organizations survive by staying light. But honing in on the most fundamental needs of the communities they serve and creating a long-range plan to meet those needs, making the very best of the talents and resources that are available to them.

That is what I’ve tried to do since having taken over as the Executive Director of the Writers’ Center in January, 2009—and I’m very happy that the Center is thriving as we enter 2013.

We know what we do and we do it well.

  • Classes for writers working at all levels, from beginning to master
  • The Annual Gathering of Writers
  • Free writing groups for members
  • Online resources
  • Literary news from around the state
  • Community-based memoir projects
  • Summer learning programs for Indianapolis youth
  • Sound advice on publishing matters

We’re rich in the resources that matter most: passion, creativity, discipline and heart. Our staff works tirelessly to keep our office running and uphold our program standards. Our Board of Directors is extraordinarily committed to the Center, overseeing our business affairs and sharing their expertise in a variety of ways.

For example, it was one of our board members who created this brilliant new website for us. Among the new features you'll find here is an improved course catalogue, searchable by genre, level and frequency, a store featuring our InWords publications (and, soon, other Writers Center merchandise), and a news center on our front page with all the latest and greatest from the IWC.

How cool is that?

Click to enter, your first step toward enjoying the new Writers Center.

May 2013 be your happiest, most creative year ever!


Barbara Shoup

Written by Barbara Shoup — January 10, 2013

© Indiana Writers Center 2012